Photo by Keith Necaise | THE MARLOW BOYS
Since the inception of the Nappie Awards, the annual people’s choice event has become a barometer of the local music scene. Not only do the awards give insight into the public’s favorite artists, but they also give Lagniappe readers an inside look into those artists’ attitudes toward the local music scene.
If there is a consistent thread that can be observed through this year’s recipients, it is their humility and respect for fellow musicians. With this in mind, Lagniappe is proud to reveal the winners in the music categories of the 2017 Nappie Awards.
COMPLETE LIST — 2017 NAPPIE AWARDS
The Mulligan Brothers win the Nappie for this year’s Best Local Band. This group’s mellow mix of Americana and adult contemporary have made dedicated fans in the Azalea City and beyond. The Mulligan Brothers’ set at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day street party at Callaghan’s might have propelled them to the award. Fans hung onto every note and lyric as they sang along. The band’s latest release is “Live from the Netherlands.”
Mobile has voted The Marlow Boys as Best New Local Band and member Phil Proctor as Best Guitar Player. Proctor said it’s an honor to receive the award, especially considering all the other talented guitarists in the area. For bassist Stan Foster, Proctor’s musical talent is just one of many benefits each member of The Marlow Boys — which also includes Joe Langley and Karl Langley — contributes to their sound. The band’s next release, tentatively titled “Green Room, Vol. 2,” will be released soon. Foster says the local acceptance and creative motivation of The Marlow Boys is due to what he describes as “the old sum-of-all-the-parts thing.”
“For me, I think it’s the fact we honestly like each other and enjoy the music we create,” Foster said. “Getting the [Nappie] helps us feel encouraged and energized to keep on keepin’ on with our next CD. With the local market that is filled with insane talent, this is a real honor!”
Over the past few years, Lagniappe readers have been introduced to a variety of local country performers. This year, the people have chosen Bruce Smelley as Best Country Band/Performer. A regular performer at venues such as Veet’s, The Listening Room of Mobile and The Crooked Martini, Smelley says he is preparing to head into the studio to create an EP release of original material.
“This is by far the biggest accomplishment I’ve achieved so far,” Smelley said. “I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my family and friends and the people of Mobile.”
Last year, the Nappie Awards reinstituted the Best Metal/Underground Band category, which Black Titan won. Once again, this stoner/doom metal powerhouse is taking home the award. Unfortunately, the departure of half the band has left the group in limbo. Lead vocalist Allin Killpatrick says he and guitarist Jimmy Lee are recruiting members to assist them in bringing Black Titan back to life.
Lisa Mills was in Freiberg, Germany, when she received word she had won in the Best Blues Band/Artist category. Yearly visits across the pond have made her a worldwide sensation. Her current European tour will be a three-month romp across the continent, including a set at the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival. When she returns to the states, Mills will begin a recording project that will use her “Southern roots” as a foundation.
Speaking of Europe, Chris Spies was touring with Honey Island Swamp Band on its European tour when he received word he once again won the Nappie Award for Best Piano Player/Keyboardist. After he finishes with Honey Island’s tour, Spies will begin another project with Eddie Roberts (The New Mastersounds) and Alan Evans (Soulive). This project will debut at an event called “Brooklyn Comes Alive” in September.
“Mobile’s got some awesome young musicians coming up these days,” Spies said. “With me being out of town so much, I’m just glad that everyone hasn’t forgotten about me.”
Singer/songwriter Eric Erdman remains one of Mobile’s favorite musicians. This year, he wins the Nappie Award for Best Solo Musician. This talented local just finished recording an upcoming album at Dauphin Street Sound with Trina Shoemaker. Rick Hirsch (Wet Willie) joined Erdman as co-producer of this album. A seasoned Nappie Award winner, Erdman recognizes the growing local scene makes taking home this honor much more special.
“Mobile has historically been a music-rich city, but even though that is the case, I’m not sure it has ever had more musical firepower than it does currently,” Erdman noted. “So, being recognized when I stand among some of the best solo acts in the country is a big deal to me. I’m very appreciative.”
