By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
But these are the musicawards, not a community-service prize, and Badu remains above all a soul stirrer swaying to the irresistible, invigorating and innovative sounds she hears in a head blanketed by an A-bomb Afro. Her Worldwide Underground, released last year, smashed to bits that "neo-soul" nonsense piled upon her when Baduizmshot out of the chute eight years back on its way to the top of the pops. With its blending of stoner-mellow grooves and speed-freak fuzz, it's a disc that challenges the listener and rewards your resolve. One track, the astonishing and epic "I Want You," lasts nearly 11 minutes and sounds like it's skipping in places before it speeds up and slows down like a car without gas rolling down a hill. It finally convulses in avant-guitar feedback, then collapses in a heap. Other moments wanna hold your hand and stroke the nape of your neck. At other times, Badu's sounding the call for change in the ol' neighborhood, which is filling with guns and garbage and going to hell.
In a better world, Worldwide Undergroundwould have been hailed as being as much the successful, soulful experiment as OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and not just because Andre 3000 and Badu have a beautiful son together. Instead, it languished without a home on radio, which likely found it too demanding for an audience that likes its music pre-chewed. But Badu doesn't mind how many copies she sells; true artists rarely do, especially those who make music to free their own minds and hope only that your ass will follow.
"If I feel it, if it sounds good to me, that's what I wanna put out, because I have to go by my own opinion," she said in October, standing in her kitchen and making the next day's lunch for her little boy. "I can't really go by what's popular or what I think they expect me to do. I would be putting myself in a prison. I'm gonna do what I feel, and I think the audience likes my truth. I think my truth has relevance in this world, and that's what I wanna share--my story, my truth. When you're different or doing something different from what's going on, there's always a big risk involved. But behind someone who makes that kind of music is an energy that is unstoppable." --R.W.
The Adventure Club
Radio Program That Plays Local Music
Ever since moving to Dallas, we've bemoaned the lack of decent local radio. Dallas has scads of wacky morning DJs, but sometimes, we prefer good music to wisecracks, which is why we've taken to spending Sunday nights on the couch, reading the Sunday Times and listening to The Adventure Club, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on KDGE-FM (102.1). Hosted for a decade now by the venerable Josh Venable, who is the station's assistant music director and also DJs weeknights, The Adventure Club has the distinction of being a show where even music geeks can learn a thing or two. Venable is that guy in the record store, combing through musty albums, who would like nothing more than to talk about music, and music. Then music some more. Which is why he makes every Sunday night his own private party, a celebration of the bands he loves and wants to share like a bong hit. Though his selections aren't all local--and in this category, he's taken knocks for that--Venable is also fond of saying he'd run out of good local bands before he could put together a decent all-Dallas show. Agree or not, it's respectable music snobbery. Venable just wants to run one of the best shows in town. Right now, he does. --S.H.
Gypsy Tea Room
Live Music Venue Yep, the Gypsy Tea Room has won for Best Live Music Venue once again. And yep, the Dallas Observer is throwing its music awards ceremony there again, too. Sounds suspicious, right? Well, get over it, because there's no better place for the music awards to take place. More important, there's still no better place to catch a concert in Dallas. GTR strikes the perfect balance between an indie dive and NextSt--er, Nokia Live, where bands of all sizes and renown can play to a large crowd and still call the whole affair intimate. It's a fan's venue, since the sound and sightlines are the clearest in town, and that makes for an artist's venue, too. The Gypsy calendar goes in all directions, from Latin to hip-hop, from punk to singer-songwriter and from huge to unknown. It's the kind of booking caliber and diversity that guarantee a good concert on any given night, and that quality is the biggest reason GTR keeps winning this category. When the phrase "Why isn't so-and-so playing the Gypsy instead?" becomes common vernacular, you know there's something to it. --S.M. Big Al Dupree
Jazz Big Al Dupree was of this place, but not of this time. Although he was born and raised in the section of town formerly known as State-Thomas, Al Dupree was a vestige of a period when men donned coats and ties for dinner and drinks, when women dolled up for trots on the town, when a night out meant jumpin' and jivin' at spots so hot the walls would sweat. He's gone now, but it still feels like he's been here forever. The old-timers remember Dupree from the old Café Drugs in State-Hall, the closest this town got to its own Cotton Club, where his small band, a nine-piece combo called the Dallas Dandies, swung like a big band. He played alto sax, but worked like hell to make it seem like its own horn section to beef up the music and make it sound like there was more meat on the bare-bone ensemble. Some remember him in the later years, gigging at the Clear and Simple or the Vagabond on Greenville Avenue; or maybe they know him from Southern Kitchen, where he played at suppertime from 1967 till '83; or maybe they know him from the Balcony Club, where he patiently tapped the piano keys for Lakewood regulars and faraway revelers who wanted to hear him belt out Frank Sinatra standards. In a town of so much forgotten history, a city in which Robert Johnson recorded and Blind Lemon Jefferson played and Aaron "T-Bone" Walker lived and Bob Wills owned his own club, Dupree was its last link to a proud, abandoned legacy. He made but two records in his 80 years on this earth, the first not until he was 72 years old: 1995's Swings the Blues, released on the defunct Dallas Blues Society Records label--the same label that recorded Henry Qualls after too many wasted years away from a recording studio. Four years later came Positive Thinking, and both were joyous remnants of an era that exists only on scratchy postwar 78s made by Louis Jordan or the Texas Playboys. Put them on and feel the grin creep across your face till your lips reach your ears; only a man having such a good time could makesuch a good time. Dupree died last August, suffering a heart attack at the age of 79. It is with tremendous regret that we give him this award posthumously; how much we would have loved having him with us on the Gypsy Tea Room stage this week, giving us one of those giant handshakes that seemed to reach all the way to our elbows. You are lucky in this lifetime to know someone like Big Al, who was generous and kind and amazing behind the piano or over a lunchtime table. He was history, and he made history to those of us who want to know something of our city's past and lose a little of ourselves when those links disappear. He may not be with us, but he will always be part of us. --R.W.