The $50,000 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass for 2018 is going to Grascals banjoist and songwriter Kristin Scott Benson.
The South Carolina-bred musician has been named banjo player of the year four times by the International Bluegrass Music Assn. and in addition to her work with the Grammy-nominated Grascals, Benson has released three solo albums of banjo music: “Straight Paths” in 2002, “Second Season” in 2009 and “Stringworks” in 2016.
She is the ninth recipient of the award created by Martin since fully embracing his lifelong love for the banjo and bluegrass music about a decade ago. As both player and composer, Martin has released a handful of albums highlighting his skills — solo, in collaboration with the Steep Canyon Rangers bluegrass band and in tandem with singer and songwriter Edie Brickell.
Previous recipients of Martin’s award, which is an unrestricted cash prize funded by the Steve Martin Charitable Foundation, include singer, songwriter and Carolina Chocolate Drops banjo player Rhiannon Giddens, former Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver member Scott Vestal, Texas musician Danny Barnes, one-time Country Gentlemen member Eddie Adcock and inaugural prize recipient Noam Pikelny of the Punch Brothers.
Martin created the award to recognize “a person or group who has given the board a fresh appreciation of this music, either through artistry, composition, innovation or preservation and [who] is deserving of a wider audience.”