By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Matt & Bubba Kadane (Bedhead)
Nominated for: Songwriter
It wouldn't be fair or valid to call Matt and Bubba Kadane, and their band Bedhead, mere revivalists. They certainly owe something to Lou Reed and John Cale for changing the way we think about music. An album like Beheaded probably couldn't have happened unless The Velvet Underground and Nico came before it. The frequent comparisons to the Velvet Underground are relevant, though only on a recommended-if-you-like basis. Bedhead meandered off the trail that Reed and Cale blazed long ago and created a sound that is uniquely its own.
It's also incorrect to label Bedhead a rock band, even though bands with three guitar players usually are. The music the band plays is related to rock only in instrumentation, in the sense that its music is produced using the standard guitar-bass-drums format. Little else that the band does resembles rock music, or at least what passes for such on the radio. The band--which includes Matt and Bubba on guitar and vocals, guitarist Tench Coxe, drummer Trini Martinez, and bassist Kris Wheat--does rock, but in another meaning of the word entirely, like a beer bottle that has haphazardly been placed too close to the edge of the bar; sometimes it teeters on the brink endlessly, other times it breaks apart into a thousand pieces.
Calling Bedhead minimalists misses the point. The band may not contain any extraneous elements, but it squeezes every drop of life out of what it does use. On their latest album, Transaction de Novo, basses and guitars are tuned to sound like anything but what they are supposed to, rhythms are pushed and pulled, three separate guitar melodies reveal themselves one by one and then intertwine. The songs that Matt and Bubba write are intricate--staggeringly complex when pulled apart, simply beautiful as a whole. At varying times, the songs can sound unplayable ("Psychosomatica") and catchy ("Extramundane"), but they are always full of nuances and textures. The only completely accurate thing to call the Kadanes and Bedhead is this: great.
Nominated for: Jazz
Do you really need someone else to tell you that Marchel Ivery is the embodiment of the legendary Texas tenor? Do you really need someone else to explain that Ivery's brisk saxophone bops and gentle crooning blues should be good enough for you, especially since it has been good enough for Red Garland, Wynton Marsalis, and Art Blakey? Really? Really? Well then, meet Joey DeFrancesco. That is to say, pick up Marchel Ivery Meets Joey DeFrancesco, the latest Ivery disc from local label Leaning House Jazz. As Leaning House co-founder Mark Elliott relays it, the well-versed organist was passing through Dallas and just "offered to stop by." Well, what a nice happenstance.
The session struts to life with "Blues Walk" and "Another Minor Thing" before Ivery slides into the ultra-cool for "Violets for Your Furs" and "Bag's Groove." Before the tape finishes rolling, DeFrancesco chases Ivery through "Lester Leaps In" and saunters with him in "Making Whoopie." But if the ending ache of "Lover Man" doesn't convince you that Marchel Ivery is the real deal, it doesn't matter what I say here. You obviously don't listen to anyone.
Kim Lenz and Her Jaguars
Nominated for: Rockabilly/Swing
Lenz is a bit upset she wasn't nominated in the female vocalist category--which she won only last year; she takes the slight with good-humored hurt, but she has a point--after all, who the hell is Shara? (He writes, meaning no offense.) But Lenz shouldn't take offense at the nominating committee's silly oversight. Besides, wouldn't she rather her whole band get the nod rather than just her alone? Indeed, Lenz's music is about the entire package--not just her retro good looks and 1950s fashion and Wanda Jackson pipes, but the old-school band behind her kicking a yesterday sound into tomorrow.
On the band's just-released self-titled debut, Lenz and the boys strive to recreate a music that died the moment Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran got banged up in their infamous car wreck; rockabilly lived and died so quickly, it remained the most intact sound in rock and roll history, and Lenz's Jaguars keep hope alive by playing it so straight, you could use it as a level. Indeed, the record, with all the instruments recorded at the same time direct to one-track, sounds as though it was recorded from a distance. It's the work of fetishists who abhor modern technology and clean sound, who adore songs about kissin' and tellin', drivin' and dancin', and havin' a ball in the back of a 1957 Chevy. Lenz can sing, but more importantly, the band can play, and that's what turns a novelty act into art.
Little Jack Melody & His Young Turks
Nominated for: Avant-Garde/Experimental, Jazz
Little Jack epitomizes an unfortunate pop-music rule: If you don't fit neatly into a specific category, you can kiss the big time goodbye. Jack's music? Cabaret, oom-pah, Latin, Tin Pan Alley, jazz, fairy-tale, creepy, sensual, sad. How the hell can a narrow-minded rock fan process all that stimulation? Takes a smart listener to appreciate a truly smart musician.