The Best Dallas Songwriters
C2, Calvin Collins, Knows What you Want. And He's Going to Give It To You.
Sure, we've already handed out the DOMA trophies, and we had a hell of a good time in doing so. Just because the showcase and the ceremony have past doesn't mean we're ready to stop celebrating the artists that were worthy of DOMA-love. So, let's tip a hat, a glass or whatever else that's tippable to some artists that are pretty swell, regardless of whether they won a prize or not.
So often, when one hears the term "songwriter," a pensive, diary-toting, chamomile tea-sipping type comes to mind, but here in North Texas, we recognize quality song craft in many forms and styles. The artists listed below represent a fantastic range of styles that are only ties together by the excellent results, because none of them sound anywhere close to one another. Which is such a very cool thing. This isn't a category for the best lyricist or best producer. These five have shown they can work all angles of a song in order to present a full-formed piece of art better than most.
It often seems as though Daniel Hart's work should be referred to as compositions instead of simply songs or tunes. The mood and scope of his work feels heavier and more substantial than something that can easily get lumped in with ditties or tracks. Since 2013, Hart has kept busy with Dark Rooms, a group that defies simple categorization, just as his music has always done so well. The group's self-titled record offers an array of sonic choices that manages to remain cohesive. Sometimes an orchestral sweeping feel is in order where other times a minimal, but no less impactful arrangement is the perfect fit. Hart's 2012 solo record, The Orientalist, is still one of the best singer-songwriter albums this area has heard in the years since its release.
Son of Stan's Jordan Richardson has indeed earned plenty of rightful praise for his work as a producer and performer. Since the 2013 release of Divorce Pop, Richardson's group has been in high-demand in the area's clubs and festivals because their live show is tight and packed with good times. It's the energy and good-times vibes, however, that can mask the fact Son of Stan's songs are really good individually and stand on their own, aside from a live performance boogie-session. Richardson's keen ability create varying moods and to virtually paint a scene musically is every bit as important for a writer as pushing a story or theme along lyrically in even the most intricate, delicate manner.
Grown Folks Business, the album that C2 (aka Calvin Collins) released in 2014 is, as the title suggests, full of universal themes we can all get around. The combination of his buttery smooth voice out in front, the pace-setting beats and the mood-setting, enveloping electronic arrangements makes the album the kind which skipping a song isn't an option. Singing of love, sex and loss isn't a new concept of course, but C2 brings the listener into his pain, lust and joy with urgency. C2 successfully makes the business of just about any grown folk into something far more personal and engaging for the individual listening at any given moment.
The attention-worthy news here isn't that Jaffe won her millionth DOMA for this category. No, the big news in this case is that she, unlike any other prominent artist in recent memory here in North Texas, turned a musical about-face and has only grown greater. Remember, Jaffe was a pretty straight-forward folkie not too long ago. No beats, no reverb, and it was stellar. With Don't Disconnect, her second album of danceable, rock and electro-pop numbers under her belt now, her skills as a versatile artist capable of many forms of song magic is firmly cemented.
The Old 97s had been on a nice little streak with the two Grand Theatre albums released in 2010 and 2011. Who would blame Miller and crew for sticking to the same alt-country formula where Miller's vocals and Ken Bethea's guitar would keep doing what they've been doing for so long, so well. But Miller, long a great storyteller, decided the group's twentieth anniversary was time to tell stories in a different, highly profane way. The best part about the graphic nature of many of the songs on Most Messed Up isn't that they're R-rated, but that they're R-rated and still really good. These are classic Old 97's songs told in a fresh way that too many bands would be scared of trying when things have gone so well for so long.
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