Arts and Music 

Best Commercial Breakthrough: Young Buck Rising from the projects and educated on Nashville's most dangerous street corners, 23-year-old David "Young Buck" Brown has persevered for eight years as a rapper to be perceived as rap's latest overnight sensation. Best of all, despite advice to the contrary, he wanted to emphasize his Nashville origins rather than downplay them, even putting a reference to his hometown in his album's title, Straight Outta Ca$hville. He predicts a horde of local hip-hop acts will follow his path to success—and, if he holds to his word, he'll be doing everything he can to make sure it's true. Michael McCall

Best Jazz Artist: Rod McGaha With his frequent appearances at benefits and his running gigs at Café 123, trumpeter McGaha contributes regularly to the local jazz scene in a way unlike anyone else. Whatever the setting, his voicing is often most original when it reaches for a grainy, high-register strain, telling blues tales with pointed grace. He can always draw audiences in with his renditions of soul-jazz standards by the likes of Cannonball Adderley, but his playing is informed by a deeper sense of tradition that he literally breathes new life into. Having received a Dove award for his gospel album The Trumpet Sounds, he's continuing to expand his range of projects with Brass Jubilation, a New Orleans-style horn ensemble. A special two-night stand recorded at 123 earlier this spring included so many local guest artists and extended pieces that it's been difficult to shop, but it might turn into a DVD or a series of CDs, when edited. Already a strong presence at the Nashville Jazz Workshop, McGaha will also be giving clinics in area schools as part of a Nashville Composers' Alliance program. Having joined the Alliance's board of directors, which includes NSO conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn, he'll be visiting music programs after band season to provide students with further creative options. Bill Levine

Best Jazz Artist: Rod McGaha With his frequent appearances at benefits and his running gigs at Café 123, trumpeter McGaha contributes regularly to the local jazz scene in a way unlike anyone else. Whatever the setting, his voicing is often most original when it reaches for a grainy, high-register strain, telling blues tales with pointed grace. He can always draw audiences in with his renditions of soul-jazz standards by the likes of Cannonball Adderley, but his playing is informed by a deeper sense of tradition that he literally breathes new life into. Having received a Dove award for his gospel album The Trumpet Sounds, he's continuing to expand his range of projects with Brass Jubilation, a New Orleans-style horn ensemble. A special two-night stand recorded at 123 earlier this spring included so many local guest artists and extended pieces that it's been difficult to shop, but it might turn into a DVD or a series of CDs, when edited. Already a strong presence at the Nashville Jazz Workshop, McGaha will also be giving clinics in area schools as part of a Nashville Composers' Alliance program. Having joined the Alliance's board of directors, which includes NSO conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn, he'll be visiting music programs after band season to provide students with further creative options. Bill Levine

Best New Visual Arts Presenters: Secret Show Series The city's newest grassroots programming effort comes from the fertile ground of Watkins' BFA program. Several friends in that program got together and so far have mounted two one-night installations, most recently the "Fresh Cutz" show in a Chestnut Street warehouse. That exhibit included a few working artists as well as the students and had a great turnout. These sorts of self-organized efforts give young artists a chance to put their work before an open audience and represent a healthy lack of passivity in the face of the challenges of life as an artist. They plan more shows for the fall, which should be a lot of fun. Dave Maddox

Best Use of Urine in an Artwork: Brian Hulsey More good news from Watkins, in this case the sculpture "A New Room Lesson" in Brian Hulsey's BFA show, which had as a featured element a milk jug filled with urine and capped off with melted chocolate. This is just the kind of convention-flaunting you expect from red-blooded young artists. Of course, he's not the first artist to use urine, and certainly not the most outrageous, but he has his whole career in front of him to try to top Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ." Dave Maddox

Best Departure from Typical Airport Art: Kristina Arnold Airport art can be good, bad or indifferent, and the art at Nashville's airport is generally very good thanks to the knowledgeable programming of Susan Knowles. However well-executed, most airport art has a large-scale, iconic quality with simple shapes that read well from a distance. Some work is ideally suited for this setting (such as Martha Christian's geography-inspired tapestries). This summer I was surprised to see a work by Kristina Arnold, titled "poly_genic: quilt." A jumble of bright bubbles and threads stuck out from the wall with the unruliness of underground art. The piece worked better when you got next to it and under it, but it was a nice change from the expected neatness. Knowles and Arts at the Airport deserve credit for departing from the formula. Dave Maddox

