Balsam Range Wins 2021 IBMA Song of the Year with ‘Richest Man’

October 1, 2021

Two-time International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainer of the Year Balsam Range and Mountain Home Music Company and Organic Records’ Bluegrass at the Crossroads series took home awards at last night’s IBMA Awards at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, North Carolina, with Balsam Range’s “Richest Man” being named Song of the Year and Bluegrass at the Crossroads’ “Ground Speed” winning Instrumental Recording of the Year. Earlier in the week, rising artist Jaelee Roberts won the Momentum Vocalist of the Year award.

Balsam Range’s “Richest Man”—now IBMA’s Song of the Year—was the first of several singles off their newest album, Moxie and Mettle, to reach No. 1 on the bluegrass radio charts. The award adds to more than a dozen IBMA accolades the band has won. Press “play” above to listen on this post.

“Richest Man” shares an important lesson about recognizing what really matters and poses comparisons between material wealth and other kinds of abundance, challenging perceptions of what it means to be “the richest man in the graveyard.”

“Who has not thought about being the Richest Man? But what defines being rich? To have a life without regrets is easier said than done. The sacrifices made for gain can seldom be undone,” says Buddy Melton, Balsam Range’s fiddler and 2-time IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year. “The things lost and those won will only show with time. The old saying ‘You can’t take it with you’ comes to mind when I hear ‘Richest Man’ and the theme resonates throughout the song as it states ‘we’re all going out the same way that we came in…with nothing. So why in the world are we always worried about nothing, for nothing?’”

Bluegrass at the Crossroads won the Instrumental Recording of the Year Award for “Ground Speed,” a nod to legendary banjo player Earl Scruggs. Written by Scruggs and recorded in 1959, the song was chosen by Steve Martin Banjo Prize recipient and 4-time IBMA Banjo Player of the Year Kristin Scott Benson (The Grascals), who says that it “may be my favorite Scruggs tune. It has a great melody and two signature B parts, but it can also absorb a lot of other ideas.” Adds mandolin player Darren Nicholson (Balsam Range), “to record an old standard was a whole lot of fun. I love breathing new life into some of these old songs and putting our spin on it. Bluegrass is one of those really cool genres that is always moving forward but turns around and tips its hat back to the past—you’re paying homage to the old and forging something new at the same time. Earl Scruggs and his contemporaries were groundbreaking and putting their own stamp on the songs when they were originally recorded, and now I’m hearing these great musicians put their own stamp on it as well.”

In addition to Benson and Nicholson, the fiery instrumental features the Infamous Stringdusters’ Jeremy Garrett (fiddle); Sideline’s guitarist, Skip Cherryholmes; and Kevin Kehrberg, bassist for Organic Records’ Zoe & Cloyd.

“We are so fortunate to have Darren, Jeremy, Kevin, Kristin and Skip as part of our Mountain Home and Organic Records families,” says series producer Jon Weisberger. “I thought these long-time friends of mine from across the bluegrass spectrum would make some fresh, exciting music together, and we are all so thankful that the IBMA voters agreed.”

Rising bluegrass singer Jaelee Roberts was named Momentum Vocalist of the Year at Wednesday’s IBMA Momentum Awards luncheon. Roberts signed with Mountain Home last year, and has released three singles, “Something You Didn’t Count On,” “Still Waters” and “Think Again.” She also performs with Sister Sadie, which was named Vocal Group of the Year.
“Wow! That’s about all I know to say…I’m just speechless! I was so grateful to even be considered for the Momentum Vocalist award among the other awesome nominees that actually winning it seems surreal,” says Roberts. “I appreciate the IBMA having this category to support and encourage new artists, and my heart is truly so happy to have received this amazing honor. Thank you so much…I love y’all!”

Though she grew up in a musical family, it wasn’t inevitable that Jaelee would take to music, but with lifelong musicians and industry professionals for parents, the opportunities to learn from—and alongside—musical heroes were frequent; by the time she entered her teens, she’d recorded as a singer not only with her father, but with the Tom T. and Dixie Hall-backed Daughters of Bluegrass, and before she completed high school, she’d been chosen in two consecutive years as a vocal track participant in the industry-leading GRAMMY Camp. More recently, she was selected to appear in the juried IBMA Songwriter Showcase.

Today, the young singer-songwriter is enrolled in nearby Middle Tennessee State University’s renowned songwriting and music business programs as she immerses herself in the dynamic community of young bluegrass, country and roots music musicians emerging in Nashville.