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2016 World of Bluegrass Blew My Socks Off!

James Reamsby James Reams 
I always have such a great time at the IBMA World of Bluegrass conference, but this year the excitement actually started before I even got there. It was literally an airport to airport experience.

Listening to Music - The Consumer and the Studio

Audio RecordingBack in the day, all the top hit albums were recorded on tape. Some on just four to eight tracks mixed down to two. Recording studios were populated with Teac, Ampex, JBL speakers, Tascam boards and, for the most part, were pretty much the same. The age of digital alteration didn't exist. You got what the mics recorded. Bands had to be good in the studio and well as on stage. Many albums were done in just a few takes -- some in just one. That music is still some of the finest ever recorded. No fancy exotic gear like we have today.

Artists, Insurance and the Future

Nest EggHardly a week goes by that I don't read about an artist passing away, coming down with a serious medical condition, major property damage, instruments stolen, long term care becomes necessary, etc. This is always sad news. What is even more sad is that many didn't have insurance of any kind to handle these situations. The benefits begin to help our favorite artists with their immediate needs financially, professionally and socially. The needs are real.

I Wrote a Song Once But, I'm Not a Songwriter

SongwritingI view songwriters as those special gifted people who just have a wonderful way with expressing abstract concepts into concrete words. There are those who just excel at it while others struggle. Songwriting is that magical world where a few stand in the clouds, way above us mortals who enjoy and savor their works.

Dreams Do Come True - Envisioning the Future of Bluegrass

James ReamsBy James Reams
As a former teacher, I’ve focused my desire to share knowledge, encourage potential, and motivate people on my first passion – bluegrass music. I’ve received so much through my association with the bluegrass industry and am always looking for ways to give back, to help promote the music that I grew up with and love. I see bluegrass music as a means to bring people together and an opportunity to span generational as well as cultural gaps.

Is Broadcast Radio Fading Away -- Again?

Listening to Old Time RadioI'm a lot like the many of the electronic generation today -- load up the MP3 player, CD Changer, and the Media Server and let MY music play MY way -- without any commercials and annoying talk. I just don't know what the future of radio is. From my point of view (very limited and myopic!) it doesn't look too good for the future of radio. From having been in broadcast radio in the '70s and watching it through the years, I seriously doubt that audience numbers are anywhere close to what they have been in the past. We saw AM radio become an unnecessary commodity when FM and FM-Stereo came along. Now, I believe we're seeing FM also going the way of the dinosaur as digital music takes hold on very small, high-capacity, ligh-weight portable devices that consumers program with their own music tastes and can change as those tastes change. Here is my 20:20 hindsight and my prediction of the future of radio.

World of Bluegrass is Over

The EndBy Bob Cherry
World of Bluegrass is over, all the folks headed home
Tired from excitement, jams and the hallways they roamed
Their instruments all packed snug in their cases
Their memories full of good times and happy smiling faces

The Best Musicians Do Not Guarantee a Great Project

Bluegrass RecipesWe have seen it on the silver screen when top actors in an expensive production end up making a very lackluster movie. The film just falls flat. All the ingredients were there but the recipe was way off. We see the same thing in bluegrass music. Some collaborations may bring top caliber instrumentalists together but, if the recipe and the seasoning are not good for the bluegrass palate, then things can end up bland at best. Surprisingly, it does happen.

Bluegrass Music Across the Great Urban-Rural Divide

Bluegrass Music Across the Great Urban-Rural DivideBluegrass Music is facing a unique challenge. Here is a genre that was spawned in the Appalachian Mountains of poor immigrants who worked the mines, mills, factories and fields of the region. People existing through the Great Depression. The primary form of entertainment was entertaining themselves with music played on the front porches of the cabins in the hills and hollows. Stringed instruments comprising guitars, banjos an occasional mandolin and such. This is the true roots of bluegrass and old-time music. Based on hard work, family, church and rural living.

We've Lost that Loving Feeling: What Happened to the Music?

Mountain MusicEmmylou Harris pointed out years ago that the soul is lost in today's music. We've lost that front porch or livingroom essence of the music. Today, it is polished, spit-shined, buffed and massaged into what the band/producer perceives as perfection. In the process, we've lost the soul. Why do Charlie Poole, Hylo Brown, Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers, Appalachian and Hillbilly bands endure today more so than many of the top bands in the last 20 years? Because they have that extra piece that isn't comprised of notes or recording techniques. Some of the finest music didn't have the luxury of fancy recording studios, expensive microphones, exotic digital "effects" systems, etc. What they did have is a dimension that has been lost as artists strive for the perfection. They don't realize that their perfection is what hurts their sound.

What's the Bluegrass Music Lyrics Grade Level Score?

Bluegrass Lyric Grade LevelIn the recent couple of weeks there have been postings around the internet relating to the education level of pop lyrics, pop country lyrics and other music. One such article ( indicates that Pop Country is in the 3rd Grade elementary school realm. I know it wasn't all this way but then, country music has changed a lot over the past couple of decades.

If An Army Marches on Its' Stomach, What Does a Band Play On?

James Reamsby James Reams
No goetta for me, please! I’ve really been trying to eat healthier this past year and have learned to actually like things such as smoothies, herb teas, and protein bars as I worked to get myself in better shape. But heading out to festivals has a way of setting me back as I succumb to roadside diner meals and the options that pass for food at some of these events.

A Man Can Dream - Looking at 2015 Through Bluegrass Colored Glasses

James ReamsBy Guest Columnist James Reams
If you’re like me, you get really excited about having a brand new year stretching out in front of you…the possibilities are endless and as to probabilities, well fuggedaboudit! I love watching all those “Year in Review” shows too as they look back over the major happenings and then make predictions about the upcoming year. And it got me to thinking about living in a perfect bluegrass world and what might be in store for the next year. I popped the top off of the best bottle of bubbly I could afford, Pabst Blue Ribbon in case you were wondering, put on my bluegrass colored glasses and settled back in the recliner while visions of the following monthly headlines floated off the calendar.

IBMA in Need of New Ethics & Conflict of Interest Policies

Code of EthicsThe International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) has a long history of leadership problems. In virtually every case, the underlying issue was "transparency" or, the lack there of. The lack of transparency was caused by two factors. Communications were non-existent, late or self-denial and, a lost trust in the leadership as a result. If one goes back through the years of emails and other communications, there is always a common thread and, for the past 12+ years, a common individual in the mix as well.

IBMA Desires Change for the Future...

Change and DirectionFor as long as I was a member of IBMA and for the many years since, people have always been asking for change. They want a change. The board needs to change. This or that needs to change. Change. Change. Change. What is it they want changed? What direction do they want association to go in? What is it they want? These questions are rarely asked and, when I ask members, I receive as many different opinions as I do people I ask. There doesn't seem to be any consensus.


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