By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Everything you need to know about Jack Ingram you can learn from his video for "How Many Days." There's the tousled hair and movie-star good looks. The down-home guy playing pool with the men and carousing with hot girls in tank tops and tight jeans. The good ol' boy walking out of an interview with a pesky reporter. And the live footage with the packed room of beer drinkers and singers-along whooping it up. Then there's the music itself: a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, smart, smart-ass and appealing equally to indie-rocking fans of Wilco, frat-boy devotees of Pat Green and boots-wearing aficionados of Robert Earl Keen. It's a wonder that he's neither a star like pal Green nor still doing guy-and-guitar shows on weekday nights. Instead, he's somewhere in between: Hey You (the 1999 album that carried "How Many Days"), 2002's Electric and its companion Extra Volts were released on Lucky Dog, a Sony imprint. But Ingram's latest albums--the solo live album Acoustic Motel and Thursday's release, Live From Gruene Hall, featuring him and his Beat-Up Ford Band--both came out on Real American Music Records. But that's Ingram, always treading between extremes. Self-released, major label; riffs, twang. He's got it all, plus another pretty doorstop. --S.S.
Idol Records rides a decade of Dallas music history into another Best Label win, but a review of the past year's releases reveals a sizable drop in annual output. After all, the label's biggest release of 2003 was Vital Idol, a 10th anniversary sampler of hits and rarities, and what's more, half of the sampler's songs are by bands no longer native to Idol. By year's end, local heavy-hitters Chomksy, the Deathray Davies and Centro-matic had shacked up with other labels, while Macavity's recent breakup dropped the roster another notch. The only hot local act left is [DARYL], whose upcoming full-length Ohio sounds promising, but the rest of the current catalog consists of out-of-towners like '90s-revival Sponge, Detroit's live blasters The Fags and Ohio's pop-punkers Watershed...out-of-towners, might I add, who haven't made a huge splash in the Dallas music scene. That hasn't slowed labelhead Erv Karwelis, though, who recently nabbed worldwide album distribution, national radio airplay (Sponge's "Treat Me Wrong" hit No. 6 on modern rock radio) and spots on hot MP3 services like iTunes. Slow local output can stagnate the hottest indie labels, but if Idol's outward expansion keeps up, don't be surprised to see its name on the 2014 ballot, too. --Sam Machkovech
So right off, you can tell that Dot Matrix isn't your average rap group. There's a saxophonist in the corner, slinging out jazzy riffs and looking like Thomas Dolby in the "She Blinded Me With Science" video. There are three MCs, one of whom hides beneath a floppy hat, and one who busts out in soulful song, veins popping out on his neck, his face reddening to keep the pace. There's a mix board, sure, but also a bassist and a drummer. The songs are funked-out, high-voltage things that settle into that sweet spot between the smooth grooves of hip-hop and the sarcastic, hard-bitten edges of rap. It's 3 p.m. in a windy field at Denton's WakeUp '04 music festival, and the crowd is as tame as Sunday churchgoers. Onstage, Dot Matrix plays the set like it's their last.
It's that kind of commitment that has earned Dot Matrix Best Rap honors for the second year in a row. This 3-year-old, seven-piece Dallas crew is dedicated to the orgy of sounds, to the plain entertainment of playing live. They're not your average rap group, and they don't want to be. As Dot Matrix put it on their demo for ACM Records: "There's a possibility that we gon' change your views/About the way that hip-hop is supposed to groove. " --S.H.
The Reverend Horton Heat
The problem with a band like the Reverend Horton Heat is that when time comes to recognize them, there's not much left to say. They're well-known and well-deserving. So just to shake the normal journalistic form (as the Rev would a fine martini or a tail feather), here's a stream-of-consciousness rundown re: the Rev: hot-roddin', punkabilly, rockabilly, Billy-Badass, chasin' ladies, shootin' dice, balls-out rock and roll, "It's Martini Time," stand-up bass, cuttin' rugs, pomade, black and white, chain wallets, Liquor in the Front, you know the rest, irony not lost, fun, flashback, classic, sure bet, fresh via 1953, could kick your ass, crazy drum lines, spritz of lime, pointy-toed, kitten heels, punk-rock bombshells, comb on hand, religious zeal, genres surpassed, label-juggling, here to stay, nothing he won't say, barstools, hangovers, lash-batting, whiskey and eggs, Jimbo, Scott and Jim Heath. If you have to ask what any of that means, you've probably never heard the Reverend Horton Heat, and you sure as hellfire haven't seen them live. The Rev adds street cred and style to the roster of bands that come out of this Texas town. As proven by repeat nominations, followed by repeat awards, what the Rev says is gospel. And nobody messes with the gospel. --M.M.