The Will Callers Overcome Deaths, Win Shiner Rising Star Competition

Shiner Rising Star Competition Finals
Love & War in Texas, Plano
October 21, 2010

After 14 weeks of competition between 24 bands that cover the entire, vast realm of country music, the Shiner Rising Star contest ended last night at Plano's Love & War in Texas.

And, many times throughout the evening, it was easy to forget that a competition was taking place, given the overall celebratory energy of the spacious, hill-country style patio area. A festive, Shiner-fueled mob it was.

The friends and families of the five final groups, joined together with members from many of the bands who played in the contest earlier, but hadn't quite made it this far, and a much larger than normal group of judges were on hand for this party.

The names that joined me at the judges table at the finals also truly helped make last night's round a full-on, local country jamboree: The folks from Somebody's Darling, Grant Jones of the Pistol Grip Lassoes, Darryl Lee Rush, Merrol Ray (all Shiner Rising Star winners, by the way), plus Brett Dillon and Chance Cody, both of KHYI-95.3 FM The Range, George Dunham from KTCK-1310 AM The Ticket, local country talents Zane Wiliams and John David Kent, Joshua Jones of Shiner Records, Texas Country Countdown host Chuck Taylor and noted Nashville hit-maker Deryl Dodd. Also: Coach Joe Avezzano.

Of course, the bands were the main attraction, and each of them made their case nicely, even though there were a couple of groups that stood out above the rest.

Performances by Dallas' Chris Miller Band and The Big Benders preceded Fort Worth's Two Door Ford and The Will Callers, and, closing out the night was the lone, geographically-interloping band left Oklahoma City's Rock Bottom Ramblers.

After the individual sets were finished, the Big Benders' blend of goth, country and punk, the Rock Bottom Ramblers' rootsy, washboard-powered folk rock and the garage rockabilly of The Will Callers had basically placed each of them into the top three, with solid performances that could've legitimately put any of them into the winner's circle.

For those who may be unaware, though, the drama of the night was made even greater just by The Will Callers showing up to play. Tragically, earlier this week, their bass player and lead guitar player died in an auto accident. Yet the band was present and certainly accounted for.
Mercy points, though, would prove to be unnecessary for the twangy, Stones-esque foursome, which was on-point throughout their 30 minute set.

And while the decision of who would win was tough for the throng of judges, The Will Callers were just too good to be denied. The band won the recording contract on the merits of their blazing performance. And their attitude and approach last night was nothing short of goose bump-inducing.

The definition of "scene" is often debated. Whether North Texas has a true country scene might be up for debate. But what is easy to see, if one looks closely enough, is the sense of community that lies with not only the bands that were on-stage last night, but the bands that have gone through this competition before, many of which make up the top level of this area's country talent.

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