By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Harvin seems such an anomaly at times. He's a jazz purist whose albums on Leaning House (1995's Trio/Quartet and last year's majestic Strange Happy with pianist Dave Palmer) suggest Blue Note brilliance, but he's just as comfortable making a brutal noise with rubberbullet as he is a beautiful one with Palmer. Or perhaps we're looking at this all wrong: He adores tradition, but abhors its shackles, rendering moot the adjective "straight-ahead jazz" that separates the purists from the Spyro Gyra fans. Indeed, on Trio/Quartet and Strange Happy, Harvin and Palmer create a brand of jazz that twists, bends, turns in on itself, loses all form, then snaps back into shape at just the last moment. Even the ballads are more than just pretty; they're flesh rendered in hushed tones and soft brushes. The albums and the rare live shows are just as thrilling as a rubberbullet gig, just as visceral, just as chaotic, just as stirring; to Harvin, tradition is about at once respecting and destroying what came before, reshaping a malleable history on the fly. To Harvin, the only thing set in stone is what he hasn't tried, which is the mark of a true great.
Nominated for: Blues
Why is it that an obviously talented white female blues aficionado like Maylee Thomas is relegated to performing sludgy, chorus-heavy rock-blues while an obviously talented white male blues aficionado like Brian "Hash Brown" Calway is ushered directly into the temple and allowed to tend the blooze flame with raunchy, uncommercial purism? There's no way a young female blues acolyte would be allowed to tread the lauded path of former Connecticut dweller Calway, who's logged as many hours hosting area blues nights as actually sweating through performances. This former confidante of ZuZu Bollin and Henry Qualls--not to mention the mentor of so many young musicians, including Calways frontman Todd Deatherage--is a painfully imitative singer, but an engaging guitarist; so far, his modest, traditional talents seem best suited to master of ceremonies.
Hellafied Funk Crew
Nominated for: Funk/R&B, Rap/Hip-Hop
The members of Hellafied Funk Crew have every reason to hate me. A few weeks ago I called them--in no uncertain terms--the worst band in Dallas. After being assigned to write about the band for the Music Awards, I decided to listen to their self-titled album again and give the boys another shot. Upon further review: Hellafied Funk Crew still sucks, and I'm missing a half hour of my life that I'll never get back.
Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit that the only funky thing about Hellafied Funk Crew is the second word in its name. Only slightly funkier than George Will, the band is barely fit to carry George Clinton's rainbow-colored jock. It just goes to show how important name recognition is in contests like this. Here's a dirty little secret about the Music Awards: It's damn hard to fill out some of these categories.
As far as Hellafied Funk Crew's inclusion in the Rap/Hip-Hop category, the band couldn't rhyme its way out of a CD jewel case, and its hop is all too hip, done to death by lightweights like 311. It kind of makes you pine for that Insane Clown Posse CD you traded in for cigarette money, because at least some of that was funny in a so-bad-it's-good way. This is just bad. If you're a fan of the band, go ahead and turn out the lights. I assure you, no one is home.
Nominated for: Blues
Over the years, Bugs Henderson has been virtually a perennial on this list. Sometimes he wins; sometimes, he finishes way back in the pack. But he's always here. And he probably will be until you have to pry the guitar from his dead, cold hands, which is the way it should be. For more than 40 years, Bugs has been doing his thing around these parts, but despite the fact that he's played with B.B. King, celebrated a birthday with Les Paul, gambled with Freddie King, done session work with Ike and Tina Turner, and is royalty in Sweden, he's not a household name here.
Yet those who recognize Bugs' moniker know he's dependable. He'll deliver an album just about every year, such as his newest Henderson and Jones, a Live at Poor David's release. He and his familial rhythm section, the Shuffle Kings, will play live somewhere around town at least once every month or so. And every time out, he gives you enough guitar wizardry to rock you and enough emotion to have you singing the blues. Vote for him or don't. It won't make a difference. You're welcome to do your thing. Rest assured, Bugs will do his.
Nominated for: New Act
Some bands seem to spring from thin air fully formed and radio-ready. The members show a knack for pulling together and stretching out the most immediate qualities of multiple genres--classic rock and grunge, funk and shiny pop--with dead-earnest lyrics over a super-slick presentation. Hi-Fi Drowning is one such band, joining the ranks of Grand Street Cryers and Deep Blue Something in this metroplex stew-pot of bands created, it seems, solely for rapid commercial trajectory.