Mountain Home Celebrates 2021 IBMA Nominees Amid Challenging Year

July 21, 2021

As a record label devoted to making a special home for great bluegrass and roots artists, Mountain Home Music Company has not only borne witness to the challenges those artists have faced during the turmoil of the past year, but has welcomed the empathy, inspiration and profound resilience that have permeated their artistic responses. From songwriting to studio work to releasing compelling recordings, these members of the Mountain Home family have now seen their efforts acknowledged with nominations for the IBMA’s annual awards.

It’s no surprise that Balsam Range, which leads this year’s nomination count with nominations in the Entertainer, Vocal Group, Song and Gospel Recording of the Year categories, met those hardships with especially inspired music. Through all their many honors they have remained genuine and down to earth, dedicated to authentic, compelling stories drawn from real experience about people both real and imagined. “Grit and Grace,” nominated for Gospel Recording of the Year, is a continuation of that tradition, reflecting genuine trials and the qualities it takes to overcome them, while “Richest Man,” a Song of the Year nominee, delivers an equally pointed message about valuing people and places—a heartfelt response to life’s struggles that gains its strength from the sense of community and values shared by both the band and their fans. Writ larger, that same commitment to lifting up community with their music also garnered the quintet nominations for two of the highest annual awards: Vocal Group of the Year and the coveted Entertainer of the Year crystal.

Even before the eligibility period for this year’s awards began, the bluegrass community lost one of its most gifted and giving artists with the unexpected passing of Steve Gulley. Universally admired, not just for his talent as a singer and songwriter but for his generosity of spirit and enthusiastic embrace of fans and colleagues alike, his memory is sure to endure throughout the community for years to come. In one of his last projects, completed shortly before he succumbed to cancer, he and favorite writing partner—and close friend—Tim Stafford recorded Still Here, nominated for Album of the Year. Each song and each performance on Still Here—whether it’s a story, a meditation on life or a deft character sketch—testifies to the duo’s enduring artistic legacy. Fittingly, Still Here appeared 30 years after Gulley participated in the very first project to be released on Mountain Home.

In a nod to the growing prominence of women who play one of bluegrass’s most iconic instruments, Banjo Player of the Year nominees Kristin Scott Benson and Gina Furtado found themselves collaborating as producer and artist respectively on the latter’s most recent recording session, resulting in the release of “Made Up My Mind” and “Kansas City Railroad Blues” by the latter’s The Gina Furtado Project. Each also picked up additional IBMA Award nominations—the Project qualifying in the organization’s bellwether New Artist category, while Benson, already a 5-time Banjo Player of the Year recipient, Steve Martin Banjo Prize winner and a member of the GRAMMY-nominated The Grascals, earned an additional nomination in the Instrumental Recording field for her lead role in “Ground Speed,” released as one of a series of special in-studio collaborations in the label’s Bluegrass at the Crossroads series.

And even as Mountain Home continued to feature long-time members of its roster, the label also made room for newer artists, having welcomed Resophonic Guitar Player of the Year nominee Phil Leadbetter, who piloted a high-profile anthology, Masters of Slide: Spider Sessions, to its recent and acclaimed release, alongside Bass Player of the Year nominee Marshall Wilborn, who recently joined Chris Jones and the Night Drivers—and whose wife and long-time bandmate, Lynn Morris, is among the latest group of artists earning induction into the IBMA’s Hall of Fame.

For these nominees—and for the remainder of a celebrated roster that includes the award-winning The Grascals, Lonesome River Band, Sideline, Carley Arrowood, Unspoken Tradition, Carley Arrowood, Tray Wellington, Jaelee Roberts and others—the past year has been one of unremitting challenge, but also a year of triumphs through music.

Mountain Home Music Company’s 2021 IBMA nominees:
Entertainer of the Year | Balsam Range

Vocal Group of the Year | Balsam Range

Song of the Year | “Richest Man” (Balsam Range)

Album of the Year | Still Here (Steve Gulley & Tim Stafford)

Gospel Recording of the Year | “Grit and Grace” (Balsam Range)

Instrumental Recording of the Year | “Ground Speed” (Bluegrass at the Crossroads featuring Kristin Scott Benson, Darren Nicholson, Kevin Kehrberg, Jeremy Garrett and Skip Cherryholmes)

New Artist of the Year | The Gina Furtado Project

Banjo Player of the Year | Kristin Scott Benson, Gina Furtado

Bass Player of the Year | Marshall Wilborn

Resophonic Guitar Player of the Year | Phil Leadbetter