Best Visual Arts Programming: Ruby Green/Chris Campbell Recently the recipient of unwanted Metro Council attention thanks to an exhibition postcard with inflammatory political intent and a naked woman indiscreetly straddling a Hummer (the vehicle, not the sex act), Ruby Green consistently presents strong, challenging contemporary art. This reflects the dead-on judgment of executive director Chris Campbell, who selects artists from submissions to the gallery. While the current flap probably indicates she is doing something right (anything that riles the Council can't be all bad), it distracts from the real point, which is Ruby Green's consistent, intelligent exhibits that give Nashville viewers a chance to see new artists from out of town and get a look at local work shown in a good, clean space. Dave Maddox

Best National Treasure Living in Nashville: Eddie Stubbs WSM deejay Stubbs is the kind of guy who seems to know every fact about country music, shown by feats of memory and erudition such as reeling off the names of sidemen on different Louvin Brothers cuts. For him it is more than names and stats: one time I was listening, and he played a cut that had a great steel guitar break. I can't remember what the song was, but what struck me was that after the song ended Stubbs came on, commented on what a great break it was and went back and played that section again. He knows that, at the end, all that matters is the singing and playing. Eddie Stubbs is a vital presence during our times of collective civic mourning when one of country music's greats passes away. He leads memorial coverage on WSM, interviewing people who worked with the person, playing songs and reminiscing from his own experience. Dave Maddox

Best Country Album: Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn Lynn's best album in 30 years, and the first in which she wrote every song, may have been inexcusably snubbed by the Country Music Association, but expect nearly every other significant awards and critics' poll to recognize it as the artistic triumph it is. Unlike her previous comeback effort, Still Country, in which she tried to hard to fit Music Row's current formulas, Van Lear Rose celebrates her distinctive writing and voice by pairing her with the less-is-more production of The White Stripes' Jack White. As has happened before, a legendary talent has to leave town to find a sympathetic collaborator—and once again proves that Nashville could benefit greatly if its record executives thought outside of the box more often. Michael McCall

Best National Treasure Living in Nashville: Eddie Stubbs WSM deejay Stubbs is the kind of guy who seems to know every fact about country music, shown by feats of memory and erudition such as reeling off the names of sidemen on different Louvin Brothers cuts. For him it is more than names and stats: one time I was listening, and he played a cut that had a great steel guitar break. I can't remember what the song was, but what struck me was that after the song ended Stubbs came on, commented on what a great break it was and went back and played that section again. He knows that, at the end, all that matters is the singing and playing. Eddie Stubbs is a vital presence during our times of collective civic mourning when one of country music's greats passes away. He leads memorial coverage on WSM, interviewing people who worked with the person, playing songs and reminiscing from his own experience. Dave Maddox

Best Radio Show: "Nashville Jumps," WRVU Even if host Pete Wilson didn't send out periodic shout-outs to my little girl—immortalized on his Tuesday drivetime broadcasts as the "Boogie-Woogie Queen of Woodbine"—his show would still be the coolest thing on Nashville's airwaves. The format is jump blues, that rollicking precursor to rock 'n' roll that flourished in the 1940s and early '50s. It's some of the funnest music ever recorded, brassy and bouncy with a swing in its stride; a typical show might feature anything from a Big Joe Turner boogie to a growly Big Mama Thornton blues, with sui generis madmen like Louis Prima and The Treniers in the middle—and little, if anything, ever crossing the 1955 dateline. With Wilson's dry wit and informative breaks serving as a kind of palate cleanser between songs, the show's such an anomaly in the land of morning zoo-crews that listeners have taken it to their hearts. The staff at Sam & Zoe's loves it so much they once dispatched a care package of goodies to Wilson on the spot; my doctor once bolted upright in the middle of an exam and exclaimed, "You listen to that too?" The only thing we've heard locally that even comes close to this is a mysterious four-CD compilation that arrived unbidden at the Scene offices from one "Candied Yam Jackson," a marvelous treasure-trove of show tunes, patter songs, torchy ballads and rip-roaring vaudeville that spans the century. Whoever put this together is a true connoisseur of popular music—and the same goes for Wilson. If you're sickly, brother, this will make you well. (8 to 10 a.m. Tuesdays, WRVU 91.1 FM) Jim Ridley

