Best Local Music Release 2015 | Coming Home by Leon Bridges | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

The feel-good story of Dallas music in 2015 has undoubtedly been the rise of Leon Bridges, who used a contract with Columbia Records to spring onto late-night TV shows, but still takes the time to go busking in Deep Ellum. Listening to Coming Home, it's easy to understand what all the fuss is about. More than a throwback, the album demonstrates strong songcraft, a painstaking attention to detail and a hell of a lot of talent. Coming Home soars highest on the title track and "Better Man," while "Twistin' and Groovin'" and "River" are its most grounded songs.

With its wide variety of guests — authors, arts leaders, politicians, performers — local host Krys Boyd's noontime talk and call-in show on KERA-FM/90.1 offers a calm, well-informed two-hour break from the angry voices doing talk radio elsewhere. Boyd's good at letting her guests make their points with minimal interruption. Listen and learn.

Big ups to Dallas County Clerk John Warren for changing his mind for the right reasons. In 2013, after saying for years that he opposed same-sex marriage because of his religious beliefs, Warren came out in support of marriage equality. This year he dutifully prepared his office for the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, ensuring that Dallas County would be able to issue marriage licenses to couples as soon as the ruling came down. In June, Warren issued the first same-sex marriage license in Dallas County to Jack Evans and George Harris, who'd had to wait 54 years to attain legal status for their union.

We've been blessed with a steady stream of Erykah Badu updates this year. Some of the things that have kept her busy: She busked in Manhattan, appeared on the local news when her flight was delayed, performed an epic hip-hop medley with the Roots, headlined opening night at The Bomb Factory, dissed the Black Eyed Peas and released a mixtape to save the world. (We're nearly out of breath.) But best of all, Badu won the prestigious Ella Fitzgerald Award at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. It's an honor shared by Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin, and it perfectly befits our own Queen of Neo-Soul.

Versatile, classically trained Jenny Ledel is half of one of Dallas' most powerful theater-making duos. Husband Alex Organ, our Best Actor pick, is artistic director at Second Thought Theatre. Ledel is a company member at Kitchen Dog, where she was a comic delight in Lee Trull's zany Wilde/Earnest. She played a neurotic wife in creepy Belleville at Second Thought. Opposite her hubby's Iago, she was riveting as Emilia in Othello. Why does she act? "Every day I read something in the news that ignites my sense of outrage," Ledel says. "Acting allows me to proclaim it on high more eloquently than I could ever do on my own." Offstage, Ledel voices anime and is a certified notary public. We certify that she's a notable actor.

Lauren Drewes Daniels

A jukebox — a real, honest-to-goodness one with CDs or records and pages that flip — is most at home in a dive bar. And if any bar in Dallas gets it right, it's Lakewood Landing. Put in $1 and you'll get three songs, but why would you do that when $2 gets you seven? Cue up some Ernest Tubbs to go with ELO, Fleetwood Mac, the Pixies or Big Star, grab a Lone Star and celebrate your impeccable taste in music from the comfort of the patio, because hell yes the music plays outside too.

Sure, Alex Organ is great in the big classic roles: Coriolanus at Shakespeare Dallas, Iago in Othello at Second Thought Theatre (where he's artistic director now). But it was in Undermain Theatre's weird and wonderful production of Annie Baker's The Flick this season that this Yale-trained actor really showed the depth of his talent. As a 35-year-old movie usher who barely spoke and spent most of the three-hour play sweeping and mopping, he was as heartbroken and heartbreaking as Hamlet (and in way fewer words). It takes a great actor to make long silences into a bravura performance.

In your face, Jerry Jones. The Cowboys owner may have built the biggest indoor concert venue in the state of Texas, but when Garth Brooks decided to make his big North Texas comeback, he took his business elsewhere. And boy did it pay off: Brooks, who hadn't played Dallas since 1998, made the sensational decision to play seven — yes, seven — shows across five nights at American Airlines Center, and the country legend sold over 100,000 tickets in the span of a few hours. It wasn't just Brooks' ego that benefited either; with floor seats costing less than $70, the fans were the real winners.

Sometimes it's best to let the music do the talking. When Sleater-Kinney visited Dallas in the spring, they answered questions about whether their reunion tour could capture the old fire in the simplest way possible: by kicking ass. The trio barely spoke throughout the show, preferring instead to ratchet up the energy with every song, as though Corinne Tucker, Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein wanted to see who would break first. In the end, they just about burned the Granada down with the apocryphal "Modern Girl." This wasn't the best feminist show in Dallas this year, or even the best punk or rock show. It was the best show, period.

For several decades, the 90-seat basement space in Deep Ellum has staged avant-garde plays by emerging writers. This season, however, something clicked on a higher level with the world premiere of Gordon Dahlquist's sci-fi drama Tomorrow Come Today, the tightly focused work of actor Shannon Kearns Simmons as the title character in The Testament of Mary and the impeccably acted and directed (by Blake Hackler) The Flick, Annie Baker's Pulitzer winner about three nobodies working in an old cinema. Undermain's married founders Katherine Owens and Bruce DuBose have lined up another challenging season, including Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night, which regional theaters rarely touch (it opens early next year), and the current premiere (through October 17) of Meg Moroshnik's The Droll (Or, a Stage Play about the END of Theatre), about a time when all theater is banned and one troupe puts on a secret Hamlet. End of theater? Not at Undermain.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of