Vote the rock

Just call these the Old 97's Observer Music Awards

Local Musician of the Year: Rhett Miller (Old 97's). Second place honors go to Will Johnson of Centro-matic, who, just two years ago, won a piece of the Album Release award with Funland. Which one do you think means more?

New Act: the tomorrowpeople. They will not be eligible for this award next year.

Most Improved Act: Buck Jones. Besting Radish by more than 200 votes, Buck Jones ran away with this nod--which is, yes, better than it sounds. It doesn't mean you used to stink; it just means we like you better today than we did yesterday, and back then, well, we used to think the world of you.

Alternative Rock/Pop: Bobgoblin. Separated from the rest of the pack (especially TOOMuchTV, Grand Street Cryers, and the tomorrowpeople, all clumped closely together) by more than 140 votes, the 'Goblin proved you can put out a record on MCA and still have people remember your name.

Rock: Course of Empire. Crushing the nearest competitor (Buck Jones, who came in a distant second), Course of Empire bears out the old theory that veterans win championships.

Country & Western: Old 97's. Cowboys & Indians, Brian Houser, and even Jack Ingram are closer to the real deal, but Murry Hammond's strum and Rhett Miller's twang make 'em wet every time. And Slobberbone? Well, they're too good to care.

Male Vocalist: Rhett Miller (Old 97's). He sings as pretty as he looks, which is why Miller took home the award over second-place finisher Vaughn Stevenson, Tim Locke, and the rest of the lot.

Female Vocalist: Meredith Miller. It's true: If your last name ain't Miller, you don't win this award, which really hampered the chances of Spyche and Shara, who don't even have last names.

Blues: Andy Timmons & the Pawn Kings. A frequent winner in the Local Musician of the Year category, Timmons and his blues side project--one of many--crushes all comers, from the veterans (Bugs Henderson) to the cross-trainers (Jim Suhler, Josh Alan). Maylee Thomas came in second, which makes me think we should split this category in two.

Jazz: (Tie) Cafe Noir and Earl Harvin Trio. In a perfect world, this whole category would have been a tie; how can you not give an accolade to Marchel Ivery, a veteran of four-plus decades, or the great Big Al Dupree, who can turn a standard into something special? But Cafe Noir and Harvin deserve the nod and then some: They represent the best this town has to have in any category, and no one feels the need to split the difference.

Funk/R&B: Erykah Badu. Oh, yeah. Like this will go next to the two Grammys or the Soul Train Awards; doubtful Universal Records will send out a press release announcing this laurel. But, hey, Badu still lives here, and the overwhelming margin of victory in this category--more than 300 votes separate Badu from second-place finishers Hellafied Funk Crew--proves this award comes from the, um, heart.

Rap/Hip-Hop: Pimpadelic. We'd like to take this opportunity to say how much we enjoy the work of Pimpadelic. Forgive and forget any harsh words offered in the past; they were ill-advised, ill-conceived, full of brash, impetuous arrogance with no thought behind them. We just didn't get the joke, didn't see the knowing smiles behind the blackface paint. Really, sincerely, we take it all back.

Folk/Acoustic: Meredith Miller. Miller went rock, hiring Reed Easterwood and Bryan Wakeland and Dave Monsey, because she got tired of being drowned out by the fratboys more interested in their words than hers. Here's proof some people still paid attention, enough to garner her this award one more time.

Metal: Slow Roosevelt. Almost 300 votes separated Slow Roosevelt and Pantera, whose metal is platinum. But Pantera still owns the strip clubs and has the deal with Elektra. Pete Thomas will, for now, have to content himself with being better-looking than Phil Anselmo. ASKA comes in a distant fourth, proving once more there is no God.

Reggae: Ska Walkers. Once more, a ska band takes the reggae award, which must leave a real Jamaican like Leroy Shakespeare wondering what the hell he's doing wrong. The answer: Absolutely nothing.

Rockabilly/Swing: Reverend Horton Heat. No, really. The surprise would have been if the Rev hadn't won this award. We love Cowboys and Indians, Johnny Reno, Mr. Pink, Kim Lenz, and Ronnie Dawson--for whom the award should be named--but not as much as readers love Horton Heat, giving them almost 400 more votes than the nearest competitor.

Industrial/Dance: Course of Empire. Never been able to dance to COE; then again, never been much good at walking. No surprise here, either, except that Ethic came in a strong second with 746 votes--like, have they sold that many records? They will now.

Avant-Garde/Experimental: Dooms U.K. If your idea of experimental is Night Ranger, then you probably voted for the Dooms this year too; but the Dark Messiah can't be caged, and one year, John Freeman will bust out of this ghetto and take over the world. Or, barring that, Q102. Little Jack Melody and His Young Turks came in a very, very close second--so close you can smell them gaining.

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