If you think we were flabbergasted by songwriter Bob Cheevers touting his election as 2011 Songwriter of the Year in the Texas Music Awards sponsored by mytexasmusic.com and "sanctioned" (a hedge word that appears frequently in relation to the Texas Music Awards) by the Texas Academy of Music (high fallutin' term for we're just not sure what), you should have seen our mouths gape when we got this year's nominees.
Now we're not saying we know everything about or everyone in Texas music, but this ballot is downright frightening in its mediocrity. After a quick sampling of each artist via links on the ballot site, it seems 99 percent of the choices are from what we refer to as Texas country/Ballcap Nation stuff, and almost none of it makes any lasting impression whatsoever, much less deserves an award.
We do see a few faces on the ballot we recognize from our regular H-Town rounds, but other than Jack Saunders, nominated for producer of the year and studio musician of the year, and KPFT's Roark Smith, nominated for best disc jockey, most of the nominees are a mystery to us. KPFT is also on the ballot for Best Radio Station. Way, way, way down at the bottom of the ballot is Leslie Krafka's White Cat Sessions, nominated in an odd category called "Academy Awards of Distinction," a sort of catch-all for items that don't fit the normal Ballcap Nation template.
The shocker, though, was seeing Brant Lee Croucher (who appears to be consulting Hayes Carll's hair and wardrobe stylist judging from his photo) nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year for his cd Old Denton Roads.
Now we assume that Carll, Robert Ellis, and dozens of others in Houston haven't bothered joining The Academy of Texas Music -- you have to sign up and be a member to play in their little music awards sandbox -- and that is why they aren't nominated, although they are clearly, not-even-debatable superior to Croucher and his fairly tepid offering.
Ditto for the other offerings in that category: Dave Fenley (never heard of him, but here's his "say-what?" p.r. blurb on the mytexasmusic site: "the MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR title at the 2010 AND 2011 Texas Music Awards, David Fenley would describe his music as Texas Soul and soulful it is with his deep, rich voice often compared to Joe Cocker and Otis Redding, and his heartfelt lyrics"); Sammy Fox (never heard of him, and, after listening to "Love Drunk," hope we never do); Justin Haigh (never heard of this George Strait wannabe); and Ryan Murphey (never heard of him). Perhaps we need to spend more time in College Station, San Angelo, or Stephenville?
Wow, didn't notice Hayes, Ellis, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jon Dee Graham, James McMurtry, Alejandro Escovedo, Randy Weeks, Ramsay Midwood, Reckless Kelly, Stoney Larue or about 900 other great artists who can actually sing and write high quality songs on the ballot.
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The top female vocalist category doesn't fare any better than the men. We recognize Austin tonker Pauline Reese, but the rest of the nominees -- Cori Lynn, Lou Ann Petty, Courtney Reed, and Kathy Street -- might just as well have landed here from Mars last night for all their visibility in these parts.
Other Houston-area sightings: Brad Boyer in the Rising Star category (for a completely unremarkable album that includes the by-the-numbers-of-ninth-grade-poetry tune "I Sat Down and Wrote You A Song"); and Chad Ware, nominated for his guitar work on Boyer's album).
The only category we see a leavening of integrity -- and reality -- is Best Songwriter. Bob Livingston, Michael Hearne, and Susan Gibson have paid a lot of dues and had some success at the song-selling game, and all three are class acts. But this still defies a certain logic when Hayes Carll puts out an album in the voting year. It is some consolation that Bob Cheevers, whose song "The End of Bin" was one of the most atrocious scribblings of 2011, wasn't nominated again this year.
Today's the last day to vote, so fire away. If you read the fine print, you'll have to join the Academy to vote.