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Balsam Range presses on: Haywood County act now a perennial favorite at IBMAs

Balsam Range presses on: Haywood County act now a perennial favorite at IBMAs

Though they walked away empty-handed at last week’s International Bluegrass Music Association award show in Raleigh, acclaimed group Balsam Range has plenty to be proud of.

“It’s such a huge blessing to be able to do the things that we’ve done,” said bassist Tim Surrett. “We have been all over North America, and we’re going to tour Europe next year. We’ve played almost all of our bucket list events, and to be recognized by our industry just helps us to be able to do more great things.”

The Haywood County band was nominated once again this year for “Entertainer of the Year” and “Vocal Group of the Year,” and Buddy Melton for “Male Vocalist of the Year.” 

“To have achieved this position in the music industry for five guys from Haywood County who never intended to go very far outside our county boundaries is incredible,” Melton said. “To become friends and colleagues with such great artists that I have been a fan of for years is an interesting feeling. You just never know where life is going to take you if you give yourself opportunities — but you have to take the steps to move forward.”

The 2016 award showcase held Sept. 29 in Raleigh was dominated by numerous wins from bluegrass super group The Earls of Leicester (“Entertainer of the Year,” “Dobro Player of the Year,” “Banjo Player of the Year” and “Bass Player of the Year”) and young powerhouse act Flatt Lonesome (“Album of the Year,” “Song of the Year” and “Vocal Group of the Year”). 

“I truly feel it’s important for the industry to grow and change, and in order for that to happen new artists must be established and recognized — it happened for us and it will happen for many more to come,” Melton said. “It’s the natural transition from established artists receiving accolades to newer artists receiving them. Without such change, the industry would become sterile and mundane.”

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In past years, the quintet has won “Entertainer of the Year,” “Vocal Group of the Year,” “Song of the Year,” “Album of the Year,” “Bass Player of the Year” and “Male Vocalist of the Year.” And yet, with their new album “Mountain Voodoo” ready to hit the ground running next month, Balsam Range is still as thirsty as ever to take their sound further and farther into the hearts of listeners and critics alike.

“It’s not ‘old hat’ [to be nominated],” Surrett said. “It’s very exciting to hear your name called, and it does seem a little surreal to be mentioned in the company [of legends like The Del McCoury Band, The Gibson Brothers and The Earls of Leicester].”

“[It all] definitely puts more fuel on my creative fire, but also pushes me to build new fires in different directions,” Melton added. “I love and respect this genre of music we’re in and feel the IBMA and award show we’re associated with are the top of our industry. But, as an artist representing Western North Carolina, we want to continue to grow in many directions — taking our music to as many people as possible.” 

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