Leading up to our November 10 showcase, we'll be getting you familiar with some of our Dallas Observer Music Awards nominees, either via past features we've done on them, or new ones. You can vote for your favorite acts, venues and more right here.
Best Blues Act
Hunter Hendrickson Band It hasn't gone unnoticed that Hunter Hendrickson has been a blazing show-stealer in the past year or two. Recent opening slots for legends such as John Mayall have yielded grand remarks around town. He's a young and brilliant guitar slinger that's more master than student, to be sure.
Reverend K.M. Williams While Dallas is famous for another musical Reverend, ordained preacher and guitarist K.M. Williams would surely drive more folks into church if his raw, R.L. Burnside-esque tunes were featured in more houses of worship. Williams knows the truth. With all due respect to Jim Heath, a new musical guide is here, not for Saturday night sin, but for Sunday morning healing.
Jason Elmore Guitarist Jason Elmore knows that fiery blues can be doled out whether the amps are plugged in or left in the van. It's with his full band, Hoodoo Witch, however, that Elmore's insane licks are greasier than the flat-top grills at the joints he regularly plays.
Aaron Burton Like so many blues musicians, Aaron Burton is a student of his art's bountiful history. Of course, it's also nice that his knowledge and passion translates into some boogie-worthy country blues, the type Deep Ellum was famous for a few generations ago.
Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King Kubek, from a national standpoint, might be as respected a musician as we have in North Texas. For more than 20 years, he's repped the unique nature of Texas-style blues to crowds across the globe. Add the jazzy tones of King, and it's easy to see that only an expert duo can offer up such a convincing interpretation of blues-jazz fusion.
Best Country Act
Grant Jones & the Pistol Grip Lassos Saints, Sinners and Liars, Grant Jones & the Pistol Grip Lassos heart-tugging album of electric country, doesn't allow tough subject matter to detract from the record's scope. Skillfully written tunes that delve into drugs and a spiraling marriage get top billing on one of the year's best local albums.
Somebody's Darling The hardest rocking band in the Best Country category this year made the second half of 2012 theirs to own. After releasing the immaculate, blues and groove-inflected Jank City Shakedown, Amber Farris, David Ponder and crew rocked the East Coast for a month while Dallas savored their welcome return.
Jerrod Medulla Though he's been a honky-tonk mainstay in North Texas for years, Jerrod Medulla's latest album, Speak Easy, shows a versatility few hard-core troubadours achieve. Polished without feeling oily, Speak Easy can almost be termed a mood record. Medulla knows a dangerous woman is a lot sexier than any tractor could ever be.
Michael Donner & the Southern Renaissance Michael Donner and crew have a talent for pulling off a specific and rather difficult task: Making Dallas feel like Laurel Canyon in the '70s. Laid-back melodies and high-reaching harmonies bring the musical sunshine to the Metroplex, which is often just what's needed.
The King Bucks To know the King Bucks is to see them perform live. What started as a quirky cover project several years ago has developed into the main attraction on a honky-tonk night out. While their duo of albums makes for great listening, it's a better experience to see the vocal musical chairs and mustaches in a packed, live setting.
Best Hardcore Act
Power Trip Power Trip's speed-freak take on thrash doesn't sacrifice rhythm as it bludgeons you, but it damn sure grabs you by the throat and makes you say it's name before it lets up even a little.
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Kill the Client The 19-song Set For Extinction is an epic tale as told through a gnarled-up mass of blood-curdling screams and musical ferocity. In fact, the growls that Champ Morgan and Chris Richardson croak out aren't vocals as much as they are another weapon in the band's unforgiving instrumental arsenal.
Big Fiction Perhaps the band's one-line Facebook bio says it all: "It's heavy shit." There's a propulsive locomotion present throughout the band's Prison Van LP, which certainly veers away from the sludgy depths that befall many "heavy" bands.
Wiccans The August-released Field II has seen praise from reaches far beyond that of Wiccans' Denton home. The pace on the newest offering is appropriately frenzied, yet a melody reveals itself.
Wild//Tribe Ft. Worth's Wild//Tribe rides the death-bellowing edge of hardcore skillfully on their 2011 album Endless Nights. The contributions of multiple vocalists never lose pace with the breakneck time-keeping. It's encouraging to hear a young band veer a bit from straight-forward hardcore punk and fly their metal flag a bit.