Syntax Creative wants to congratulate our clients who won awards at the 34th annual IMBA Bluegrass Music Awards on September 28, 2023, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Clients garnered a total of 32 nominations in 18 categories, including all 5 for Songwriter of The Year for this year’s IBMA Bluegrass Awards. Of those nominations, eight clients were presented with the award.
The awards are voted on by the professional membership of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), the professional nonprofit association for the bluegrass music industry.
Greg Blake – Male Vocalist of the Year
This award recognizes the outstanding male vocalist based on recorded and in-person performance. The award recognizes the artist.
Greg Blake, born and raised in the mountains of West Virginia, possesses a voice deeply rooted in Appalachian tradition, echoing the great mountain singers of old. His musical journey began at the age of seven when he acquired his first guitar. After relocating to Kansas City and graduating from college, he delved into the bluegrass scene, recording albums and earning accolades such as the SPBGMA’s Guitarist of the Year. In 2015, he transitioned from a ministerial career to pursue bluegrass music full-time, eventually becoming a sought-after artist, known for his soulful vocals. With his debut solo album, “Songs of Heart and Home,” Greg Blake showcases his versatile talent and passion for uniting bluegrass, folk, country, and gospel audiences worldwide.
Listen to his latest release, “Tennessee Rain.”
Kristin Scott Benson – Banjo Player of the Year
This award recognizes artists who, on recorded and/or in-person performances during the specified time period, have shown an extraordinary mastery of the banjo. The awards are in recognition of the individual artists.
Kristin Scott Benson, a distinguished banjo player, boasts a remarkable career with six (now seven) International Bluegrass Music Association Banjo Player of the Year awards. She gained national recognition as a member of The Grascals, a GRAMMY-nominated bluegrass band, since 2008. Born and raised in South Carolina, Kristin’s musical journey began early, and she honed her banjo skills studying legends like Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck. With a Summa Cum Laude degree in Marketing and Music Business from Belmont University, she is celebrated for her impeccable banjo playing, breaking barriers as the first woman to join a top bluegrass band with her instrument. Kristin’s solo albums, including “Stringworks,” have received critical acclaim and recognition, solidifying her position as a trailblazing talent in the bluegrass world.
Justin Moses – Resophonic Guitar Player of the Year
This award recognizes artists who, on recorded and/or in-person performances during the specified time period, have shown an extraordinary mastery of the resophonic guitar. The awards are in recognition of the individual artists.
Justin Moses, an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, is celebrated for his remarkable versatility in acoustic music. As a prominent Nashville session musician, he has collaborated with an impressive array of artists, including Alison Krauss, Del McCoury, Garth Brooks, and many more. Justin, named Dobro Player of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2018 and 2020, began his musical journey at a young age, playing in his family’s band before touring with renowned groups like Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder and Blue Highway. He also shares the stage with his wife, Sierra Hull, showcasing their instrumental and vocal talents as a duo. Justin’s debut album, “Fall Like Rain,” was released in January 2021 through Mountain Fever Records.
Listen to Fall Like Rain.
Chris Jones – Industry Writer of the Year
This award recognizes a writer for print media and/or online publication who has shown outstanding contributions to bluegrass music. Candidates must have been active and their accomplishments evident within the eligibility period. Writers will be judged by their writing quality and command of language; ability to contextualize bluegrass music’s past and present; quality and/or quantity; and success in educating and engaging the public about bluegrass music through the written word.
Chris Jones’ soulful singing, solid guitar skills, and impressive versatility have earned him the respect of some of the best musicians in the world, and he has performed and recorded with the Chieftains, Earl Scruggs, Vassar Clements, and Tom T. Hall. Chris has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry with Laurie Lewis, Lynn Morris, and the Whitstein Brothers, and began his career with bands as varied as Special Consensus, Dave Evans, and Weary Hearts.
With his warm sense of humor and deep knowledge of country and bluegrass music history, Chris is also a popular host on SiriusXM’s Bluegrass Junction and Willie’s Roadhouse channels, making him one of the most widely heard broadcasting voices in bluegrass. He was named IBMA Broadcaster of the Year for the third time in 2022. And, in his spare time, he writes a hilarious and award-winning weekly column for Bluegrass Today.
Listen to the latest EP from Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, Pages in Your Hand.
