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What is bluegrass?

Tuesday was opening day of the Raleigh edition of IBMA's "World of Bluegrass," and it featured plenty of business (this is the business convention part of the shindig, after all). There was also some discussion about what does and does not qualify as bluegrass in a post-Mumford & Sons world, with a famous keynote speaker as well as attendees from very far away offering some insightful wisdom. For more, see the day one report.

Also, check out the "Bluegrass Ramble" photo gallery from night one; and this piece about the closing gender gap in bluegrass.

What to Watch on Friday: 'Big Easy Express' doc will rock you like a wagon wheel

Touch (8pm, Fox) - In the two-hour Season 2 premiere, Martin (Keifer Sutherland) and Jake join Lucy's search for her daughter, Amelia, in California. Meanwhile, Aster Corporation's Calvin Norburg hopes to make a significant discovery, and religious zealot Guillermo Ortiz concentrates on his vision.

Big Easy Express (8pm, Showtime) - This documentary is described as a musical journey of three bands, six cities, one train and thousands of miles of track. Filmmaker Emmett Malloy features indie folk heroes Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Tennessee's Old Crow Medicine Show and Mumford & Sons aboard a beautiful vintage train traveling from California with the ultimate destination of New Orleans. Another music documentary, "Mumford & Sons: The Road to Red Rocks" will air again immediately following this.

The Job (8pm, CBS) - In this new reality series, candidates vie for jobs with prominent companies. Tonight, people from Brooklyn, Hawaii, Idaho and Alabama all want an assistant manager gig at Palm Restaurant Group.

Shark Tank (9pm, ABC) - This is a far better reality series choice for the night. In front of the sharks, the creator of a toilet-training system for cats shares a new business idea and two Austin men offer to give up 100 percent of their hand-cooler business.

Banshee (10pm, Cinemax) - When rampaging bikers crash a town festival with fatal consequences, Lucas and Siobhan dole out some vigilante justice.

Portlandia (10pm, IFC) - Peter and Nance prep for the opening of their bed-and-breakfast by hosting their friends, and a local furniture maker is featured in the "Man Issue" of a magazine.

What to Watch on Friday: Mumford & Sons featured in Showtime concert doc

NAACP Image Awards (8pm, NBC) - 44th annual award show, hosted by Steve Harvey, will give Kerry Washington ("Scandal") the NAACP President's Award (gotta be a joke in there somewhere) and U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Janine Howard will receive the NAACP Chairman's Award. Presenters include Halle Berry, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Archie Panjabi and Wanda Sykes.

Mumford & Sons: The Road to Red Rocks (8pm, Showtime) - This documentary offers a compilation of live footage from the British rock band's two sold-out concerts at the Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado. It also has interviews with band members and a behind-the-scenes look at their life on the road.

CSI: NY (9pm, CBS) - When a young pizza maker is carjacked, the team tries to figure out what the perpetrators were after.

Shark Tank (9pm, ABC) - Hopeful entrepreneurs pitch sandals for barefoot runners and a website that creates personalized soundtracks for children.

Banshee (10pm, Cinemax) - A botched museum heist delivers unexpected consequences. Also, Lucas, Carrie and Job renew their partnership.

Real Time with Bill Maher (10pm, HBO) - Maher's guests are Newark mayor Cory Booker, filmmaker Alex Gibney, author Sam Harris, journalist Jackie Kucinich and actress Eva Longoria.

House of Cards (Netflix) - Netflix's first original series debuted early this morning, available only to Netflix streaming subscribers. It's a political drama starring Kevin Spacey. We didn't get preview access, but I'm reading that it's very good. And unlike most TV series, all 13 episodes are available at once, so you can watch at your own pace -- great news for us binge-watchers!

What to Watch on Saturday: An invasion on 'Doctor Who,' Mumford & Sons on SNL

Last Hours in Suburbia (8pm, Lifetime) - In a new Lifetime movie, a teen tries to prove she is innocent of causing a car accident that killed her best friend.

Doctor Who (9pm, BBC America) - Millions of sinister black cubes fall from the sky, and the Doctor worries about an invasion of Earth.

Tanked (9pm, Animal Planet) - Brett and Wayde recall their most memorable aquarium-building experiences across the country.

Celebrity Ghost Stories (9pm, Bio) - Diane Neal, Debbie Allen, Kevin Sorbo and Debbie Matenopoulos tell of spooky encounters. Allen claims to have been visited by her deceased grandmother and Sorbo encounters the ghost of a dead bride.

