By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Greenville Avenue Public House
Nominated for Best Funk/R&B
Anybody can belt out a soulful tune, but the true test of a singer is if they can rock a slow jam. And that, friends, Carmen Rodgers can do. Rodgers harks back to the heyday of R&B and soul—you know, Luther and Anita, rather than R. Kelly and Christina. Ten seconds into her song "Love," you'll find yourself floating on jazz-drum and wah pedal groove, buoyed by a voice that's mature, sexy and spot-on strong.
Nominated for Best Rap/Hip-hop
Money, as in bling culture, reppin' for the Dirty, and celebrating cars, girls (but not those who don't pay for lunch) and hip-hop life. Waters, as in Muddy Waters, as in a long-standing tradition of intelligent black men making intelligent music. Seems like a contradiction, but it's not—Money Waters slings rhymes like freakin' T.S. Eliot, if Eliot had grown up in Oak Cliff.
Nominated for Best Album (J.D. Whittenburg)
He's known as the singer/guitarist for the alt-country band Trainwreck, but with his recent self-titled solo debut, Whittenburg went out on a poppy limb, and it paid off. The man's got songwriting in his blood, and the spot-on production from local genius Salim Nourallah fits him like a thrift store pearl-snap shirt. Whether he's crooning over a moaning pedal steel or ambling in a more Abbey Road direction, Whittenburg is a talent that always keeps you guessing, without straying too far from his roots.
Nominated for Best Act in Town, Best Indie Rock
Sometimes music should make you want to lean over and kiss the person next to you on the shabby couch at the party, all Dolce Vita-like. The Valentines make such music—mod-ish pop filled out with simple keys, '60s vocals with just the right amount of jaggedness and shimmy-shake drums. Oh, and don't forget the handclaps.
Nominated for Best Rap/Hip-hop
Standing at 6-foot-5 and as cut as LeBron James, Steve Austin, aka the Bioniq MC, is a buff and boisterous MC, his lyrical flow so impressive he landed a deal with Universal to distribute his latest disc, 800-LB. Gorilla, whose single "Bussa Move" made its mark on the Billboard charts. Impressive, and a testament to a man who's as much brain as brawn.
The Von Ehrics
Nominated for Best Act in Town
Like the troubled, talented and cursed wrestling family from which they take their name, the Von Ehrics are big, messy fun with a dark, pudgy underbelly. And they wouldn't have it any other way. This is a crew that clearly believes in rock and freakin' roll—guitars that sound like a buzz saw meeting a chainsaw in Hank Williams III's backyard. Perfect hick-tinted vocals and a chunk-a-chunk rockabilly backbeat. This is whiskey with a whiskey chaser music, for crowds in which footwear from cowboy boots to Doc Martens are equally apropos.
Tame...Tame and Quiet
Nominated for Best New Act
It's a difficult task to create art rock, or even semi-art rock, and still make it accessible, enjoyable even. In that context, Tame...Tame and Quiet should win an award for bringing unexpected twists and turns to the world of popular music. Think mid-'80s Lower East Side music, vacillating between angular and jangly (jangular?), with hummable tunes and crackling drums.
Nominated for Best New Act, Best Folk/Acoustic, Best Female Singer
Could we really believe in a just God when Jaffe writes such amazingly subtle, gorgeous singer-songwriter fare and remains so low under the radar? Jaffe's often mentioned in the same breath with Ani DiFranco, but such comparisons are unfair—Jaffe's much better than the ballyhooed babe of confessional lady songs. Oh sure, Jaffe also writes personal fare, just her voice and an acoustic guitar, but where DiFranco's lyrics get all open-mic cheesy, Jaffe's are inhabited by a sophistication that belies her young age. Where DiFranco's voice often stretches and cracks from the "strain" of her "anger," Jaffe needs no such histrionics. Her voice conveys emotion and complexity through a sheer unique power that fills the room. On second thought, maybe we should just keep her all to ourselves.
Nominated for Best Soul/R&B
Anything but common, but definitely comprised of folks, this duo boasts an impressive, rare ability to find unusual harmonies. Grounded by hip-hop-lite beats, Motown-evoking keys and traditional R&B crooning, Common Folk is able to take off on flights of fancy, whisps of turntable scratches and slightly psychedelic vocal grooves seducing the duo, slowly, into a different atmosphere.
Rose County Fair
Nominated for Best Country/Roots, Best Indie Rock, Best Male Singer (John Pedigo), Musician of the Year (John Pedigo)
Blurring the lines betwixt country and rock, RCF makes you feel like you've dug through your parents' record collection after smoking pot in the bathroom.
Nominated for Best Country/Roots