By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Boys Named Sue
Country and Western
Texas is made up of two kinds of folk: people who get country music and people who can't stand it. The latter will point to Shania Twain, Brooks & Dunn and Randy Travis while making a gagging noise, but what they don't know is that many people who love country music do the same thing, too. See, that's watered-down, mainstream junk, and there's great music to be heard in the country genre, but for newcomers, sitting at home with Willie, Merle and Johnny records isn't the best way to start. What y'all need is a dirty bar, a few beers and Boys Named Sue. Easily Dallas' best gateway to the country genre, the Boys, whose members come from fine local bands like Slick 57, Trainwreck and Deadman, are a cover band trapped in the days when Sun Records meant something, yet also have one foot planted firmly in the present. Classic country jewels written by Roger Miller and Doug Sahm get mixed up in the set list with Southern versions of Violent Femmes and Pixies songs, and whether the band re-creates Eminem beats with pedal steel or plays the hell out of its Johnny Cash namesake, it does its damnedest to unite the two kinds of country listeners with a good, boozy time. --S.M.
Fishing for Comets
Fishing for Comets may be the poster children for 2005's DOMAs, a year that marks the first time fans' votes created the ballot. Because Fishing for Comets is here for one reason: fans. Fans who voted in the ballot phase. Fans who voted in the award phase. They credit their fans for everything; they're fortunate, they say, to have people who like them. (Counting Cindy Chaffin from TexasGigs.com as one of those fans doesn't hurt either.) As a group, Fishing for Comets has been playing for less than six months. They're not widely known, they've played mostly opening gigs, their debut CD isn't well-distributed. In fact, the female-fronted quartet didn't start a nomination campaign until the week before the ballot voting was over, and even then it was at a fan's urging. So, for those who haven't heard this dark-horse contender--an all-acoustic band that also features Sam Romero on guitars, Eric Swanson on bass and mandolin, and John Solis on drums--the easiest comparison is The Sundays, a band that singer-songwriter Camille Cortinas hadn't even heard of until recently. Both have sweet, simple vocals trilling over equally sweet, simple lyrics. But the Lisa Loeb comparison works, too. Neither would be bad company for Fishing for Comets, but the band members prefer to think of their music as intimate and personal, which is how they like their shows, too. They like smaller clubs such as Ginger Man, Club Dada, Liquid Lounge and Standard & Pours (though they've also played Trees). This is one folk/acoustic winner with no aspirations of plugging in and taking off; they just want more gigs in more venues in more cities and to finish their first full-length within the next three or four months. Sweet and simple, just like their music. --S.S.
On "Jukebox," the third song on Common Folk's 2003 debut, Souled Out, brothers Terry Williams and Tony Ballard tick off their musical influences: "We put stock in Lauryn Hill/Miss Badu 'cause she keeps it real/Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway/BeBe Winans and Marvin Gaye/Alicia Keys with some Macy Gray." With that in mind, Common Folk sounds exactly like you might expect: warm, back-in-the-day soul with plenty of room for handclaps and Bootsy Collins bass. Their songs are honest, earnest laments of good black men getting right in the world--and bringing their culture along with them: "Seven G's on your pinky ring/It's all right if you like the bling-bling/And if you like the finer things/As long as they don't control you," they sing on "Consumed," the album's opener and finest track. In a musical climate where crunk passes for innovation and violence seems practically a prerequisite for a successful career, a band like Common Folk is like a cool breeze cutting through the dank room: musicians who make good music but also seem like good people, which is awful nice for a change. --S.H.
This year's battle for best hip-hop/rap is encouraging for a city whose rap radio ratings are sky-high but hasn't seen a national superstar since the days of the D.O.C. In March, voters put three of Dallas' hottest MCs on the ballot: There's Pikahsso, the one-man posse who drops jokes and rhymes as smoothly as he sings Funkadelic-inspired hooks; there's Tahiti, the craziest, wittiest old-school rapper in town who drops all blingin' pretenses and moves a crowd by admitting that he's "whack"; and there's definitely Steve Austin, the self-proclaimed "champ" who rocks a mike with so much fire and confidence it's hard not to call Damon Dash or P. Diddy and beg him to sign this guy now. Still, these three rising Dallas hip-hop icons weren't enough to dethrone six-member Dot Matrix from the group's top spot at the DOMAs for the third year in a row. Their rap-rock attack finds a unique boost in a sax player who balances the band's jazz and rock elements, and their dual MCs kick verses back and forth on the old-school tip without falling into hip-hop clichés. It was easier to call Dot Matrix a lock for the contest years ago, but this year's neck-and-neck vote hints at an even more exciting race next go-round. --S.M.