By Brian Washburn
Northwest Arkansas’ best and brightest musical stars are about to shine on what is the local music scene’s biggest night of the year: the Northwest Arkansas Music Awards.
This will be the 15th anniversary of the NAMAs, and the excitement is certainly not waning. The successful dynamic is charged by the award winners, the presenters and attendees who have flocked to the NAMAs for the past few years. To honor local musicians, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan has proclaimed April 29 as Northwest Arkansas Musicians Day.
This year’s slate of nominees is nothing less than stellar and performers Wade Ogle and Black Elk, Nate Hancock and The Declaration, LaFuSo and Randall Shreve should bring the house down with show-stopping performances.
Among the many awards given throughout the night is the always-anticipated and highly prized Lifetime Achievement Award. Joining the list of musical legends to come through the Northwest Arkansas music scene and garner a Lifetime Achievement Award will be longtime performer Liz Lottmann and early music promoters Lois and Dayton Stratton.
Also honored this year will be the band Maud Crawford and DJ Soufree, who will be inducted into the NAMA Hall of Fame, for racking up three previous wins.
Last year’s ceremony featured local music star Benjamin Del Shreve picking up several more NAMAs to add to his shelf, as well as a few other popular local artists picking up big awards, such as Trout Fishing in America walking away with Best Album, Boom Kinetic winning Best Party Band and Best Indie Award going to the Memphis Pencils.
Fayetteville golden boy Benjamin Del Shreve will go for a three-peat this year as he attempts to win the coveted NAMA for Band of the Year three years in a row. As stiff as his competition has been the past few years, 2010’s Band of the Year nominees might just be a step up and could end Shreve’s reign as the NWA music scene king.
Bands hoping to dethrone Shreve are 3 Penny Acre, A Good Fight, Hardaway and the Commoners, R.J. Mischo and Shreve’s brother, Randall Shreve, who returned to the NWA music scene from New York last year.
Here are my personal picks.
My pick for Band of the Year: Hardaway and the Commoners. These hip-hop staples in the local music scene have been making the touring rounds all year long and are beginning to get the recognition for their unique urban blend that they deserve. If anything has proven to be a trending music genre on the rise in the past couple of years, it’s an organic hip-hop sound consisting of instruments, vocals and what feels like real emotions rarely found in hip-hop. Hardaway and the Commoners have found a way to bring this genre to the area and play it very well.
Winning Album of the Year can mean several things for local bands. It can cement their place as a high point in the NWA music scene. It can propel the album to more success across the area and state. It can also be the stepping stone for more popular, successful and intuitive releases to come.
This year’s nominees for Album of the Year might prove to do all of these things and propel certain artists to new heights that no one could think was possible. The 2010 Album of the Year nominees are “3 Penny Acre” by 3 Penny Acre, “Don’t Think It Hasn’t Been Fun” by Emily Kaitz, “Green and Lonely” by Christmas Fuller Project, “Lovers and Fighters” by Wade Ogle, “Off the Record” by Hardaway and the Commoners and “The Radio Sky” by The Radio Sky.
My pick for Album of the Year: “The Radio Sky” by The Radio Sky. This local indie/rock band brings new life to the Fayetteville alternative rock scene. Their debut full-length, self-titled album features booming vocals, intricate progressive-rock guitar work and a blasting rhythm section. The album is not just a straightforward rocker, though, as it also slows down to give progressive, ambient indie fans something to take home with them. With more releases of this caliber, The Radio Sky seems to be reaching for … well, the sky.
Band of the Year and Album of the Year might be the big prizes up for grabs every year at the awards ceremony, but other categories serve as a jumpstart to emerging bands in the local music scene.
Male Singer/Songwriter: Jason Paul, Jeff Kearney, Justin Brasher, Keith Nicholson, Randall Shreve, Wade Ogle and Zach Ryan. My Pick: Wade Ogle.
Female Singer/Songwriter: Candy Lee, Darlene, Shannon Wurst and Tiffany Christopher. My Pick: Candy Lee.