Best Hope for Local Radio: Radio Free Nashville This is not a test. By Thanksgiving, after a six-year effort, Nashville's first low-power community radio station may finally be up on the air, broadcasting music, news and local takes on current affairs from the westest of West Nashville. Given the long gestation period, it still hasn't dawned on a lot of folks that this is actually going to happen. But it is, and anyone who's ever complained that we lack a counterpart to Memphis' WEVL is challenged to put a microphone where his mouth is. See www.radiofreenashville.org for more information on Nashville's 100-watt mutha. Jim Ridley

Best Famous Musician on Belmont: Ben Folds Ben Folds likes to use names in his song—"Kate," "Annie Waits," "Zak & Sara," "Losing Lisa" to name a few—but so far he hasn't written a song about a girl named Claire. Despite his failure to immortalize my name, I still love him. And it's cool to think about the fact that he actually lives down the street from me. Folds lived in Nashville once before, in the early '90s, but like so many musicians who didn't offer the formulas that Music Row wanted, he took off for other places and found success elsewhere. We're lucky he even wanted to come back here, and the city's all the better for it. My Ben Folds CDs have kept me company during countless road trips, but his songs sound even better live. Last summer, he played a 21-and-up show in Nashville one week before my 21st birthday, much to my irritation. Luckily, not too long after that, he performed at Uptown Mix—a show I could legally attend. His last album, 2001's Rockin' the Suburbs, proved that he didn't need his band, the Ben Folds Five; he could do just fine on his own. Since then, he has produced three solo EPs and one side project for which he teamed up with Ben Lee and Ben Kweller to form a temporary band, The Bens. A full-length Ben Folds album is rumored to be on the way sometime next year. Until then, I will sit here anxiously, listening to Rockin' the Suburbs and contemplating the trials and tribulations that come with being comfortably middle-class. Claire Suddath

Best Band You Probably Haven't Heard Yet: Falcon When I ran into guitarist Dallas Thomas at the public library some months back, I couldn't help noticing a book on falcons tucked under his arm. I'd heard by this point of the group Falcon he was starting with Brian Kotzur and thought he'd picked up the book for clever song or album titles. The truth was so much better. Thomas was studying up on falcons so that when interviewed he could always revert the conversation back to falcons. I've only heard Falcon because they practice down the hall and my friends and I hear them pummeling away between songs. Knowing that Thomas once tuned his guitar a whole-step lower than Slayer and that he and his bandmates moonlight in Asschapel, On Command and the Brian Kotzur Band hardly prepares you. Without getting bogged down in clichés about volume, intensity and "meaty riffs," let me just say that Falcon will destroy you and pluck your eyeballs from your skull for an after-dinner snack. They're coming, and hell's coming with them. Ryan Norris

Best Undiscovered Singer-Songwriter: Stephen Simmons Simmons writes moving, sharply detailed lyrics about small-town people who spend their lives sitting in church pews or on barstools—and often both. He uses these settings to evocatively portray individuals seeking transcendence or relief while caught in internal conflict, and to talk about the influence families, religion, temptation and just plain boredom can have on a soul. And, like the best songwriters, he can illustrate how one bad choice, or a series of them, can reverberate long after the person realizes his or her mistake. Working around an acoustic base, but with a rocker's swagger, Simmons will draw comparisons to Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen and Chris Knight and other master storytellers. If he keeps making albums as good as his recent Last Call, someday he'll be mentioned alongside them. Michael McCall

Best Songwriter Album: One Moment More, Mindy Smith. So much emotion in the lyrics, and such an expressive voice with which to convey them. Smith fought for years to make an album her way, and the results reveal why every time the play button is pushed. Michael McCall

