Writing about music for Fort Worth Weekly has several “perks,” such as being called to serve as a judge at 95.9-FM The Ranch’s annual battle of the bands at White Elephant Saloon.
Quotation marks were used in the preceding sentence to indicate irony – serving as a judge is hardly a perk since it pays no money and actually earns you more enemies than friends (after all, there’s only one winner and plenty of losers). I must be a glutton for punishment. Every time The Ranch requests my participation, I accept. In the past, judging has involved hanging out in bars, swilling free drinks, and listening to damn good bands. But last Saturday, my critiquing ability was requested at the local edition of the national 26th Annual Colgate Country Showdown, hosted by The Ranch. I’d never heard of such a thing but agreed to participate.
Little did I know that the majority of the contestants would be pre-pubescent girls singing along to pre-recorded music in that great bastion of live music and wild times: Hulen Mall. Confession: I’ve lived in Tarrant County ever since Hulen Mall opened in 1977 and have never set foot there. In fact, I’ve been to a mall maybe five times in my entire life. But my fondness for The Ranch prompted me to swallow my fear of architectural inanity, teeming crowds of consumers, and row after row of overpriced crap, and venture into the Middle-American abyss. The Colgate competition is one of the country’s largest talent searches, with more than 50,000 artists nationwide competing each year for $300,000 in cash prizes. Dashing the hopes and dreams of young people isn’t my favorite Saturday afternoon pastime, unless, of course, free booze is included.
It wasn’t. Booze might have helped obscure the fact that a couple of contestants were so vocally challenged they could qualify for disability checks. (Note to state legislators: Please pass a law against adolescent amateurs yodeling in public.) However, most contestants were pretty good, and several are stars in the making. The most commercially viable was Krum’s Baylee Brown, who earned 15 minutes of fame on American Idol last season before being sent packing by the judges for forgetting lyrics. Young, hot, blonde, with powerful vocals and a winning smile, Brown had the 60 or 70 folks there in the palm of her shapely hand.
She’s our early pick to win next season’s show. Saturday’s contest, however, belonged to Breckenridge resident Morgan Frazier, a remarkably poised 14-year-old with guitar skills, a talent for insightful lyrics, and a voice that makes her songs soar. Since most of us judges were men, I figured that the horn-dogs among us would bow to the beautiful Brown. I cast my vote for Frazier, who was under-dressed and rather tomboy-ish. Turns out, the other judges recognized the same magic. Frazier isn’t really Idol material. She’s earthy, organic, and more likely to follow in the footsteps of Norah Jones than Carrie Underwood – and that’s a good thing.
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