The Incredible Dr. Pol (10pm, Nat Geo Wild) - Dr. Pol mistakes a bat for a banana peel and gets bitten. He takes the bat to get tested for rabies, and a positive result could endanger the health of the whole family. Meanwhile, Dr. Brenda has to perform surgery on a pup who may not survive. All in all, sounds like a barrel of laughs.

Saturday Night Live (11:35pm, NBC) - Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosts, with musical guest Mumford & Sons.

Presenting the Red Hat Amphitheater

Well, better late than never: We're at the tail end of season three, and the city of Raleigh has finally found a title sponsor for the Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater. Henceforth, the 5,600-capacity outdoor concert venue will be known as the Red Hat Amphitheater, as sponsored by open-source software company Red Hat (a downtown Raleigh tenant since 2011).

The deal is effective immediately and runs for five years, into September 2016. According to Doug Grissom with the Raleigh Convention Center, Red Hat is paying $235,000 a year, which comes to $1.175 million over the course of the deal.

Since opening in June 2010, the amphitheater has hosted big acts including Mumford & Sons, Wiz Khalifa and My Morning Jacket. There are seven events still to go this season, highlighted by Florence + the Machine on Sept. 21 and Gotye on Oct. 1.

Grammy nominations: North Carolina, represent

For the second straight year, an act with Triangle connections will be center-stage at next February's Grammy Awards. Where it was Arcade Fire this past year, next year it will be Bon Iver -- whose frontman Justin Vernon used to call Raleigh home.

Bon Iver scored nominations in the prestigious record and song of the year categories for "Holocene," a track from the group's eponymous 2011 album. That was part of a four-nomination haul including best alternative album and even best new artist.

The latter category is odd because "Bon Iver" was the group's third release -- and its first two both made the top half of the Billboard 200 album sales charts. One of the other best-new-artist nominees also has North Carolina connections, Fayetteville rapper J. Cole, nominated on the strength of his chart-topping album "Cole World: The Sideline Story."

Industry observer Sean Ross, executive editor of the Ross On Radio newsletter, cites Nicki Minaj as this year's worthiest best-new-artist nominee. But he predicts that Minaj won't win because she and J. Cole "will cancel each other out," which might allow Bon Iver to sneak in there the way Arcade Fire did for album of the year back in February.

"Then it's Bon Iver's people-who-propelled-Arcade-Fire vote versus The Band Perry's combination mainstream-audience vote and the never-insigificant 'I don't really follow new music but I hear they're good' vote," Ross said.

The nominations were announced Wednesday night at a Grammy concert at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the awards will be presented Feb. 12. As expected, Adele's top-selling "21" album led the field with six nominations. Bruno Mars, Mumford & Sons, Rihanna and Lady Gaga all picked up multiple nominations in the major categories, too.

As for other nominations of North Carolina interest:

Eric Church, an Appalachian State alumnus from Granite Falls, was nominated for best country album, up against a field including Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum and Jason Aldean.

North Carolina School of the Arts alumnus Jim Lauderdale, a two-time winner in past years, earned a nomination for best bluegrass album -- and also appears on a Tom T. Hall tribute album nominated for best children's album. Among Lauderdale's competition in the bluegrass category will be Brevard's Steep Canyon Rangers, sharing a nomination with comedian/banjo player Steve Martin.

Asheville guitarist Warren Haynes, a veteran of Gov't Mule and Allman Brothers, was nominated for best blues album.

Durham-based Merge Records, which captured last year's best-album Grammy with Arcade Fire, picked up a best-recording-package nomination for the expanded deluxe version of the same album. Zooey Deschanel, who records with M. Ward as the Merge duo She & Him, was also nominated in best song written for visual media, for the "Winnie the Pooh" song "So Long."

Marsalis Music, the label of Durham jazzman Branford Marsalis, scored in the category of best large jazz ensemble album for "Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook."

Levon Helm's live album "Ramble at the Ryman," nominated for best Americana album, includes "Anna Lee," written by Greensboro's Laurelyn Dossett. That song has already been on one Grammy-winning album, Helm's "Dirt Farmer," which won best tradtional folk album in 2008.

ADDENDUM: Another nominee with local connections is recording engineer Miles Walker, who grew up in Raleigh and mostly works out of Atlanta. Walker engineered records that scored a total of eight nominations, including hits by Rhianna, Katy Perry and Wiz Khalifa, sharing the nomination on two of them -- Rhianna's album-of-the-year nod for "Loud," and Perry's record-of-the-year nomination for "Firework."

