The Best North Texas Alt-Country Bands

The O's Are One of the Great Selections for Best Alt-Country Band.
The O's Are One of the Great Selections for Best Alt-Country Band.

With the 26th annual Dallas Observer Music Awards just around the corner -- in fact, voting is open right now at musicawardspoll.dallasobserver.com -- we're looking to spend the next several weeks taking the opportunity to highlight some of the nominees for this year's awards. And when we say that these artists are the "best," don't just take our word for it: We polled 150 local music experts to pull together the nominees this year, so they come on pretty good authority.

Alt-country has a particularly happy home here in North Texas. A twang that's recognizable, but indefinable, perhaps. A soulful groove that isn't at home in a world of straight-forward garage bands. A banjo that does far more than pick 'n grin a little bit. It's all an ingrained part of the local music landscape, and this year's DOMA nominees for Best Alt-Country Band do it especially well.

See also: The Best North Texas Punk Bands Announcing the Dallas Observer Music Awards Ceremony

Madison King

One can make the sound argument that there wasn't a more appropriately titled local album in 2014 than Madison King's Onward and Upward. Though we loved her 2012 debut, Darlin', Here's to You, this particular set of tunes boasts a more pointed urgency and catchiness while retaining the grit and charisma that King showed us the first time around. King and her band spent much of the summer touring with the Old 97's (one of her esteemed competitors in this category), which made for a perfectly built bill as her brand of poppy, melodic and well-crafted roots-rock can't easily be shoved into any neat little corner.

The Old 97's

The Old 97's are one of the bands we feel like we know personally. Plenty of praise has piled at the feet of Rhett, Ken, Murray and Phillip this year after the release of their kick-ass LP Most Messed Up, the group's best effort in over a decade. These alt-country pioneers still bring the heat in a live setting, knocking audiences out of the park far more than striking out with them as they play to packed houses across the country. If the 97's were a baseball player, they'd be accused of pumping themselves full of steroids; 20 years on from when they started, they're better than ever.

The O's

John Pedigo and Taylor Young were well-known, busy dudes in the Dallas music scene before they bought a banjo and teamed up to form the O's in 2008. Last year, the duo released Thunderdog, one of 2013's best albums, and they've toured the states and Europe ever since. Their shows have become known as much for the kick-drum-fueled tunes as much as for the drunken Smothers Brothers-style banter they share onstage. Pedigo and Young carry that same silly spirit into their excellent weekly radio show, Dead Air with The O's every Friday afternoon on 95.3 KHYI. The two-hour program boasts a combo of Americana flavor and goofiness the duo excels in.

Quaker City Night Hawks

If there were a trophy given for bad-assery, then Fort Worth's Quaker City Night Hawks would likely have won the award multiple times by now. Kicking out the sweatiest of jams for the past several years, the group has heard their tunes on Sons of Anarchy and last year's swaggering Honcho is simply a killer album. It's safe to say QCNH could contend for many titles in various DOMA categories and indeed, the group's overall sound often leans towards Southern Rock. But check out the countrified, Waylon-esque tunes they frequently offer and it's easy to understand how this group fits into this category as well.

Somebody's Darling

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Good luck to anyone looking for the answer to the question, "Is there a live band in North Texas that simply slays harder than Somebody's Darling?" Led by powerful vocalist Amber Farris and lead-guitarist David Ponder, the two of which write most of the band's material, Somebody's Darling have won DOMA's before. And since they can't seem to help but get better with each new album -- this year's soul-infused Adult Roommates is the latest piece of evidence in this regard -- it's a safe bet that more trophies are on their way to this group. Farris has an inspiring voice that transcends genre and gender boundaries, and there's not a room that can hold this band at this point in time.

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