The world has felt the unyielding hand of the COVID-19 crisis, especially on the local level. The denizens of the Azalea City now wear protective masks in public. Bars are closing at 11:30 p.m. Bands are seeing shows scheduled, canceled and rescheduled on a regular basis.
One of the things COVID-19 has not stopped on the local level, though, is the 2020 Nappie Awards. Once again, Lagniappe readers have chosen their picks for the best of the best in Mobile’s music scene. While going through the winners, locals will see that COVID-19 might have slowed the movements of local musicians, but this historical event has not stopped their music.
The public chose the Red Clay Strays as the Nappie Awards’ Best Local Band. This group’s indie country with a dash of Southern rock has continued to pull more and more people into its dedicated following. When Lagniappe caught up with guitarist Drew Nix, he said COVID-19 had slowed down the band’s recording schedule for their EP. However, Nix added that the release’s completion is drawing near.
“We’re still trying to finish our EP, which we’re going to next week finally,” Nix said. “I’m not sure when it’ll be released, but hopefully as soon as we can! COVID-19 has been close to our producer a couple of times, so it’s kept us from going up to Nashville the last few months.”
Over the years, Fat Lincoln has been one of Mobile’s most prolific cover bands with an impressive following. This year, Fat Lincoln is taking home the Nappie Award for Best Cover Band. Fat Lincoln drummer Mike Dreaden says COVID has not stopped the band’s original mission. Now more than ever, he hopes Fat Lincoln’s shows provide a break from all the current social stress in the area.
“Our plans are the same now as they ever were,” Dreaden said. “We want to go out and have a great time performing and to try and help people take their mind off of life outside for a few hours and enjoy themselves, with life being as crazy as it is these days.”
Readers chose Love the Hate as the winner in the Best Underground/Metal Band category. Last year, Love the Hate and the Mobile music scene lost vocalist Butch Howell. The band decided the best way to preserve Howell’s memory was to move the band forward with vocalist Doc St. Andrie fronting the band. Love the Hate is currently working on its second album with the promise of a new single in the near future.
When it comes to local blues, Jamell “The Gulf Coast Blues Boy” Richardson is a familiar sight. Richardson wins the Nappie for Best Blues Band/Artist. As with many local groups, Richardson has been opting for the duo lineup for several of his shows. Recently, Richardson performed at the Gulf Coast Ethnic & Heritage Jazz Festival. Those who have yet to witness his charismatic stage show should take advantage of the opportunity.
Once again, singer-songwriter Eric Erdman has won the Nappie for Best Solo Musician. When Lagniappe spoke with this local favorite, Erdman was juggling a number of current and future projects. He is serving as the musical director for an upcoming stage/TV show called “Working Title Farm Radio Show.” Erdman is halfway through an album in French, as well as another solo release. He has been recording hip-hop songs for UK film and TV. Chad Wilson of the Wilson Brothers Band has recruited Erdman to produce an album. Finally, Erdman is continuing to give fans previously unreleased songs through his “Fresh Song Fridays” series.
The Nappie winner for Best Jazz Musician is Roman Street. This exotic acoustic duo released their album “Balcony of the World” on the same week “Stay at Home” orders appeared. However, the pandemic did not hinder the Thompson brothers’ creative endeavors. Every other Thursday, Roman Street has been livestreaming on Facebook. The music featured on these streams will be released as a two-disc album called “Quarantine Jam.”
The soulful voice of Kristy Lee has earned this artist the Nappie for Best Area Singer/Voice. In early 2020, Lee completed a run of shows with the Indigo Girls and Hussy Hicks. Since then, she has remained in quarantine while waiting to return to the stage. However, Lee has been busy creating new music for her dedicated fan base.
“I have been writing a lot and trying my best to sort out a proper presentation for my collection of work this far,” Lee explained. “I’m looking very much forward to playing music in person again, whenever that will be.”
