By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Now, we know plenty of people hate cover bands. They're an easier target than Carrot Top: They don't write their own songs; they don't even use props in their comedy. To these naysayers, however, we have one thing to say: Come on. These are the same people who hate Christmas, who scorn the sunshine, who would never admit the ameliorating affects of junk food on a hangover, who, who, who, who dislike pink glitter. Wait--what were we talking about? The point is that cover bands serve a purpose in the musical ecosphere, and it's not nearly as corny as the term "musical ecosphere." They are fun. They are easy. And, as bars and wedding planners well know, they are popular.
Few more so than Hard Night's Day. This is the second year in a row that the Fake Fab Four (curiously numbering five)--Bob Cummings, Mark Ehmann, Paul Averitt, Carter Livingston and Doug Cox--have won this honor. Although the band has left longtime venue Club Dada (who filled that spot with a fellow nominee, the awe-inspiring, all-request Chris Holt's Jukebox), Hard Night's Day still enjoys regular gigs at St. Martin's, the Bone and Lakewood Bar & Grill. Their fan base is devoted and ever evolving, much like the band whose songs inspire them. Sure, it's easy to knock Hard Night's Day. It's even easier to sing along. --S.H.
Best New Act
Other than, say, Metallica or Slayer or, well, pretty much any metal band, no name says more about the group that uses it than Radiant. Dictionary says "filled with light; bright; glowing; beaming," and so would anyone who's heard the band's The Sound of Splitting Atoms EP, which could more appropriately be called The Sound of Texas' Answer to Coldplay. Seven songs rarely say so much, especially when they're coming from such a young quartet--singer-guitarist Levi Smith, drummer Daniel Hopkins, guitarist Dragan Jakovljevic and Jon Schoemaker on bass and keys. From first shot ("Wondermaker") to last call ("Save Us"), the disc is spiritual without being in-your-face about it, beautiful but not fragile, fully formed with enough potential left over to keep listeners excited. Call it rock and soul, the kind of music where the lump in your throat is big enough to sit in with the band by the end of the set. Fact is, "Way You Make Me Feel" is enough to win Radiant this award, a personal prayer that comes across as a national anthem, with a chorus that sticks in your head like autopsy photos. They're the Best New Act now; much more than that in the years to come. --Z.C.
I Love Math
Folk/Acoustic; Best Bassist (Jason Garner)
I Love Math could have been considered an acoustic project when it started as the lower-key, Sunday-night-at-Barley-House offshoot of singer-guitarist John Dufilho and bassist Jason Garner's main band, the Deathray Davies. But that label soon rang false, and it still does; "stripped down" is a better peg on which to hang the group's roots-inflected, record-collection-reflecting music, a set that comes off like the soundtrack to a Wes Anderson film, with sure-footed ease. And folk is appropriate only if your definition means that a) someone in the band has to be seated on a stool, b) the melodies are a point on a line that begins with Charlie Patton and hits Bob Dylan and Tom Petty along the way and c) the lyrics actually say something, occasionally without saying anything at all. You can shorten the discussion by just calling them pretty great. Garner is the heart of the band (a versatile four-string champion, here and with the DRD), Dufilho is the soul and guitarist Aaron Kelley and drummer Philip Peeples are the backbone. It's a combination that, on a good night, works even better than Garner and Dufilho's main gig. --Z.C.
They say history forgotten is doomed to be repeated. But, with the blues at least, history forgotten just seems to be forgotten. The blues has become like adult contemporary with a Southern accent, something created by and for the middle-aged and older. Maybe it's because young folks don't have the hardscrabble lives of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson, men who lived fast and died young, making their furious mark on the burgeoning blues track, with its depot in Deep Ellum. Or maybe it's because Stevie Ray Vaughan is a guy kids hear about but never actually hear. But now--finally--a club called Deep Ellum Blues has brought blues back into Deep Ellum. And that's good for everybody--fans, bands and anyone willing to listen.
The Silvertones--winners of this award three out of the last four years--are excited about this club. A new venue, a new crowd, a new opportunity. The band plays all over town, from Hole in the Wall in Dallas to Up in Smoke in Keller to Tap Inn in Grapevine, spreading the blend of surf rock and traditional blues they've recorded on Cruisin', a studio album, and the live recording Hot in the Hole. The Silvertones--co-founders Randy Ball (drummer-vocalist) and Brian Wicker (stand-up bass player), eight-year member Leo Delavega (a left-handed guitarist who plays a right-handed guitar upside down) and guitarist David Smith (who replaced longtime member Walter Delesandri, who died of a heart attack in June 2003)--are completing another album, but they don't have a label or financing yet. Maybe now they have a better chance. --Shannon Sutlief