By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Winner for: Producer
Matt Pence's particular genius as a producer is his ability to disappear; you never notice he's there, never see the studio instead of the songs. He does more than just sit in the booth and hit record, sure, but you don't feel his hand guiding you along, leading listeners through his vision of the songs instead of whatever band he happens to be recording. Unlike some other producers, Pence doesn't have a readily identifiable sound, unless you count his habit for bringing out the best in the groups that head out to The Echo Lab, the studio he runs with fellow nominee Matt Barnhart in Argyle.
It's no coincidence, then, that his work with Centro-matic (who he also drums for), Pleasant Grove, The Deathray Davies and Legendary Crystal Chandelier--to name just a few--has resulted in some of the best local releases in the past few years. And his résumé is as varied as it is full, from blues (a forthcoming disc by 70-and-change picker CeDell Davis, backed by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and The Minus 5's Scott McCaughey, among others) to roots-rock (early work with Slobberbone) to wide-screen pop (a new one coming from Lewis) to whatever else he has time for. You hope John Congleton will finally get some notice for his skills behind the boards, but you can't fault the voters for picking Pence again. --Z.C.
The Havana Boys
Winner for: Latin/Tejano
Every year naysayers claim the perimeters of this category are too broad, that the nominees span too many types of music--jazz, soul, salsa, big band, even rock--to be grouped together. We dare them to find another category in which all the nominees fit the label given them. Tell Rockabilly/Roots nominees Slobberbone and Reverend Horton Heat they're basically the same. Explain how the dub-heavy Sub Oslo is exactly like fellow Reggae nominee One Love Uprising. If each band was given its own tailor-made label, there'd only be one nominee per category and everyone would be a winner--wait, forget we said anything. But the whining only diminishes the stature of the category they're trying to protect; slight the category and insult not just the winner, but the entire diverse pool of nominees.
For the second year, The Havana Boys, the seven-person, all-Cuban dance orchestra, take home this award, and it's hard to disregard a band that plays more times per week than most nominated musicians shower. The Boys (Jorge Antonelli, Armando Antonelli, Frankie Antonelli, Ernesto Velez, Maiquel Romero and Ivan Martinez, plus "The Lady of The Boys" Mariel Suarez) have four weekly gigs (Wednesdays at Sipango, Thursdays at Hard Rock Café, Fridays at the Cartegena Latin Salsa Club and Sundays at Carson's Palace's Club Havana) and slots at festivals nearly every weekend March through September, getting passers-by to work off those corny dogs and funnel cakes with a little salsa dancing. So they're almost omnipresent and omnipotent, knowing exactly what it takes to get people of all ages, sizes and races on their feet. In other words, The Havana Boys are as broad as this category. --S.S.
Winner for: Metal
Here's what I don't understand, and probably never will: Drowning Pool gets the record contract (with Creed conspirator Wind-Up Records), the hit single ("Bodies"), the platinum plaques, Jack Osbourne's seal of approval, all of it and then some, and Slow Roosevelt gets nothing, except another one of these. And let's not kid ourselves: That matches up about as well as Shaquille O'Neal backing down Mark Cuban in the paint. (Well, at least the awards look better than they used to.) It's no consolation, but here's something else Slow Roosevelt has that Drowning Pool doesn't: songs. ("Mouth Wide Shut," from last year's Weightless, could almost pass for a Toadies tune.) The band--singer Pete Thomas, guitarist Scott Minyard, drummer Aaron Lyons and bassist Mark Sodders--knows that melody and malady don't have to stay on opposite ends of the court; you just have to hit the right notes as hard as you can.
On Weightless, the group softens its blows (occasionally) without pulling punches, even turning it down every once in a while (the acoustic breather in "From Laughing Comes Crying," for instance). That said, there's plenty of precious metal in the mine; Slow Roosevelt is just as comfortable nicking a bit of Metallica ("Boys Lie Girls Steal," which is "Sad But True") and getting Thomas' back when he finds something to scream about ("Where's my medication?!" he howls on "Comfort From a Bomb," and you immediately start searching for his prescription). It's everything Drowning Pool and the rest of the nü-ckleheads fall short of: aggressive, assertive, abusive, abrasive, alive. When their fans grow up, maybe they'll be ready for Slow Roosevelt. --Z.C.
MC 900 Ft. Jesus
Winner for: Industrial/Dance
Didn't anybody ever tell Mark Griffin white industrial rap is obsolete? It had been so long since MC 900 Ft. Jesus reared his cockeyed head, it almost seemed like a practical joke when his name showed up again. When he announced a pair of comeback shows at Trees and Dan's Bar in Denton, there were probably a few snickers and bemused grins and a whole lot of head-scratching.