The Winners of the 2010 HonkyTonkJunkie Music Awards (The Junkies) Have Been announced!
Yes, it’s Country Music Association (CMA) awards time again so of course that means it’s also time for the 2nd Annual Honky Tonk Junkie Music Awards. My approach to the award process is quite a bit different then that of our mainstream counterparts. First of all, there are no nominations, only winners. There is none of this ‘It’s just nice to be nominated’ crap here. It’s nice to win. Period. Second, the winners don’t necessarily come from music released this year. I try too keep it as current as possible but I base it more on music that I discovered this year and in some cases it goes back a few years. And third, I generally have the same categories as the CMA but I also took the liberty of making some changes. I dropped the music video category because, frankly, I haven’t seen a whole lot of them this year. I also added a few categories like Favorite Steel Guitar Performance, Favorite Record From An Artist From My Neck of the Woods and Favorite Rediscoveries. I need to mention that the Steel Guitar category is by no means a slight to any other instrument, it’s just been my personal favorite instrument for 35 years and I think it deserves some extra love. So there you have it, ready or not I give you the 2010 Junkies.
Entertainer–Marty Stuart. He’s been a favorite of mine since I first heard Hillbilly Rock back in the early ‘90’s. He played mandolin for Lester Flatt as a child and played guitar for Johnny Cash as an adult. There are a lot of posers out there who claim Cash and Flatt as influences yet play pop country crap. Marty Stuart actually played with those guys. He’s got the credibility, the chops and oh yeah, he has his own music-heavy TV show on RFD-TV. He’s also a long time country music historian with a massive collection of photos he took himself. If you haven’t picked up a copy of his new CD Ghost Train yet, you’re missing out.
Single (for the artist)–Liquor is Quicker by Johnathan East. This is a three-year-old song but since I just discovered it this year, it counts. This was one of those songs that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I played it over and over and cranked it as loud as it would go. Stellar vocals by East and amazing pedal steel by Steve “Rabbit” Easter.
Song (for the writer)–Drunk I Am by Thom Shepherd. Thom is a member of the Nashville songwriting establishment having had a few hits by mainstream artists like Bucky Covington and Craig Morgan among others. He wrote Riding With Private Malone for David Ball and he also wrote a bunch of great songs for Kevin Fowler who is another one of my favorites. More important, though, is the Junkie-worthy material he saved for himself. Drunk I Am comes from his 2005 album Tonky Honk and is a laugh-out-loud funny and brilliant song. Again, just discovered this year, so it counts.
Album–Jesus & Johnny Cash by Jarrod Birmingham. This record had more Junkie-worthy songs on it than any other this year. If I purchase more than half the songs from a single album upon first discovery, it’s most definitely a winner. Jarrod is also a real bullriding cowboy so there ain’t nothing fake here. I listened to Pure Blue Heartache from this record over and over on a road trip between L.A. and San Francisco. Six hours on the same song? Yep. Loved it.
Male Vocalist–Dale Watson. Dale was the winner last year as well and at the time I said this should be called the Dale Watson Award and he should win every year. I was kind of joking even though he truly deserved it but then he came out with Carryin’ On and proved once again that he has got the best voice in country music hands down.
Female Vocalist–Miss Leslie. 2010 has been a busy and challenging year for Miss Leslie yet she managed, among other things, not only to give birth to a daughter but also give birth to probably her best CD yet, Wrong Is What I Do Best. Obviously the voice of her experiences translates well to her recordings. If she put out a new record every year I would be happy to name her top female vocalist every year.
Vocal Group–Hellbound Glory. How can you not love a band that classifies the genre of music they play as Scumbag Country? They play music that relates to the, shall we say, lower side of life. I like that these guys can paint a picture of this world without me actually having to live in it. To borrow a term from my favorite Geico commercial, they show us that country music isn’t made for the people who live in Mamby-Pamby Land. It’s real and it’s great.
Vocal Duo–Rick Shea & Patty Booker. I recently discovered their 2003 album Our Shangri-La and I immediately fell head-over-heels for it. The country duet is somewhat of a forgotten format that deserves to be revived. Give this one a listen.
Musical Event–You and Me and Time–George and Georgette Jones. This song brought a tear to my eye the first few times I heard it. It’s somewhat of an apology from her dad George to his youngest daughter for not being in her life as much as he should have been while she was growing up. She has a voice with equal amounts of sweetness and heartbreak just like her mom, Tammy Wynette. Pure magic.
New Artist–Will Banister. You want you some real country, pick up his debut CD Turned Her On to Country which was produced by Johnny Mulhair, producer of LeAnn Rimes’ Blue. You know he’s got to be good when you live in a place like Portales, New Mexico and are able to attract a producer of Mulhair’s caliber.
Musician–Kenny Vaughan. He is one of Nashville’s finest studio telecaster masters as well as being one of Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives. Check out his work on Country Boy Rock and Roll from Stuart’s latest, Ghost Train. It’s mind blowing.
Favorite Steel Guitar Performance–Tie: Steve “Rabbit” Easter & Lloyd Green. “Rabbit” Easter is one of the reasons I fell for the music of Johnathan East. His work on all three of East’s CD’s is superb. I’m just now discovering his talents so I’m sure I will be writing more about him in the future. Lloyd Green is a living legend who has played on records by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Paul McCartney to Johnny Cash and George Jones. Most recently he blew me away with his work on Dale Watson’s Carryin’ On.
Favorite Record From a Band From My Neck of the Woods–The Heartache Single by West of Texas. The Heartache Single is actually a three song EP produced by Jerry Zinn who is also the singer/songwriter on the project. I could not get these songs out of my head for months. And it wasn’t just me. When you can get my wife, who is a casual country music listener at best, to dance around the house singing the chorus to a catchy song like Foolin’ for a couple of weeks, you’ve got a winner.
Favorite Rediscovery–Tie: Dwight Yoakam & Alan Jackson. I conducted a couple of interviews recently and these two names kept popping up. I hadn’t listened to a lot of their music in the past few years because of my obsession with independent artists. A lot of people who are into real or traditional county won’t acknowledge mainstream artists as being country. These two are an exception. If you go back into their recordings and dig past the hit songs that you know, you will be amazed at the wealth of material that you’ve never heard and it’s some of the finest real, traditional country you will ever hear. Long live these two honky tonk heroes.