By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Upon its release, she told the Observer, "I feel like this is the album I wanted to do all my life."
It sounds like it—a majestic re-imagining of its predecessors, a quadraphonic version of records that now sound positively monaural in comparison. And she's Dallas', now and forever: "I will never leave this city. I feel very responsible."
Or you could just kiss her placenta. —R.W.
Considering the success of Mom's 2007 EP Little Brite, it's not really surprising the duo walked away with this award—after all, Mom's sound is just as accessible as it is experimental, running delicately plucked acoustic guitar, cello and violin through a vast array of samplers and pedals to create instrumental music that's endlessly compelling and staggeringly beautiful. And with shows opening for Beach House, Efterklang and the legendary Steve Reich (at this year's SXSW) already under their belt—and an East Coast tour on the horizon—it's likely the band's fan base will only continue to grow in the coming months.
In fact, guitarist/cellist Joel North and violinist/sample-master Bruce Blay are already working on a full-length follow-up for Western Vinyl Records, home to like-minded Austin acts such as Balmorhea and Bexar Bexar, who along with Mom form the nucleus of a burgeoning Texas folktronica scene.
"I'm not really sure why we're all making music at the same time, but I'm glad we found each other," Blay says. "The Texas landscape surely plays a factor in the acoustic, folky side, but we're not cowboys, so we get to make something modern."
They call it modern; we call it timeless. —Noah W. Bailey
With its ranks sometimes swelling to include more than a dozen players, it's tempting to call Snarky Puppy "The Polyphonic Spree of local jazz." Such a comparison, however superficially lazy it might be, does come close to describing the general spirit of this Denton collective.
Dallas isn't exactly known as a jazz hotbed, so it's intriguing that Snarky Puppy, playing such unconventional music, has developed such a devoted following. Formed in 2004 by bassist and primary composer Michael League, this talented group of instrumentalists only hints at traditional jazz, favoring instead a heady blend of funk and fusion with occasional diversions into rock.
The diversity of the music is matched by the varied nature of the band's audience. At any given Snarky Puppy performance, it's not uncommon to see youthful Rastafarians bobbing and swaying alongside music professors and metalheads. Along with the expected jazz influences (Pat Metheny, Chick Corea), Snarky Puppy is just as comfortable incorporating James Brown and even some Björk into the mix. With a new CD ready for release in September, League and his ever-shifting collection of talented nerds are likely to be raising the area's IQ for many years to come. —D.S.
Perhaps more so than any of his fellow Best Instrumentalist nominees, Sean Kirkpatrick plays his instrument like a man possessed, pounding maniacally at his piano, wringing beauty out of dissonance and tension, and creating something dark and memorable in the process.
He's been known near and far for his stellar work with local darklings The Paper Chase for several years—complimenting the songs of frontman John Congleton with whatever sinister and cinematic touches they might need—but with the release of 2007's Turn on the Interference, Kirkpatrick unleashed the first set of his own material since the days of Maxine's Radiator, the psychedelic Denton combo he fronted in the mid-'90s. A mesmerizing collection of dark-hearted balladry, Interference was "largely influenced by the ridiculous barriers that people will put between themselves and the possibility of feeling pain and discomfort," says Kirkpatrick, who also notes he's in the writing stages of another record with his new bandmates. There's no timetable for release, unfortunately, although you can hear new demos like "Bad Neighbor"—a song about his neighbor's surveillance camera and the "god-awful shrieking noise" it emits—on his MySpace page.
In the meantime, you're sure to find Kirkpatrick punishing the ivories everywhere from Vienna to J & J's, sharing stages with everyone from Explosions in the Sky to local compatriots like The Great Tyrant and Daniel Folmer, at times threatening to outshine damn near all of them. —N.W.B.
Let's face it—this category was stacked with talent this year, from Stuart Sikes (Cat Power, Dove Hunter) to John Congleton (Mount Righteous, Black Mountain) to Matt Barnhart and Matt Pence of the Echo Lab (Shearwater and Centro-matic, respectively).
But once again Salim Nourallah walked away the winner, no doubt thanks to his status as one of Dallas' most revered pop tunesmiths and his work on the new Old 97's disc, Blame It on Gravity. Ask Nourallah the albums he's proudest of working on, however, and he's just as quick to name one with a much lower profile, like Flat People's self-titled debut or The Cut*Off's Packaged Up for Beginners—two albums no doubt recorded with the aide of his trusty Telefunken 251 microphone, perhaps his favorite piece of gear.