Winning the Nappie for Best Jazz Musician makes the members of Roman Street recognize the Mobile Bay area is “a wonderful place, with people who truly care about and support their local musicians,” according to member Josh Thompson. Fans can expect a new experience from this exotic group. On Aug. 25-26, Roman Street will bring “The Hot Club” to The Venue in Fairhope. This event will be a two-night “Gypsy Jazz” show featuring some of the most refreshing sounds in the area.
Mr. 88, winner of the Nappie Award for Best Hip-Hop Artist, says taking home this award is honorable and humbling, especially when he considers it was his passion that allowed him to win. Mr. 88 is working on both a mixtape and an EP. Until then, the public can sample his sounds through available singles such as “On God” and “Flex Sum,” which is available through various online music outlets.
From Slow Moses to Loose Cannons, Ryan Balthrop has remained a consummate member of the local music scene. Since the beginning, he has received a number of Nappie Awards. This year, he was named Best Area Singer/Voice. Currently, the public has two ways to sample his vocal talent — as a solo artist as well as a member of Nappie-nominated Slide Bayou, featuring Lee Yankie and Harrison McInnis.
“It feels amazing and humbling, especially knowing the singers that were also nominated,” said Balthrop, who also lightheartedly added that winning this award humbles him but also makes him “a little cocky.”
Chico McCollum is the people’s choice for Best Area Drummer. In addition to his time spent with Chico & Chris and the Disco Rednecks, McCollum boasts 25 years as one of Mardi Gras’ most memorable drummers. He cites the love and support of local music lovers as the reason for winning this Nappie. Ultimately, he hopes more people will get into local venues and support live music.
Gabriel Willis of Paw Paw’s Medicine Cabinet is the winner of Best Area Bassist. His smooth runs can be heard on the band’s double debut albums “The Great Room” and “Somebody Else’s Dream.” As far as winning the Nappie, Willis admits he’s “conflicted.”
“I’m certainly happy and honored to have won the award, but I fully believe any of the other players that were nominated could run me off the stage,” Willis humblebragged. “That being said, I’m ecstatic to have won the award and I can’t thank Lagniappe and its readers enough for the support they’ve shown to Paw Paw’s Medicine Cabinet.”
DJ MBezzle is a favorite at local establishments such as The Bar, where he drops the beat every Thursday and Saturday. His success in getting the crowd on its feet helped him win the Nappie award for Best DJ (Mixin’/Mashin’up Kind). MBezzle says he has been nominated many time in the past, but the feelings he has for finally winning cannot be put into words. Currently, he is working on a very unique project for the area.
“On Fridays, I am performing at my newest endeavor, Club Air at Get Air Trampoline Park in West Mobile,” MBezzle explained. “My goal there is to expose a broader audience to real DJ’ing and provide quality entertainment to those who are unable to experience this art form in a [nightclub] setting.”
Mobile has a fun and familiar roster of flamboyant female impersonators, so winning the Nappie Award for Best Drag Queen Performer can be very special. Amber Douglas admits she was “shocked” and “honored” to receive news of her win. From appearances on televisions shows such as “Maury” and “Jerry Springer” to winning Miss Gay Mobile, Douglas says she has done her best to properly represent the Azalea City, both on and off the stage.
The Nappie music categories would not be complete without recognition of the various outlets for music across Mobile. These entities have earned their positive reputations for attracting the masses to experience a variety of musical artists from across genres. Soul Kitchen has been chosen by the public as the Best Club to See Live Music. Bluegill takes home the Nappie for Best Outdoor Bar to See Live Music. Mobile’s historic Saenger Theatre wins the Nappie for Best Venue to See Live Music (Non-Bar). Mobile Records’ vast collection of vinyl helped it win the award for Best Music/Record Store. Finally, Rick Hirsch’s Studio H2O makes its third appearance in the Nappies for Best Local Recording Studio.