Photo | facebook.com/RedClayStrays • Photo | facebook.com/symonegfrench
With the growth of the local music scene, new Nappie Award music categories have been added each year. Categories such as “Best Metal/Underground Band,” “Best Drag Performer,” “Best Country Band/Performer,” “Best Hip-Hop Artist,” “Best Local Recording Studio” and “Best DJ (Mixin’, Mashin’ Up Kind)” are some of the more recent additions.
The Nappie Awards will always feature repeat winners consisting of some of the city’s longtime favorite musical acts. However, recent years have brought a variety of new sounds that have made a positive impression on Lagniappe readers. This year, The Red Clay Strays took home not only “Best Local Band” and “Best Country Band/Performer,” but they are joined in good company by a lineup of winners who the public has chosen to be the best of the best in the Azalea City music scene.
As far as repeat winners are concerned, singer-songwriter Eric Erdman has taken home a number of Nappie Awards. Once again, voters chose Erdman as the winner of the “Best Solo Musician.” As with previous years, Erdman will not be able to make the Nappie Awards, but it is for good reason. Erdman says he is maintaining a busy schedule that takes him around the globe both performing and co-writing. His fans will be pleased to learn that he will be releasing a series of five live albums comprised of performances from his “Fresh Song Fridays” video series. As far as taking home another Nappie, Erdman says that the award is “important and meaningful.”
“The Nappies are the celebration of all things Mobile,” Erdman explained. “Being such a huge fan of Mobile, especially its music, I cherish getting recognized from among the throngs of talented solo musicians we have in our city. It’s an honor, and it’s not something taken lightly.”
Roman Street is also a familiar name in the Nappie Awards. This band takes home the “Best Jazz Musician” honor. Roman Street has used its exotic, acoustic-based repertoire to gather a worldwide audience. Guitarist Josh Thompson sees winning the Nappie as a high honor. He also adds that Roman Street feels fortunate to still have such great local support after 13 years. Thompson also has good news for Roman Street fans.
“We are actually about halfway done with our new album,” Thompson said. “We’re hoping to have it released at the beginning of next year and are really looking forward to sharing our new music with everyone.”
Nappie newcomer Adam Holt wins “Best Blues Band/Artist.” Holt has spent recent months promoting his blues-rock release “Kind of Blues” along the Gulf Coast. This blues artist also has aspirations of traveling to Memphis to rise to the top of the annual International Blues Challenge. When he is not on stage or on the road, Holt spends his free time offering local musicians a hometown analog recording option at Studio ’78.
Hollywood Vagabonds are newcomers to the Nappie Awards. This throwback to the glory days of hair metal wins the Nappie for “Best Metal/Underground Band” with band member Jonah Miller scoring “Best Drummer.” With the band’s pride in making music strong, the Hollywood Vagabonds view this honor as giving legitimacy to the band’s nod to metal sounds of the past. As far as the future is concerned, the Hollywood Vagabonds plan on playing as much as possible while introducing new covers and originals to its set. They also will be participating in Baldwin Indie Fest in Daphne on August 30.
Phil J. is representing the Azalea City hip-hop scene at the Nappies. If he looks familiar, it’s because Phil J. is also the drummer for Yeah, Probably. Phil J. has been using the single “Kool Kid” to gather followers. This infectious, upbeat hip-hop anthem is a fresh sound in the local hip-hop scene. With a new album in the future, the Azalea City can look forward to hearing more of Phil J.’s grooving flow.
Jawakatema Davenport has won her second Nappie Award in the “Best Drag Queen Performer” category. Davenport has become quite the mover and shaker in the drag scene. Not only has her shows at B-Bob’s Downtown pulled the masses to the stage, but Davenport’s regular “drag brunch” at OK Bicycle Shop has become a popular event with locals and visitors alike. Davenport has a clear understanding as to why her drag brunch has been such a success.
“Drag brunch is a success because of three things: the wonderful atmosphere created by the management and awesome staff of the Bike Shop, the killer shows that we put on no matter the temperature — rain, sleet, hail or snow — and finally because people can come out early, day drink, forget about the worries at home and work and not feel judged,” she said.
Dalton Muse has been chosen as Mobile’s “Best DJ (Mixin’, Mashin’ Up Kind).” Muse says that this honor would not have been possible if not for his 10 years of experience playing everywhere from clubs to corporate events. Muse even scored an opening set at the North Mississippi Allstars’ recent performance at Soul Kitchen. He also is very thankful for all the clients and fans who voted for him. In addition to DJ’ing, Muse also spends time working in another musical capacity in Mobile.
“When I’m not behind the turntables, you can find me drumming for the indie-psychedelic band Deluna,” Muse said. “In April, we released our self-titled EP, which is available on all major streaming platforms.”
Callaghan’s regulars Phil & Foster make an appearance in this year’s Nappie Awards. Phil Proctor receives the Nappie Award for “Best Guitar Player” with Stan Foster winning “Best Bass Player.” These days, Proctor and Foster are working with bandmates to compose songs for new albums from both Phil & Foster and The Marlow Boys. Next year should be big for The Marlow Boys. Proctor says that the group is plotting a European tour in 2020.
