The neo-bluegrass outfit Big City Folk takes the sounds of Appalachia in strange and energetic new directions, with improv-heavy originals and unlikely covers. Somewhere between bluegrass and jazz lies Darrin Kobetich, a guitar wiz whose instrumental music is distinctly his own. James Michael Taylor, John Murphy, and Fort Worth Weekly staffer Jeff Prince are Fontanelle, the acoustic trio that combines Taylor’s eccentric coffeehouse folk musings with Prince’s love of old-timey C&W. Longtime member of Catfish Whiskey and Spoonfed Tribe, Tripp Mathis is also a troubadour who offers ruminative compositions about old flames and unpredictable journeys. Speaking of Catfish Whiskey, former co-frontman (and Fort Worth Weekly contributor) Keegan McInroe has perfected his own finely detailed, socially conscious brand of folk blues and often brings it to audiences abroad. Baroque and sometimes bizarre rather than earnest and minimalist, Clint Niosi & The Unaccountable’s tuneage is decidedly cinematic. Singer-songwriter Joel Murray calls himself UBoat, but we call his vividly detailed portraits of paranoia, obsessive love, and despair Gothic and compelling. — J.F.
The farthest-flung bands here with F-Dub roots are Oh Whitney, who call Mexico home, and Son of Stan, whose mastermind, Jordan Richardson, lives in L.A. Otherwise, Dallas and Denton represent the biggest interlopers here, fueling proto-punks Mind Spiders, orchestral Dust Bowl electro-folkies Whiskey Folk Ramblers, baroque popsters Beauxregard, and the blues-hammerin’ Oil Boom. — A.M.
What’s up? No one’s tried to fill the void left by Big Mike’s Box of Rock, frontman Big Mike Richardson’s classic-rock outfit that for years packed The Moon and later Lola’s Saloon but disbanded earlier this year. Oh, well. We’ve still got enough cover/tribute goodness to sate our lust for familiar tunes. Perennial combatants Poo Live Crew and Velvet Love Box may split the humor vote here, leaving an opening for Droidekka, a killer band specializing in 8-bit-sounding covers of video game songs. For funked-up pop, Dazey Chain may be hard to beat, though newbie 20% Cooler still has a good chance. With the demise of Stoogeaphilia, the lone tribute act here, veterans Prophets of Rage (Rage Against the Machine), have a clear shot at Panthy glory. — E.G.
A band with two lead singers is pretty rare — one with two Weekly-nominated vocalists even rarer — but Quaker City Night Hawks’ Sam Anderson and David Matsler are both rock gods with booming, raspy pipes. In a way, the two are right up there with perennial winner Josh Weathers, the North Texas standard bearer of blues-daddy attitude, blasting out or caressing a lyric as the song calls for. Matching Weathers’ swagger hip swivel for hip swivel is The Hanna Barbarians’ charismatic Blake Parish, who can switch from poignant and plaintive to raunchy and rocking at a moment’s notice. The Phuss’ Josh Fleming and Calhoun’s Tim Locke are two sides of the same coin: singers who also shred on guitar. While Fleming’s a belter who wants to get down and dirty in a back alley, Locke goes straight for the heart, alternating seamlessly between emotional ferocity and bemusement. Taylor Craig Mills is also an accomplished frontman, sounding like a choirboy prodigy in search of his choir, an angelic ache pulsating in every note. — J.F.
Charla Corn, the popular drive-time DJ for The Ranch, is also a Texas Music siren whose bright, breathy voice conveys real emotional authority. The Diabolical Machines’ Harley Dear has a clear, ringing, Lesley Gore quality to her vocals that lends her band some retro girl-group power and catchiness. Indie folk singer-songwriter Rachel Gollay is nobody’s pushover. Gentle but unsentimental, her voice is a precise and adult instrument that expresses her sometimes painfully honest tunes with smarts and steeliness. The Breakfast Machine’s Meghann Moore has a wonderfully girly voice that’s sharpened by a dominatrix, kitten-with-a-whip tone — she wields sex and irony with real panache. Animal Spirit keyboardist and frontwoman Sam Wuehrmann often shares vocal duties with bandmate Andrew Stroheker to create harmonies that recall John Doe and Exene Cervenka. Alone at the mic, though, Wuehrmann has a vibrant voice whose casual power might disarm you completely. — J.F.
