Bluegrass supergroup Sister Sadie has made history by becoming the first all-female band to win Entertainer of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards.
A 35-year-old institution, the IBMA has never before awarded a female group with this honor. The landmark achievement comes one year after the 2019 IBMA Awards, during which Sister Sadie became the first all-female act to be named Vocal Group of the Year.
“Bluegrass is traditionally viewed as a male-centric genre, but a genre that is rooted in the Appalachian sounds of Mother Maybelle Carter,” says Tina Adair, a mandolin virtuoso and spellbinding vocalist who, like her three bandmates, was already an acclaimed solo artist by the time Sister Sadie formed in 2012. “We’re proud of this honor. There’s a lot of purity and traditionalism in this genre, but a lot of progressivism, too. We love getting to contribute new perspectives to a style of music that has shaped us all.”
Collectively and individually, Sister Sadie’s four members have racked up a long line of musical milestones. Deanie Richardson made her Grand Ole Opry debut at 13 years old, kicking off a celebrated career that recently found her winning two additional awards at the 31st annual IBMA Awards: Fiddle Player of the Year and Collaborative Recording of the Year (for her work on Becky Buller’s “The Barber’s Fiddle”) — making her the most-awarded artist of this year’s awards. Meanwhile, banjo phenom Gena Britt earned three IBMA Awards of her own before teaming up with Sister Sadie, while guitarist and GRAMMY-nominated solo artist Dale Ann Bradley has been named the IBMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year five separate times. Together, these four musicians add larger-than-life artistry into a singular, down-to-earth sound.
“We’re all over 40 and proud to be on the front lines to show other women that they can also achieve their dreams,” says Deanie. “We’re proud to expand the ways people hear and view bluegrass, too. To us, it’s a musical national treasure that can be traced back to the foundation of our country, and it tells a story of a landscape, a culture, a mindset, and a struggle to overcome the odds. It’s in our blood.”
Sister Sadie’s homegrown success has blossomed into critical and commercial acclaim since 2012, when the group began playing together for the sheer fun of it. The band’s self-titled debut album rose to Number One on the Roots Music Charts and Number Four on the Billboard Bluegrass chart, while the follow-up record — Sister Sadie II — was an even bigger hit, debuting at Number Two on the Billboard Bluegrass chart and receiving a GRAMMY nomination for Best Bluegrass Album.
Sister Sadie’s triumphs reach beyond music, too. Empowered and independent, the band’s four women have maintained a do-it-yourself approach throughout the band’s existence, chasing down success without the outside help of a manager, publicist, or booking agent. They’re a self-made success story — proof that collaboration, craft, and hard work are better for business than major-label budgets and size-zero outfits. No wonder the group was named Entertainer of the Year. In a genre that prides itself on authenticity, Sister Sadie is the real thing.
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