SECOND ADDENDUM: I received a pretty detailed response about who does and does not qualify as a "new" artist in Grammyland from another industry pundit, former USA Today music editor Ken Barnes. I'm fascinated in wonky stuff like this, so I'm passing along the whole thing:

As a 25-year Grammy voter, I've watched the definition of a new artist "evolve" from super-strict (one prior guest appearance on someone else's album disqualified Whitney Houston from new-artist consideration in the '80s) to the current, almost-anything-goes guidelines.

It's basically a wording problem at this point; if the category were called "best emerging artist" or "breakthrough artist" or something like that, it wouldn't be such a communications problem. Basically what the Grammys try to do is establish whether, with a particular album, an artist has achieved a breakthrough to the general public. If Bon Iver was considered a critical/indie/minority-taste hit prior to this record, then the Grammys would declare them eligible. If the Academy felt a breakthrough had occurred with a previous record, based on sales, airplay, critical acclaim, buzz, mass acceptance, etc., then no.

With only rather generally worded guidelines, it's always dicey, and standards tend to waffle. So there's always one or two "new artists" that stick in journalists' craws, for good reason.

Mumford & Sons play Raleigh

RALEIGH -- For the past two decades, the mainstream has been awaiting the breakthrough act that would take twangy Americana folk-rock to the masses. Finally we have that band, and wouldn't you know they're British.

That would be Mumford & Sons, who played for an adoring and soldout throng Wednesday night at the Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater. The London quartet's "Sigh No More" album has been a top-10 fixture ever since they played the Grammy Awards back in February. And at first glance, it's hard to fathom why them and not, say, Concord's similarly styled Avett Brothers.

But as their live show demonstrated, Mumford & Sons' British-ness might be their best attribute. Not unlike the Beatles channeling Little Richard back to America, they bring an outlook and sensibility that's just different enough to blow up huge over here.

Even though their instrumentation includes banjo, upright bass, mandolin and a lot more acoustic than electric guitar, Mumford & Sons write epic songs for large settings. If Chris Martin had adapted a freak-folk Avett Brothers template instead of Radiohead and U2, you can imagine Coldplay turning out this way.

Wednesday was positively sweltering, but it was worth braving the evening heat to see opener The Low Anthem. The group's records have a delicate atmosphere that doesn't seem like it would translate live, but they were fantastic. All four members showed impressive range, changing instruments almost every song. Along with standard guitars, bass and drums, various tunes featured clarinet, fiddle, saw, harmonium, a strange disc-and-bow contraption I couldn't identify and even cell-phone feedback on the last song. At just the right instant, a train horn chimed in from the Amtrak station nearby -- a lovely moment of synchronicity.

The heat had relented a bit by the time the headliners came out, although frontman Marcus Mumford appeared to be wilting. "We're very much like our fathers, we don't do shorts," he said. "We're British!"

Mumford's quavering yowl is similar to a less-annoying Dave Matthews, and he has a knack for the perfect dramatic build-up. "Roll Away Your Stone" started with a  Baroque guitar figure before exploding into an anthemic sing-along. And when Mumford got behind the drums on a new song called "Lover of the Light," he drove the rhythm with a martial stomp.

Mumford & Sons have just one album out, so a fair quantity of the 15-song set consisted of new songs ranging from so-so ("Broken Crown") to pretty amazing ("Lover's Eyes," announced as the newest song of all). But of course, the radio hits went over best of all, particularly "Little Lion Man" and "Winter Winds." The latter song came during the encore, with Avett Brothers cellist Joe Kwon sitting in.

They saved their biggest hit of all for last, and the crowd erupted at the first note of "The Cave" from Mumford's acoustic guitar. And yeah, you could say withholding their signature hit until the end was kind of cheesy. Nevertheless, the look on Mumford's face as he took in the applause was pure joy. Nice to see a band breaking through, and having the sense to enjoy their moment.

david.menconi@newsobserver.com or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat or 919-829-4759

Avett Brothers keep on keepin' on

Here's another excellent little coup for Concord's Avett Brothers: They're playing Sunday night's Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, even though they're not nominated. But wait, it gets better: They're playing with Bob Dylan, as part of a three-song "special salute to acoustic music" that also includes Mumford & Sons (a.k.a. the British Avett Brothers) in addition to Dylan. That might be even cooler than the Johnny Cash star turn the Avetts did last year. "Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise" is on the set list.

The Grammys will be on CBS from 8 to 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

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