2001 Dallas Observer Music Awards

Narrow margins remind us that everyone's a winner

It never works: Trying to pick a winner before the race is over, calling the election before every pencil mark and mouse click is accounted for, tabulated. (Insert your own Dan Rather/Peter Jennings/Tom Brokaw joke here, because we don't feel like it.) There are always upsets, last-minute votes, surprises. For all the run-away victories--Erykah Badu, for one, and Reverend Horton Heat, for another, broke the tape weeks ago--there are the contests that refuse to go easily, simply.

For instance: The six nominees for Local Musician of the Year--the pAper chAse's John Congleton, The Polyphonic Spree's Tim DeLaughter, The Deathray Davies' John Dufilho, Centro-matic's Will Johnson and Matt Pence and Glen Reynolds of Chomsky (and Weener and Bluh, as well)--were neck and neck and arm in arm until the last day of voting, a mere 80 votes separating No. 1 from No. 6. And if you think, well, 80 votes isn't that small of a margin, think of it this way: Badu bested the late Johnnie Taylor by a "scant" 700 or so votes, and Jim Heath and company "barely" came out ahead by more than 700 as well.

As for who walked away with the Local Musician of the Year trophy, we won't spoil the surprise for you, if you didn't happen to attend the awards-handing-out shindig we held at the Gypsy Tea Room on April 17. Turn the page, and the next few after that, and you'll be up to speed. No problem.

Best Act Overall: The Old 97's; Male Vocalist, Songwriter: Will Johnson
Mark Graham
Best Act Overall: The Old 97's; Male Vocalist, Songwriter: Will Johnson

A few categories aside, the 2001 Dallas Observer Music Awards could be summed up by the constant give-and-take-and-give of the Local Musician of the Year race. More than a few awards traded hands like strippers at a bachelor party, making the rounds once and again. Chomsky, The Deathray Davies, Centro-matic, Baboon and the pAper chAse played tug-of-war with the Rock/Pop award, while Slobberbone and The Deathray Davies traded the lead in the Album of the Year category hourly. Red Animal War, The Polyphonic Spree, The Happiness Factor and Dixie Witch all had a grip on the New Act trophy at one point or another, and Best Record Label was a toss-up until the final week. And so on.

Unlike in years past, there were no big winners this time out, less a case for the Dallas-Denton-Fort Worth music community's parity than its strength. Any given nominee could have won any given category, and it would have been richly deserved, presented with fanfare, given away without comment.

Contrary to popular belief, we're proud of our fellow locals and more than that, we're proud of you, the voters, the readers, for recognizing the talent under your nose, in front of your eyes, surrounding your ears. (Although, certainly, the shelf life of the rarely-here Old 97's inclusion in that number is nearing an end.) For once, for this week, let's put our differences aside (and there are many, and we are stubborn) and celebrate the music coming out of Dallas, out of Fort Worth, out of Denton and Arlington. Even Farmers Branch and Flower Mound, God bless 'em.

In the pages that follow are the bands and musicians that make up this year's list of winners. But the fact is, everyone is a winner. --Zac Crain

The Old 97´s
Winner for: Best Act Overall

There are those who will complain that the Old 97's' solitary win this year--for Best Act Overall, no less--deserves an asterisk, that since frontman Rhett Miller lives in two cities (neither of which is Dallas), since bassist Murry Hammond has also pulled up stakes, since guitarist Ken Bethea and drummer Philip Peeples are the only members of the band qualified to vote in city elections, the Old 97's are no longer a local act and certainly not the Best Act Overall.

And, well, the naysayers are probably right, for once. After all, why should any of the runners-up--Chomsky, Baboon, Centro-matic, Legendary Crystal Chandelier or The Deathray Davies--lose out to a band that now considers Dallas a tour stop and a line in their Elektra Records-approved one-sheet? The simple answer: They shouldn't. But, of course--of course--it's not as easy as all that.

The Old 97's, for better, for worse, are still, and probably always will be, a Dallas band, no matter where their royalty checks are sent. Too much sweat has been spilled at the Gypsy Tea Room, at Trees, at Sons of Hermann Hall--and once upon a time, at Naomi's--for Dallas to turn its back on the group now. Just as Bedhead remained a Dallas band long after Matt Kadane and Tench Coxe moved away, the Old 97's are ours. When Miller goes solo, then all bets are off.

No surprise that they should win here, especially with the couldn't-be-better timing of the arrival of the band's fifth album (sixth, if you want to count Early Tracks, last year's collection of leftovers), the relentlessly upbeat Satellite Rides, which sheds the country tag once and for all. (Seriously, folks, there are Woody Allen films that are more country than the latest 97's record.) No surprises on Satellite Rides either: You can guess the direction of Satellite Rides without breaking the shrink-wrap. Just look at the boys' matching Mod mop-tops (thanks to a few carefully placed hair extensions, reportedly) and band-on-the-run turtlenecks on the front and back covers of the record, and the pile of The-Kinks-by-way-of-The-Knack songs contained inside are the only logical conclusion.

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