Female Vocalist in a Band: Amyh Hart (Dreamfast), Bernice Hembree (3 Penny Acre), Elise Davis (Elise Davis), Leah Spears (Leah & The Mojo Doctors), Opal Fly (Opal Fly) and Tanya Shylock (Mountain of Venus). My Pick: Leah Spears.
Male Vocalist in a Band: Ben Wardlaw (Charliehorse), Benjamin Del Shreve (Benjamin Del Shreve), Brandon George (Christmas Fuller Project) and Eddie Love (A Good Fight). My Pick: Brandon George.
Jam/World Music: 1 Oz. Jig, Crazy Neighbor, Guta, Kahula Gypsy Band and Mountain of Venus. My Pick: 1 Oz. Jig.
Funk: Fayetteville Funk Ensemble, Groovement, LaFuSo, TheOneUps and West Hart Band. My Pick: Fayetteville Funk Ensemble.
Jazz: Claudia Burson Trio, Drew Packard, Matt Smith Trio, Nathan McLeod and Walter Savage Trio. My Pick: Drew Packard.
Electronic/Groove: Beat Bachs, Baby Armie, DJ Shortfuze and Tanner Beam. My Pick: DJ Shortfuze.
Indie/Alternative: Apartment 5, Christmas Fuller Project, David’s Pegasus, Dreamfast, The Great Scotts, Hosta, Jarris, Memphis Pencils, Timber! My Pick: Christmas Fuller Project.
Rock: A Good Fight, Benjamin Del Shreve, Family Dogs, The Poggs and Randall Shreve. My Pick: A Good Fight.
Southern Rock: Big Uns, Bob Kramer Incident, Joe Giles and the Homewreckers, Maud Crawford, Traveling Wheelbearings, Bill Dollar & Loose Change. My Pick: Big Uns.
Metal/Hard Rock: Auger, The Battle Within, Calling Tokyo, Deadbird, Sinking South and Vessels of Wrath. My Pick: Calling Tokyo.
R&B/Blues: Nathan Aronowitz, Buddy Shute, Eoff Brothers, Isayah’s Allstars, Kory Montgomery Band, Leah & The Mojo Doctors and R.J. Mischo. My Pick: Kory Montgomery Band.
Roots/Americana/Country: 1 Oz. Jig, 3 Penny Acre, Charliehorse, Cletus Got Shot, Jamie Wolfe & The Wranglers, Mountain Sprout, Pope County Bootleggers, Shout LuLu and The Smithstonians. My Pick: 3 Penny Acre.
Punk: The Counterlife, Egyptr, Fire Don’t Care, Genome Chomsky, Perpetual Werewolf, The Plaid Jackets and Well Well Well. My Pick: The Counterlife.
Party Band: Boom Kinetic, Full House, Big Bad Gina, LaFuSo and Strange Heroes. My Pick: Boom Kinetic.
Urban: Hardaway and the Commoners and Lucio. My Pick: Hardaway and the Commoners.
Best New Band: Adelle & the Matts, Big Bad Gina, The Bobby Drivers, Ctl+Alt+Delete, High Magic, Jason Paul & New Wine, LaFuSo, Monster Heart and Where’s Lawrence. My Pick: Where’s Lawrence.
Best Producer/Studio: Adam Putman (Insomniac Studios), Chris Moore (East Hall), Darren Crisp (Crisp Studios), Dwight Chalmers (Listen Laboratory), Eric Schabacker (Winterwood Studios), Mike Bailey (Dream Makers Productions) and Mustin (OneUp Studios). My Pick: Mike Bailey (Dream Makers Productions).
Arkansas music historian Robert Cochran and KUAF news director Kyle Kellams will once again host the ceremony. Daniel Gold of Honest Tunes Radio Show will interview musicians on the red carpet.
The Northwest Arkansas Music Awards is a benefit for the Northwest Arkansas Free Health and Dental Clinic in Fayetteville, which helps meet the needs of the undeserved.