2001 Dallas Observer Music Awards

Narrow margins remind us that everyone's a winner

The Havana Boys
Winner for: Latin/Tejano

Though the salsa dance craze hasn't received the attention swing did, it likely gave The Havana Boys a push to the front of the line in this category. Seemingly sedate diners jump from seats at restaurants and clubs to shake along with the nine-member, all-Cuban-born band when it whips up a mambo or a side of Latin jazz. But debating where the votes came from belittles this band, which is out to steal James Brown's title and alter it to Hardest Working Band in Show Business. They're already qualified for the gig.

The Havana Boys (fronted by father Jorge Antonelli and his sons Armando "Tembleque" Antonelli and Frankie "Malembe" Antonelli) play an average of 25 shows a month, six shows a week, with sometimes three performances often scheduled on one Saturday. The band (which also includes Maiquel "El Pulpo" Romero, Denny Mora, Ernesto "Chencho" Velez, Mariela "The Lady of the Boys" Suarez, Ivan Martinez and Rodolfo "FoFi" Gomez) holds tenure at Sipango on Travis on Wednesdays, the Hard Rock Cafe on Thursdays, Gloria's in Addison on Saturdays and during Carnaval Sundays at Liquid. (A fifth regular gig at Silhouettes in the Adam's Mark hotel just ended.) During downtime from the performance load--when there is some--the band practices its music and choreography and writes its own compositions and arrangements.

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

The Havana Boys were founded by the senior Antonelli just three years ago, when son Armando convinced him to come out of a 19-year retirement from music; now Armando manages the band. Each member is required to play several different instruments besides his or her (gotta give props to Suarez) principal. The instrumentation is like a traditional big band (vocals, piano, trombone, violin, saxophone, flute and bass) with various types of Latin percussion, including timbales and congas, thrown in for the extra kick. And if you haven't seen 'em play, you have no excuse. Soon enough, more than likely, the only place you'll be safe from The Havana Boys' busy schedule will be your own home. Maybe. --S.S.

The Silvertones
Winner for: Blues

Just based on Dallas music history, you'd think this would be the most fought-over, sought-after award in the bunch. You'd think. This is, after all, the city where Stevie Ray Vaughan was born, where he played his first few shows. More than that, this is the place where Blind Lemon Jefferson--remember him? The prince of country blues? The guy on the cover of this issue? Come on, people--used to hold court on street corners not too far away from where Gypsy Tea Room now sits, with just a guitar and a tin cup full of change to keep him company. Leadbelly and Aaron "T-Bone" Walker walked these streets once upon a time. Dallas, whether you believe it or not, is one of the most important homes of blues music. (Pick up a copy of Alan Govenar and Jay Brakefield's 1998 book Deep Ellum and Central Track if you're skeptical.) Or it used to be anyway.

But, sadly, the nominees have begun to run together, blur into little more than the concert calendar at Blue Cat Blues. And that is as much our fault as it is anyone else's. Sure, we'll take the blame. But The Silvertones don't want to blame anyone for anything; they just want to play their throwback blues and hope there's enough people around to hear it. And lately, there has been, with crowds growing each time out thanks to the word-of-mouth support for the group's debut release, Cruisin', a healthy mix of jump blues and surf's-up instrumentals, an album that conforms to traditional ideas of what blues music should sound like as much as it confronts them, conquers them. The band--drummer-vocalist Randy Ball, guitarist Mark Scott and bassist Brian Wicker--isn't ready to be mentioned alongside Stevie Ray or Leadbelly or Blind Lemon just yet, but it might be someday. And maybe when that happens, people will remember that Dan Aykroyd may own the House of Blues, but Dallas owns the land it was built on. Believe it. --Z.C.

One Ton Records
Winner for: Local Record Label

The more things change, the more they don't: One Ton Records, the local imprint that brought you the eardrum abuse of Caulk, the wispy dream-pop of Buck Jones and the power-metal schmaltz of Slow Roosevelt, holds onto the title its held since 1997 with its fifth straight best local label award. And the imprimatur's done it by seemingly not changing too much, even though few of the bands that it pushed back in '97 are still around. The faces behind the scenes remain pretty much the same, and even though former promotions guru Tony Edwards left the offices for a different shade of day gig, when you run into him out and about he's still got the 411 on what's going on in One Ton land. It's just that sort of enthusiastic operation and probably the main reason why it keeps winning with the public.

One Ton is one of the few North Texas labels around that's established product loyalty, and its fans continue to support its latest round of bands. Whether it be Dallas pop-rockers Valve, Oklahoma-boys Fixture, the here-and-gone Prize Money or the label's latest, former Buck Jones drummer Cody Lee's solo output, One Ton knows how to identify its audience and get people to come to its shows and buy its records: 1) Promote the living hell out of everything the label and its bands do wherever that may be; 2) Play every town in the region where there may be a young adult audience that isn't getting its fair share of the rock and/or roll; 3) Package its accessible product in bright, shiny colors; and 4) Hold seasonal, all-ages concerts where the label sells sampler CDs at weekly allowance prices.

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