Kevin Aldridge, Scott Copeland, Jody Jones, Jake Robison, and Carey Wolff are all strong nominees, but their similar styles may mean that the Americana vote gets spread among them. They all churn out music that is strong on imagistic lyrics and earthy vibes. The guys with a chance to steal this category are Nathan Brown, who imbues his intentionally chintzy R&B with piles of genuine soul, and Ronnie Heart, who’s been described by more than one observer as “Fort Worth’s Prince.” ’Nuff said. — A.M.
Of all the instrumental categories, this one has to be the most diverse. You’ve got Paul Boll, who generates tasteful, jazz-influenced pop with his band Los Noviembres; Landon Cabarubio, who with post-rockers Cleanup and Americana stylists Jacob Furr & The Only Road pulls, plucks, and taps out bubbly arpeggios and riffs; Quaker City Night Hawks’ David Matsler, who throws down Southern-fried goodness Billy Gibbons-style; Tyrel Choat, who shreds all kinds of crazy with his metal band, Cosmic Trigger; and Secret Ghost Champion’s Roby Scott, who plays mercurially yet soulfully. — A.M.
The two elder statesmen, Bruce Alford (Scott Copeland & The Haters) and Sammy Boe (Josh Weathers Band), are both human metronomes with a flair for the bombastic. The most musical nominees, Ice Eater’s Wyatt Adams and Pinkish Black’s Jon Teague, approach each drum and cymbal with the open-mindedness of a pianist at his keys. Quaker City Night Hawks’ Matt Mabe is a monster, thunder and lightning firing from his hands, and Fungi Girls’ Skyler Salinas keeps beats so fast his sticks are just blurs. And Cleanup’s Riley Pennock probably secretly has four arms. — A.M.
A drummer might make people dance, but it’s the low end that makes people groove. Quaker City Night Hawks’ Pat Adams and The Hanna Barbarians’ Chris Evans both provide the slinky thunder that gives their respective Southern rock outfits extra helpings of sweaty mojo. Mixing punk abandon with clockwork rhythm, Jack Russell’s upright slapping puts the fire(water) in Whiskey Folk Ramblers’ hootenannies, while Jeremy Hull subtly inserts jazz accents and Parliament fury into everything from cowpunk (Holy Moly) to indie rock (Mills & Co.) with a ton of jazz in between. His classicism is matched only by the tasty fusion licks of John Shook Jr. (Gunga Galunga, Dirty Pool) and the nigh-infinite musical references laced throughout Lee Allen’s precision-guided futuro-funk with Rivercrest Yacht Club.— S.S.
Big boys and underground upstarts duke it out in this category. Saint Marie Records is based in Fort Worth but doesn’t work with Fort Worth artists, instead broadcasting records from great progressive bands all over the world. Smith Music Group is also global-minded in mission but stays true to a single sound: Texas Music. Spune Productions is more of a booking agency than label but is still responsible for some gemlike North Texas recordings, including ones from The Cush and Bethan. The poppy Euphio Records (The Breakfast Machine, The Hendersons, The Frisky Disco) and punkish Lo-Life Recordings (War Party, Doom Ghost, Sealion) are collectives, and Dreamy Soundz specializes in LPs and cassette tapes from some of the most discerning underground ruffians in North Texas, including Skeleton Coast and Solo Sol. — A.M.
In just a few short years, Fort Worth has become quite the hot spot. A force behind two huge events — Fort Worth Music Festival and Untapped Fort Worth — Spune still rules the roost, but upstarts Blackbox Presents (Lola’s Saloon, Queen City Music Hall) and Up to Eleven are coming on strong. From a grassroots standpoint, Friends of Friends (a.k.a. Joseph Justin) and Fort Worth Music Co-op have been keeping Funkytown quirky, especially on school nights. — A.M.
It’s been said that Fort Worth is the most Texan of Texas cities, and Fred’s Texas Café is probably the most Fort Worthian of Fort Worth venues, hosting a rousing mix of country, folk, and rock. Lola’s Saloon blasts just about any kind of tuneage you can imagine, channeling the wheels-off attitude of forebear The Wreck Room. Also hitting the Texana bull’s-eye, Magnolia Motor Lounge focuses on country and rock while Whiskey Girl Saloon brings plenty of Les Pauls and massive amps to the boot-scootin’ Stockyards. Once upon a time, you had to set up your own PA at The Grotto. Now The Little Venue That Could is a fully apportioned venue serving up a wide variety of acts. At The Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge, bands can feel like the real deal courtesy of the extravagant sound system and comfy greenroom. Conversely, the DIY space 1919 Hemphill’s booze-/drugs-/jerks-free punk shows boil down to way-under-the-radar bashes as personal as they are loud. — S.S.