Tim Stafford – Industry Songwriter of the Year
This award recognizes a songwriter who has shown outstanding contributions to bluegrass music during the eligibility period. Candidates are considered for their own original work and not arrangements of previous work attributed to others or songs in the public domain. Songwriters will be judged by their originality, creativity, and ability to express ideas through song; public reach quantified through sales, broadcast, and chart activity; quality and/or quantity; and impact on bluegrass music with songs that resonate with artists and listeners.
Tim, born and raised in Kingsport, Tennessee, is a renowned bluegrass musician and songwriter. He initially began as a banjo player in high school but later transitioned to the guitar. He co-founded the acclaimed band Blue Highway, earning numerous awards and accolades in the bluegrass world. With over 250 songs to his credit, Tim is a celebrated songwriter, and he has also worked as a sought-after studio musician with artists such as Willie Nelson and Kenny Chesney. Additionally, he has a strong academic background in history and has authored a biography on Tony Rice. Tim has released several solo albums and collaborative projects, further solidifying his influence in the bluegrass genre.
Listen to Tim Stafford’s latest album with Thomm Jutz, Lost Voices.
Ned Luberecki – Industry Broadcaster of the Year
This award recognizes a broadcaster (radio, television, podcasts, internet/web, and other forms) for their outstanding contributions and service to bluegrass music. Candidates must have been active and their accomplishments evident within the eligibility period. Broadcasters will be judged by their ability to communicate and connect with their audience; ability to present bluegrass music with a sense of contemporary and/or historical context; work to inform and engage their listeners, viewers, and/or subscribers; and overall professional, technical, and musical quality of programming.
Ned Luberecki, honored as the Banjo Player of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2018, is a prominent figure in the bluegrass scene. He’s the banjo player for The Becky Buller Band and frequently tours with Stephen Mougin as Nedski & Mojo. With a rich history of playing for renowned bands such as Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time, and more, Ned is a seasoned banjoist. Additionally, he’s a popular on-air personality on Sirius XM Satellite Radio’s Bluegrass Junction, hosting shows like “More Banjo Sunday” and “Derailed” that showcase his banjo prowess and passion for bluegrass music.
Listen to the latest from The Becky Buller Band, “Wall Around Your Heart.”
Carley Arrowood – Momentum Vocalist of the Year
This award recognizes a vocalist who has shown, for the first time in his or her career, outstanding musical and professional development during the eligibility period. Vocalists should be acknowledged for capturing the attention of regional bluegrass audiences, for their growing reputation among more established bluegrass artists and industry professionals, and for their demonstrated progress toward future recognition by national and worldwide bluegrass audiences.
Carley Arrowood is already somewhat of a veteran when it comes to the bluegrass music scene. Touring for five years with Darin and Brooke Aldridge found her gracing notable stages all over the country, including 13 appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, as well as overseas performances in Prague and Ireland. Now a thriving solo artist, Carley continues to catch ears with a style that is truly all her own. Her 2022 release Goin’ Home Comin’ On found its way to the bluegrass radio charts, and her newest set of music (set for release in 2023) encapsulates her contemporary acoustic style even more with her cutting-edge fiddling, singing and songwriting. Her forthright delivery of every song shows an uncommon poise for so young an artist and tells her listeners that she knows exactly what she wants to say.
Listen to Carley’s latest single, “Chasin’ Indigo.”
Maddie Dalton – Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year
This award recognizes two instrumentalists who have shown, for the first time in their careers, outstanding musical and professional development during the eligibility period. These instrumentalists should be acknowledged for capturing the attention of regional bluegrass audiences, for their growing reputation among more established bluegrass artists and industry professionals, and their demonstrated progress toward future recognition by national and worldwide bluegrass audiences.
Maddie Dalton is a versatile musician who has been performing since her early teens. With a unique blend of classical violin training and a deep love for bluegrass, Dalton has carved out a remarkable musical journey that took her to the Grand Ole Opry earlier this year, where she made her debut with Sister Sadie as their bassist. The band has earned acclaim that includes being named the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 2020, as well as Vocal Group of the Year in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Members range from acclaimed veterans to rising newcomers, who have won individual recognition, too, with founding member and fiddle player Deanie Richardson named as Fiddle Player of the Year in 2020 and banjo player/vocalist Gena Britt — SPBGMA’s reigning Banjo Player of the Year — having participated in three award-winning collaborative projects.
Listen to the latest single from Sister Sadie, “Willow.”