What do Fergie, Natasha Bedingfield, singing pop sisters the Veronicas, former Grateful Dead bassist Bob Weir, ex-MTV 120 Minutes VJ Matt Pinfield and legendary Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier have in common? They're all new fans of Houston Americana singer-songwriter Lee Alexander and Latin pop duo Vanaz, or enough of them are to select the two local acts as finalists in the 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Contest, which announced its selections Tuesday morning. Alexander's "Mayhaw Wine," from last year's Mayhaw Vaudeville, was named one of three Session II finalists in Jazz, while Vanaz's "Lo Que Soy" drew the same distinction in Latin. The two were the only Texas artists chosen as finalists in the Session II section of the international competition, which began in 1997 and distributes about $275,000 in cash and enough sponsor-provided gear to fill a shipping container or two among winners and finalists in 12 categories.
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Austin's Patricia Vonne was named the 2009 Session I Grand Prize Winner in Latin for "La Huerta de San Vicente." The current issue of M magazine calls Vaudeville "winsome and romantic." Alexander plays March 20 at Guero's in Austin, March 21 at the Bugle Boy in La Grange and returns to Houston May 20 at Anderson Fair. Vanaz, meanwhile, is getting ready for a pair of Sunset Strip shows: March 9 at the Hollywood House of Blues and March 19 at the Roxy. Congratulations to both.