Fort Worth might not be Music City, a place that attracts artists from all over the world looking to record — yet. But regional artists are waking up to what Fort Worth producers are cooking, that’s for sure. The underground maestros here include The Theater Fire’s James Talambas, whose home studio, New Media Recordings, is also the site of some fantastic touring and local shows open to the public; Dreamy Soundz’ husband-and-wife team of Robby and Jennifer Rux, who’ve transformed their Fairmount home into ground zero for Fort Worth’s progressive indie community; and Jordan Richardson and Steve Steward, who can match Dreamy Soundz’ analog grittiness note for note, operating out of producer Barry Eaton’s Argyle studio, The Swamp. Fort Worth Sound owner and 2012 winner Bart Rose has developed a niche as the go-to guy for Texas Music acts. Spaceway Productions owner Will Hunt, in addition to working with three of the biggest bands in North Texas — Burning Hotels, Holy Moly, and The Hanna Barbarians — has also done some stuff with Evanescence’s Amy Lee. Blue Smoke Studios owner Nick Choate is probably known more as a performer, but he’s lent his ear to the handiwork of local big-timers Josh Weathers Band and Luke Wade & No Civilians. And let’s not forget that The Nightfly himself, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, laid down some tracks at Jerry Hudson and Jeff Ward’s Eagle Audio Recording on the Near Southside. Not many studios in the country can lay claim to that. — A.M.
SONG OF THE YEAR
For “Hold It Down,” multi-Panthy winner Smoothvega teamed up with Houston-based international sensation Paul Wall, and the result is a head-bobbing gangsta-style anthem. On the opposite end of the hip-hop spectrum, Nice Major’s “Light” is a Kanye-esque pop song under the hip-hop aegis but with a monster hook. Somewhere in between is Midway’s “Speed of Light,” an insta-party track that in a perfect world would be blaring from the speakers of every frat house in the land. Pure pop is at the heart of Tim Halperin’s “Shining Like the Stars,” a showcase for the former Idol star’s sweet, radio-ready voice and catchy sensibilities. The remaining nominees are all Americana stylists, starting with Josh Weathers Band’s “Big Night in the City,” a powerful storyteller’s ditty that verges on Springsteen at his best. Kevin Aldridge’s “Layin’ Around” is a mélange of smart lyrics and catchy melodies, and Derek Larson & The Leavers’ uptempo but mournful “Strange” testifies to the enduring power of true love. — E.G.
ROCK SONG OF THE YEAR
Not only is the Fort’s heart of rock ’n’ roll still beating, to paraphrase Huey Lewis, but based on these nominees it seems primed to pop out, put on some Army boots, and storm the mainstream. Rattling your bones seems to be the point of most of these tunes, including Quaker City Night Hawks’ barroom stomper “Fox in the Hen House,” The Longshots’ clangy and catchy “At a Time Like This,” and War Party’s boisterous, echoing, nostalgia-laced ballad “W.E.I.G.H.T.” The two most inventive nominees are also the most different: Son of Stan’s “Corsica” is elegant, restrained, and sophisticated, throwing back to early-’80s underground New Wave, while The Hanna Barbarians’ “Way Down” is sprawling and thunderous, like “November Rain” but without the bloatedness, self-importance, and dumb lyrics. The two remaining nominees — We The Sea Lions’ glorious, mod-rocking “Wild River” and Missing Sibling’s locomotive and blackly comedic “Pick a Family” — both made HearSay’s list of the best songs of 2012. — A.M.
EP OF THE YEAR
EPs have risen in importance just over the past few months. Lots of bands have realized that perhaps the best way to stay on every listener’s radar is to release music in small doses a little at a time instead of in huge chunks every two years or more. Leading the charge is The Hanna Barbarians, who have just followed up their mind-blowing Spaceway Sessions Vol. 1 with Vol. 2. Both are extraordinary portraits of an ambitious young band that continues testing itself and pushing boundaries. The DIY collective Lo-Life Recordings has two nominees in this category, and they’re both rowdy splits: Doom Ghost’s and War Party’s Introducing … and The Longshots’ and Bitch Bricks’ self-titled work. A couple of post-rock-influenced outfits also got in on the EP action. Cleanup’s Wherever Your Place Might Be brings some rawk to the fusion party, and Drift Era’s Cosmic Intentions, Vol. 2 sounds like a proto-punk version of the soundtrack to Tron. A sense of the cinematic is also at play in Sym/BLKrKRT’s Precious Metals, Heavy Gems, a lean slice of trip-hopping trance that conjures images of the New York City underground in the future. As for Lindby’s Christmas platter, poppy fun and vocal acrobatics — and peace on Earth and goodwill toward men — are the names of the game. — E.G.