Mr. 88 is the Nappie winner for Best Hip-Hop Artist. Until the COVID-19 crisis, Mr. 88 was maintaining a productive schedule with shows across the region. With Lagniappe readers choosing him for this honor, the love he has on the local level is obvious. Hopefully, Mr. 88 will once again get his crowds “2 Lit” with his beats and rhymes.
Phil & Foster have made their presence known in the Nappie Award music categories. Phil Proctor wins Best Area Guitarist. Proctor recognizes the other talented guitarists in the area and feels undeserving of this award. However, he also jokes he “will take it and run with it and be thankful.”
“Stan [Foster] and I have written a few tunes together during lockdown with no studio work, very few live gigs, as you can imagine,” Proctor said. “I’ve been mostly hanging out with my family and staying underground, getting ready for school this fall. That’s the biggest adjustment in my life right now.”
Proctor’s partner-in-crime, Stan Foster, takes the Nappie for Best Area Bassist. Foster was quick to give respect to other area bassists such as Quintin Berry, Owen Finley, Derek Jones and Leslie Linton, but he admits he is “tickled” to still be working at his “ripe old age.” Foster still joins Proctor each Wednesday at Callaghan’s as Phil & Foster. He also says the Marlow Boys are preparing another album for the masses.
“The Marlow Boys are kicking butt when it comes to new songs,” Foster said. “We just got to get the money together to get in the studio and record.”
The Hollywood Vagabonds made their debut in the Nappie Awards last year. This year, the band’s drummer, Jonah “Bam” Miller, takes the Nappie Award for Best Area Drummer. With the Hollywood Vagabonds’ classic, hair metal sound such a local crowd-pleaser, locals can catch this band in both Mobile and Baldwin counties just about any weekend. Those unfamiliar with the band’s repertoire can expect a delivery of glitzy metal and a matching stage aesthetic.
Keyboardist Gene Murrell makes his Nappie Award debut as Best Area Piano Player/Keyboardist. Murrell and his longtime partner, Scott Morlock, have continued to thrill local audiences with their dueling piano setup. Even though he considers the guitar to be his primary instrument, his love of piano has grown even more during the COVID-19 crisis. He was thrilled when he got news of his win.
“I was honored to be nominated and to actually win blows my mind,” Murrell said. “I know most of the other guys that were nominated and they are all fantastic musicians.”
Readers chose DJ Blayze as Best DJ (Mixin’, Mashin’ Up Kind). Blayze is best known for his work on 93BLX. In addition to “The Mid-Day Blayze” on WBLX, DJ Blayze also makes his presence known through numerous club gigs. This win is sure to keep this talented artist cutting and scratching into the future.
The iconic Venus Shante DaVis wins the Nappie for Best Drag Performer. Over the years, DaVis has inspired and entertained through her lively stage show. The sheer glamour of her stage presence has made her a multiple Nappie winner. Lagniappe readers can look forward to more great entertainment from this local drag favorite.
While artists dominate the Nappie Awards, one must not forget the other musical entities that made the local music scene great. Mobile Records wins Best Record Store. Soul Kitchen takes home another Nappie Award for Best Club to See Live Music. Just around the corner from Soul Kitchen, the Saenger Theatre wins the Nappie for Best Venue to See Live Music (Non-bar). Bluegill Restaurant’s organic surroundings make their Best Outdoor Venue win a natural choice for the public. Mobile chose Dauphin Street Sound as Best Local Recording Studio. Andy’s Music is the local choice for Best Music Store. Finally, Hangout Music Festival wins for Best Area Music Festival.
COVID-19 may have slowed live performances in the area, but this event has not stopped local artists from moving forward. While stages may remain silent, local artists are busy preparing for the end of the pandemic. Music is being written. Albums are being recorded. Local artists have taken to livestreams to continue their sonic legacies. Whether they are Nappie winners or potential Nappie winners, the masses should feel obligated to continue to support these resilient artists. The best way to support these artists is financially. Until normalcy (or another version of normalcy) returns, the denizens of the Azalea City should donate money to the various artists who chose to livestream, as well as purchase any music or merchandise available.
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