Jacob Hall wins the Nappie for “Best Piano Player/Keyboardist.” From Paw Paw’s Medicine Cabinet to the John Hall Trio, Hall’s stage presence and jam-centric method is unmatched in the Azalea City. These days, Hall has been seen more with a guitar in his hand. He has been working with local country up-and-comer Justin Jeansonne on his raw country sound. Hall has also been working with Red and the Revelers. Mobile can look forward to seeing more of Hall in the future.
Symone French initially gained local popularity through her vocal work with Infant Richard and the Delta Stones. After she parted ways with the band, French continued to work with a number of local musicians while mesmerizing audiences with her soulful voice. Her hard work has paid off with the Nappie Award for “Best Area Singer/Voice.” French’s latest project is called Symone French and the Trouille Troupe, which has been making the rounds in local venues.
“We’ve been gigging and really trying to cultivate our sound,” French said. “You’ll recognize a lot of familiar faces in my band, so I’m very fortunate to be making music with these guys. I’m currently writing new songs, so there should be some new content in the near future!”
Every great music scene has a number of behind-the-scenes factors that help it flourish. Music venues have been a big part of the local scene’s growth. The growing number of venues has created quite a bit of competition in Nappie Awards. With the increased number of local venues and more to come, three venues continue to make their presence known in the music categories.
Soul Kitchen has been chosen as the “Best Club to See Live Music.” This venue has spent decades providing the Azalea City with a variety of musical entertainment. For co-owner Brad Young, winning the Nappie is “the highest form of validation from the public.” Soul Kitchen does not plan on slacking. Manchester Orchestra, Steel Panther, Wilder Woods (Needtobreathe), Whitey Morgan, Drive-By Truckers, All That Remains and Jenny Lewis have all been confirmed for performances at Soul Kitchen.
The Bluegill Restaurant has beat the competition for the “Best Outdoor Bar to See Live Music.” In the past, Bluegill’s stage has featured an endless lineup of local acts as well as touring bands such as the Spin Doctors and Marc Broussard. Prolific metal tribute band The Velcro Pygmies will be the next big show, which will take place on August 25. According to Bluegill representative Brittany McNair, this restaurant’s stage stays filled due to an atmosphere like no other in Mobile or Baldwin counties.
“Bluegill is unique in the sense that you can have a delicious meal with exceptional service all while enjoying some great music, ranging from classic covers to feeling like you are at a rock concert,” McNair said. “Plus, Bluegill has a view that is extremely hard to compete with. The dynamic at Bluegill is fun, traditional and we always try to make you feel like family.”
The Jewel on Joachim has been chosen by readers as the “Best Venue to See Live Music (Non-bar).” In 2019, the Saenger Theatre has featured a wide variety of music ranging from GHOST to Bob Dylan. With upcoming shows including Alter Bridge, Skillet, Switchfoot and Alison Krauss, the Saenger will continue to provide the Azalea City with great music. However, SMG Senior Marketing Manager Mary Lee Gay says that music is not the only thing that has made the Saenger a popular venue for artists and patrons. Gay says the venue’s “spectacular architectural beauty and its history” have made for several “magical moments” on stage. Finally, she says that one staff member has played a very important role within the walls of this historic venue.
“Chris Penton, our director of booking, has cultivated strong relationships with a core group of promoters that love the venue as much as we do,” Gay said. “They know exactly what they’re going to get when they bring a show here. They trust our familiarity with the market and our team’s ability to execute a show. That didn’t happen overnight and we don’t take it for granted.”
Hangout Music Fest 2019 must have made quite an impression on locals. This beachside festival wins the Nappie for “Best Area Music Festival.” This festival continues to meet its goal of bringing the hottest acts in music to Gulf Shores. This year’s festival brought artists such as Cardi B, Vampire Weekend and The Lumineers. Next year’s festival is already in the works. Hangout Fest 2020 will take place May 15-17.
Venues are not the only musical entity helping to nourish the local scene. Over the past few years, the Azalea City has become home to several recording studios. For the 2019 Nappie Awards, Dauphin Street Sound wins for “Best Local Recording Studio.” This world-class studio has played host to the Indigo Girls, Johnny Sansone, Grayson Capps, Rodney Crowell and The Secret Sisters. Mobile can look forward to more great sounds coming from this local musical institution.
Last but not least, Mobile is home to many passionate vinyl collectors. For several years, they have chosen Mobile Records as a local source for everything wax in the Nappie Awards. However, Mobile Records is more than just the “Best Music/Record Store.” This business also features a number of in-store performances. On Sunday, August 4, the Australian-based band Drunk Mums will provide an intimate in-store performance for Mobile Records’ patrons.
The local music scene’s momentum continues to move in a steady forward motion. From artists to venues, more and more musical entities continue to appear in the Azalea City. If Mobile’s music scene maintains this growth, then the 2020 Nappie Awards should provide a reflection with the presence of new bands, studios and venues in the winner’s circle. Until then, locals should prepare themselves by exploring the local scene to the fullest and supporting local artists.
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