Album Of The Year
In case anyone thinks Fort Worth has been overtaken by indie-rock, check out these nominees. You’ve got all kinds of genres, including hip-hop. Dru B Shinin’ explores the tried-and-true formula of “money, weed, and women” on his crazy-good sophomore album, All American, which includes samples of everybody from Red Hot Chili Peppers to No Doubt. For a less gangsta approach, Nice Major’s second long-player, The Do You Believe Project, is a highly listenable fusion of hip-hop with electro, ambient, and even some New Wave. Of course, the Fort is full of Americana. Siberian Traps’ Blackfoot ranges from hard-driving to contemplative, with introspective lyrics and goosebump-generating harmonies. It’s similar in spirit to veteran singer-songwriter Kevin Aldridge’s solo debut album, The Viper Sessions, recorded in Austin with members of Hayes Carll’s backing band (former Fort Worthians Scott Davis and Kenny Smith). For a more countrified version of the genre, you’ve got Left Arm Tan’s Alticana, which confidently straddles the middle ground between edgy and audience-pleasing, and Derek Larson & The Leavers’ sophomore effort, Blood on Blood, which brims with sharply rendered story-songs of pain and redemption. The other nominees have been a long time coming. Whiskey Folk Ramblers’ The Lonesome Underground is less carnivalesque, more mature and dynamic, which adds an enticing saloon kick to the band’s early-20th-century folk noir reveries. On Big Night in the City, Josh Weathers Band keeps its funky horns and bluesy strut intact but also dips a little into storyteller territory. The Will Callers’ What Else Is Left? was produced by Texas Music pioneer Ray Wylie Hubbard but is no less rocking, bluesy, and gutsy, and Clint Niosi mixes lush orchestral strings with his spoken-word poetry-style lyrics on For Pleasure and Spite, his first recording in nearly four years. — J.F.
INDIE-ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR
A defiantly independent spirit runs through each album nominated here, in some a little more fiercely than others. Fungi Girls, The Longshots, and War Party are just some of the stellar contributors to Group Therapy, Vol. 1, a compilation cassette tape co-produced by Lo-Life Recordings and Dreamy Soundz. That Near Southside home studio and record label is also responsible for another nominee, Skeleton Coast’s epic self-titled monument to shoegaze-influenced pop. Like Dreamy Soundz and Lo-Life, Euphio Records is a DIY operation, and it was where the young folks in The Breakfast Machine recorded their effervescent A Pitch to the Wind and The Hendersons their delicious chunk of bubblegum laced with LSD, Indian Summer. Another low-budget project was Madràs’ glorious and fantastically understated Things Can Change. By comparison to the other nominees, Titanmoon’s hyper-polished Bang Bang and We The Sea Lions’ dark and intense Consequence in Sequence seem downright opulent. — A.M.
ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The rawk comes in all forms here in Fort Worthland, not just blues-based, though there’s a preponderance of that. The three clear frontrunners — Oil Boom’s Gold Yeller, Quaker City Night Hawks’ Honcho, and Foxtrot Uniform’s Huj! Huj! Hajrah! — derive their sound mostly from America’s original artform; pentatonic-scale rifferama and four-on-the-floor beats also drive this category’s two self-titled debuts: The Frisky Disco and We’reWolves. Vorvon’s Bass Mountain and Southern Train Gypsy’s The Bastard reflect the handiwork of doomy, possibly angry (and definitely inebriated) metalheads. KatsüK’s Zero Point is massive, haunting, and genuine, and with One and Three, Swindle Boys declare that their sights are set on stages much larger than the ones in North Texas. And a win for the Chili Pepper-ish Animisms would be a nice sendoff for Jefferson Colby, the vehicle for prolific singer-songwriter Danny Mabe that recently disbanded. — A.M.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
All of these bands had banner years. Quaker City Night Hawks, Skeleton Coast, and The Hanna Barbarians all released groundbreaking recordings, and Holy Moly and Pinkish Black continue drawing huge crowds. But it’d be hard to top The Unlikely Candidates, who recently signed to Atlantic Records. Good luck to all of the nominees. — A.M.