By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
At this point, though, Jaffe's already there. With her third straight sweep of these awards, she's accomplished what past girl-with-guitar icons from these parts (read: Edie Brickell, Sarah Hickman) never could. And she's proving herself to be more dynamic than those past heroines, too. The next EP, she says, will be a more lo-fi affair, more akin to the songs she says she's identifying with these days and dealing with a different subject matter than the shy, bitter material of her earliest recordings.
"I just feel like a different person," she says. "And I want to be gutsy with my music."
We'll be listening. —Pete Freedman
Best Group • Best Blues Act
From Leiber and Stoller to Andre 3000 and Big Boi, some of the world's greatest music has been created by duos. And anyone who has witnessed the interplay of drummer Grady Don Sandlin and singer/guitarist Ryan Thomas Becker knows that the dynamic between them defines the band.
They do too.
Their working relationship may fluctuate in other projects (they also play together in The Slow Burners and, most recently, with THe BAcksliders, and Sandlin also produced Becker's 2009 solo turn, Neighborhoof), but they know not to mess with what works so well in RTB2.
"RTB2 will always be the collaboration between the two of us," Sandlin says. "We've talked about doing more of a singer/songwriter-based band that isn't as fast and abrasive, with lusher, bigger arrangements."
But that would be for Becker's solo material. As the initials indicate, RTB2 is the Ryan Thomas Becker duo, with Sandlin an equal partner.
What's not so clear to them is how the band won Best Blues Act along with Best Group.
"There are elements of blues in what we do," Becker says. "Everything we do is based on roots music, and blues go into that. So many bands sound more bluesy to me than us."
Yeah, Becker hits plenty of blue notes in his scorching solos, and the group's raw sound has earned comparisons to other blues-influenced duos like the White Stripes and Black Keys. Furthermore, both cite vintage blues masters—Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters—as influences. But Becker isn't interested in blues as the rigid set of rules that purists sometimes make it.
"I go back to older blues players," he says, "and I'm a big fan of guys who took the blues and broke the boundaries of it, like Captain Beefheart. With it being just Grady and me, we have the freedom to do that—to make it weird and interesting."
Sandlin, meanwhile, loves the marriage of blues to early rock 'n' roll—and there, he finds validation for the group's bass-less approach.
"I was listening to Sonny Boy Williamson," he says, "and saw in a picture that he was playing with a guy on electric guitar, a drummer and Sonny Boy singing and playing harp. I was like, 'Cool, they're doing it without a bass player, too.' And I knew Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis also played live without bass. The guitar/drum rhythm combo isn't exactly a new thing." —Jesse Hughey
Best New Act Best Electronica/Dance Act
"I don't even know what I'm in line for, but this seems like the place to be," one concertgoer standing in the nighttime heat outside Trees told us just before Ishi took the stage at Saturday's DOMA showcase.
The line started forming well before the thoroughly buzzed-about new electro-folk quintet took the stage in Deep Ellum, as if some unknown force had planted an "Ishi" bug in every other ear, calling them to the neighborhood's most storied reopened music venue.
If Ishi's hip trance-dancing live show didn't sound so much like the future, you'd have been forgiven for thinking it was 1998 in Deep Ellum again—the crowd could hardly be navigated between the hundreds of sweat-slinging fans (old and newly baptized) with hands in the air and beers in bellies.
You can't really blame the crowd's enthusiasm: Ishi sounds like having sex in space, and the Dallas music scene has gone full nympho for their mix of acoustic-driven folk—found mainly on their spring-released debut, Through The Trees—and hi-fi dance pop, with which they seduce their live audiences. Co-vocalists Taylor Rea and John Mudd make sweet aural love to each other on signature party hits like "Shake Your Dandelion," while the soothing synth-drone of "Pastel Lights" challenges every hip it encounters not to gyrate with abandon.
And after they've exhausted the Kama Sutra with their audiences, Ishi turns it all down for acoustic tunes that sound much more appropriate for the morning after.
Their versatility, honesty and energy have helped catapult them to local stardom. And they're just getting started. —Andrea Grimes
Best Country Act
Best Cover/Tribute Act
Boys Named Sue
After nearly a decade, the Boys Named Sue still have four original members—Sue-Ay, Snakebite Sue, Bobby Sue and Dub Sue, the names of whom occasionally protect the innocent—as well as a patented party-hard, drink-hard, good-times-always attitude.