We’re through the opening round of our “IBMAdness Bluegrass Bracket,” with the field pared from 64 acts down to 32 – on our way to determining the greatest bluegrass artist of all time, as determined by your votes.
Not surprisingly, higher seeds dominated the early going by winning more than 80 percent of all first-round matchups. Each of the four top seeds also advanced with relative ease – after all, a 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, either.
Nevertheless, there were a few early surprises, which yielded some intriguing dark horses to follow as the tournament progresses. Taking it region by region:
Group One: The Ramblers
Higher seeds won seven of eight first-round contests, including overall top seed Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass. This bracket’s one upset was North Carolina native sons the Steep Canyon Rangers, an 11 seed, who surprised 6 seed Hazel & Alice (featuring Durham’s Alice Gerrard).
And who should be waiting for the Rangers in the second round but a fellow North Carolina native, guitar god Doc Watson, a 3 seed. Best of luck, guys!
Group Two: The Pickers
Another region that went very close to form. Top seed Flatt & Scruggs registered the biggest overall first-round landslide by netting just under 96 percent of votes in their matchup, and they were one of seven higher seeds to advance.
But there was an upset here, too, as 14th-seeded Lonesome River Band unexpectedly took out 3 seed Country Gentlemen. Dobro master Jerry Douglas, a 6 seed, awaits in the second round after beating 11 seed Blue Highway – a group that won the 32-act “March MASHness” reader poll conducted by Bluegrass Today this past spring. So Blue Highway will not be repeating this time around.
Group Three: The Travelers
The first two brackets were very close to form, but “The Travelers” went exactly according to Hoyle with higher seeds winning all eight first-round matchups. Nevertheless, this region didn’t lack for drama. Nickel Creek, a 6 seed, just barely got by 11th-seeded Rhiannon Giddens, prevailing by only three votes.
We are confident that no hanging chads contributed to the closeness of the result. And at least Giddens has her Steve Martin Prize to fall back on.
Group Four: The Rounders
This bracket should be renamed “Cinderella,” because it’s the one where everything went kind of haywire as upsets prevailed. The top-seeded Osborne Brothers won easily, but everything else in “The Rounders” was up for grabs.
Dolly Parton, seeded 10th, knocked off 7 seed Mac Wiseman – by a single vote! That takes her into the second roundagainst an even bigger underdog winner, 15 seed Infamous Stringdusters, who knocked off 2 seed Reno & Smiley in the tournament’s biggest upset so far.
Also advancing from the lower half here are 12 seed Steve Martin, who beat Old and in the Way at 5 (it seems like there’s always a 12-over-5 upset in the first round of every tournament); and 13 seed Claire Lynch, a winner over 4th-seeded Charlie Poole.
Voting for round two begins Wednesday and is set to close on Friday. Go to nando.com/bluegrassbracket to check the entire bracket, register and vote, which puts you in the running for the grand-prize drawing.