1995 Dallas Observer Music Awards (Part II)

BEST ACT OVERALL: Reverend Horton Heat
ALBUM RELEASE (1994): Liquor in the Front, Reverend Horton Heat (Interscope Records)

LOCAL MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR: Andy Timmons
ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK/POP: Toadies
MALE VOCALIST, SONGWRITER: Todd Lewis of Toadies
NEW ACT: Old 97's
MOST IMPROVED ACT: Vibrolux
FEMALE VOCALIST: Kim Pendleton of Vibrolux
COUNTRY AND WESTERN: Cowboys and Indians
JAZZ: Earl Harvin
FOLK/ACOUSTIC: Spyche
AVANT-GARDE/EXPERIMENTAL: Little Jack Melody and His Young Turks
BLUES: Hash Brown
METAL: Pantera
ALBUM PRODUCER, INDUSTRIAL/DANCE: MC 900 Ft Jesus (Mark Griffin)
FUNK/R&B: Beef Jerky
INTERNATIONAL/LATIN: Brave Combo
RAP/HIP-HOP: BassX
REGGAE: Grown-Ups
COVER BAND: Dallas Brass and Electric
CLASSICAL PERFORMANCE ENSEMBLE: Dallas Symphony Orchestra
LIVE MUSIC VENUE: Trees
RADIO PROGRAM THAT PLAYS LOCAL ARTISTS: "The Adventure Club," KDGE-FM (94.5)
SINGLE RELEASE (1994): "Infested," Course of Empire (Zoo Entertainment)
LOCAL RECORD LABEL: Crystal Clear Sound

BLUES
Hash Brown

To the average drunken bar patron, the blues seems to be a monotonous, three-chord pattern slogged out in perpetuity; to the purist, even the most modern blues must sound old to be authentic; and to the revisionist--the Jon Spencers of the underground rock world--the blues is a dated form that must be deconstructed, ruined, for it to be taken seriously.

But to a student of the blues, a man such as Brian "Hash Brown" Calway, the blues is an expansive, ever-evolving music genre--one that runs the gamut in its forms, one open to a thousand different interpretations that bound from profound sorrow to gleeful joy. Calway ranks among the area's most gifted blues guitarists and singers, headlining the bigger blues rooms with his Hash Brown Band (featuring bassist Terry Montgomery and drummer Bobby Baranowski); Calway's also a regular host at various jam sessions at numerous Metroplex blues clubs each week.

Yet he's also a historian and archivist, among the few blues musicians left who cocks an ear toward the past even as he keeps his eyes forward. When, a couple of years ago, he released his debut CD, the internationally lauded T is for Texas, he asked such local luminaries as the late ZuZu Bolin and Texas Tenor Marchel Ivery to guest; it was a jump-blues affair drenched in history, old blues standards recast with men who knew them like scripture. Calway--who has just finished recording his second CD, Rollin' Blues--also has performed on albums by the likes of Bolin, Fort Worth legend Robert Ealey, "Big" Al Dupree, and Henry Qualls; just last week, he headed to Chicago to record with some of Little Walter's old sidemen.

In fact, it is almost with some tiny irony that Brown should beat out Qualls for this award. Qualls, the unassuming man from Elmo, is one of the few honest-to-God bluesmen left around these parts, a man whose music is cut from the same tattered cloth worn by Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb. Though he has been performing in Elmo for decades, playing at his home and at a general store for friends and family, he only made his recording debut last year on Chuck Nevitt's Dallas Blues Society label with the hypnotic Blues from Elmo, Texas.

Calway's support of musicians such as Qualls, however, is a contribution to local blues awareness that cannot be overemphasized. It was a video of Qualls playing on the porch of his East Texas home that led Calway and Nevitt to seek out the artist. Calway knew he had to not only perform with Qualls but expose the musician to a generation of blues fans who thought the form originated with the Vaughan brothers. As such, he performs on Blues from Elmo and often sits in with Qualls at such clubs as Blue Cat Blues.

"A lot of people use the blues as a vehicle to go somewhere else musically, whereas I'm into the roots of blues," Calway says. "Playing with Henry is the roots. He has the style of a country gentleman, and his playing is based strictly on feeling rather than a boxed-in style."

Those who have witnessed Qualls' performances with Calway can attest to the spontaneity and raw energy of the music. Qualls invents turnarounds and structures as he goes, spawned by the emotion of the moment. And Calway follows close behind, never letting Qualls disappear from sight.

"It's exciting playing with him, taking that ride over every bump and rock in the road," Calway says. "Henry plays what he wants to play, says what he wants to say, and that's it. And that's the way the blues were meant to be."

--Rick Koster

METAL
Pantera

It has long been perceived that there is a bias against Pantera in this newspaper (if not all the papers in this town, most of which ignored the band during its rapid ascension to the top of the metal heap). But that's a grand misconception: Pantera--which has only won this award once before, two years ago--ranks with the best of the new breed of hard-rock bands, those that merge metal with punk as well as an indefinable third element (rage, power, perhaps even sheer madness) until it becomes a sub-genre of its own. To listen to Pantera's third album, Far Beyond Driven (which debuted early last year at the top of the Billboard charts, then made a quick descent), or to witness the band live is to understand that when performed at breakneck speeds, at deafening volume, and with unbridled dementia, rock and roll can be both life-affirmingly cathartic and numbingly disheartening.

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