2002 Dallas Observer Music Awards

These are your choices, not ours, for the best musicians in town

Fred Savage Fanclub began as a recording-only project, resulting in the release of Jelly Beans with Belly Buttons on Denton's She's Gone Records in December 2000. But live, it has expanded to include (at times) [DARYL]'s Dave Wilson on guitar, Jason Garner of The Deathray Davies on drums and bass players Andrew Binovi of Lucy Loves Schroeder and Chris Radle (a member of SuperSport and her brother), along with an all-male chorus. Live shows, however, have been rare, with Radle spending most of her time playing guitar and singing (along with Binovi) in Lucy Loves Schroeder, which has been stepping further into the spotlight over the last few months. Lucy Loves Schroeder has been getting booked locally and regionally more frequently (including a spot opening for Jimmy Eat World) and recently had a song ("Dragon Lady") added to KDGE-FM's playlist. Radle hopes to get back into the studio with both of her bands, which means we'll probably be hearing her voice even more in the coming year. --Shannon Sutlief

Erykah Badu
Winner for: Funk/R&B

What a true blessing it is to call her one of our own, since she's everywhere now, her "throwback" organic soul music and fascinating voice heard all over the world: While driving through Italy at 3 a.m. a couple of months back, we were pleasantly surprised to hear a Rome radio DJ segue from Guns 'N Roses into Erykah's "Bag Lady" without giving it a second thought. Channeling the spirit of Billie Holiday and wisdom of Nina Simone before her, the analog gospel of Erika Wright is still spreading like wildfire.

Hydroponic Sound System
Mark Graham
Hydroponic Sound System
Erv Karwelis/Idol Records
Mark Graham
Erv Karwelis/Idol Records

Competition is unusually thick up in here. Over the past few years, a handful of distinctive female vocalists from North Texas have managed to sell literally millions of records. With LeAnn Rimes, Jessica Simpson, the Dixie Chicks, Lisa Loeb, Sara Hickman, Michelle Shocked and now (like Badu and Edie Brickell before her) fellow Arts Magnet alum Norah Jones, talented Dallas-connected women are out there representing with seemingly every style imaginable. And all without ever aesthetically stepping on each other's toes. Of course, there are also a number of gifted young women (Kim Pendleton, Spyche, Regina Chellew and violinist Gail Hess come to mind) whose secret we've forever managed to keep to ourselves. Punch yourself in the face if it makes you feel any better.

Besides the ongoing fixation with our homegirl Erykah, everyone's new favorite seems to be N'Dambi, and it ain't really hard to see why. She was a backup singer with Badu's live group, shares her Camp Wisdom backing band and producers on occasion and has every club DJ in town droppin' her vinyl joints during their sets. Still, this is Ms. B's house for now. All it took was one listen to Mama's Gun to know that "Ms. Jackson" was taking this to the next level; for N'Dambi to eclipse the same artist who originally opened the stage door for her, she's going to have to reach way deep into her bag of tricks. Erykah's captivating homecoming show at the Bronco Bowl Theatre last year showed a definite maturation in poise, presentation and stage presence, and Mama's Gun (a "sister" record to D'Angelo's Voodoo joint) may not have racked up the same kind of sales numbers that Baduizm had, but E more than made up for it by accentuating her live performances as a means to raise money and awareness for a number of issues that she happens to feel strongly about. Musicians get in this game for one of two reasons: to feed their plus-sized egos, or to hopefully make this world a better place in which to live. Erykah Badu is doing this for all the right reasons. --Jeff Liles

Eleven Hundred Springs
Winner for: Country & Western

They've been called "Long-Haired, Tattooed Hippie Freaks" so often it became the title of one of their songs, and if you didn't know any better, you might scoff at this sort of scruff sifting through and riffing on decades of love-God-murder music. But doubting the intentions and reinventions of the five members of Eleven Hundred Springs (singer-guitarist Matt Hillyer, bassist Steve Berg, guitarist Chris Claridy, drummer Bruce Alford and Aaron Wynne on pedal steel and piano), booking them for trespassing in the honky-tonks, misses the point. While most of them are vets of local rock bands (Strap, Vibrolux, Sixty-Six, among others), the group has Lone Star chugging through its veins and "Johnny Paycheck...Willie, Waylon and the late and great Doug Sahm"--as Hillyer name-checks on "Long-Haired, Tattooed Hippie Freaks"--on its mind, walking the line that connects Nashville to Austin to Bakersfield to your heart. The other bands, it seems, were the real put-ons.

Hillyer, for one, has never sounded more at ease than he does fronting a C&W outfit, mourning the "Queen of Canton Street," banging and twanging his way through another "Sad and Lonesome Song." It's textbook stuff, all about love and liquor and the occasional lack thereof, and Hillyer plays his part well; he's the "King of Tears" who's "No Stranger to the Blues," just looking for "One More Chance." The band's four albums--1999's Welcome To... and Live at Adair's, 2000's No Stranger to the Blues and last year's mostly acoustic A Straighter Line--are tickets to the Country Music Hall of Fame, even including country songs about country songs ("Hey Jukebox," "Steel Guitar and Fiddle"). It's a hands-on history lesson, show-and-tell on the back porch.

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