Best Award Acceptance Speech Still to Come: Kris Kristofferson Unlike the Academy of Country Music's disrespectful snub of Living Legend honoree Ray Price, Kristofferson definitely will get airtime when accepting his Country Music Hall of Fame induction on Nov. 9. Whether he decides to address the state of the nation one week after election day or not, this literate renegade likely will go beyond his list of thank-yous to comment about personal expression and the meaning of country music in ways most of today's stars wouldn't consider articulating. Michael McCall

Best Country Single: "Home Remedy," Adrienne Young & Little Sadie A duet with co-producer Will Kimbrough, this sweetly stated, melodic gem cites both the comfort and the physical expression of love in the warmest of terms by conveying the tender relief a couple experience when uniting at the end of a long work day. "It's a home remedy/When you put your arms around me," Young opens in her lush alto, setting up the give-and-take of such lines as, "You brought your laughter/I gave my trust/You showed me patience and a healthy dose of lust." At a time when sex is treated like a series of aggressive conquests by many performers, Young counteracts by underscoring the positive, accommodating spirit at love's core. Because Young is an independent artist, this beautiful tune wasn't heard on the commercial airwaves, but that's radio's loss. Michael McCall

Best Musical Reunion: The Notorious Cherry Bombs Now all masters in their own field, this group of old friends all rose through the ranks linked in extraordinarily important ways. The bandmates all backed Rodney Crowell at one time or another, often simultaneously, but that didn't ensure that creating an album together all these years later would guarantee success—after all, all-star albums tend to have a stuffy, self-important air. But these buddies chose to lighten up and have fun, creating an album that balanced camaraderie and irreverence with reflection and pain. Other Music Row country bands should take note: it's OK to stop worrying about your hair products and have some fun once in a while. Michael McCall

Best Country Comeback: BR549 The onetime Lords of Lower Broad looked to be sputtering toward their last mile before a shot of new blood gave them a purpose again—even if it was just to prove they could carry on without a couple of former key members. The resulting album, Tangled in the Pines, surprised even die-hard supporters by ranking as one of the band's most energized and representative collections yet. Michael McCall

Best Local Punk Band: On Command The meticulous roar of On Command is audioviolence at its most austere, a monstrous roar with an impact somewhere between Kronos Quartet and a symphony of chainsaws. Frontman Mike Raber is a supreme bastard of the stage, excelling both in attitude and vocal boom, while the fearsome rhythm section, strictly not to be messed with in their own right, delivers raw power. On Command are simply Nashville punk at its most expressive, punishing and rewarding. Jason Shawhan

Best Queer Folk Duo: Jon & Ryan For traditional country-blues and gospel at its finest and most wicked, one need look no further than these two twenty-somethings, taking inspiration from Hank Williams and the Louvin Brothers to dramatize delicious tales of drunkenness and debauchery. Of course, there's also a little of The Frogs at their most twisted in the veins of these epics, wonderfully queer in all senses of the word. If you don't know their songs now, you will soon. Be glad of that. Jason Shawhan

Best Arts Executive: John Hoomes No one knows better than Hoomes how to awaken a local audience to the value of art. His leadership as artistic director of Nashville Opera Association is expressed not only through his stagings of the company's high-quality, bigger-than-life productions, but also through his infectious enthusiasm and his willingness to spread the word about opera's importance through community-based programs and public appearances. He doesn't do it all alone, of course: NOA executive director Carol Penterman provides steady guidance through the risky waters of extravagant show budgets and fund raising. Still, Hoomes is the front-and-center figure, and he's an impressive, articulate spokesperson. Martin Brady

Best Local Punk Band: On Command The meticulous roar of On Command is audioviolence at its most austere, a monstrous roar with an impact somewhere between Kronos Quartet and a symphony of chainsaws. Frontman Mike Raber is a supreme bastard of the stage, excelling both in attitude and vocal boom, while the fearsome rhythm section, strictly not to be messed with in their own right, delivers raw power. On Command are simply Nashville punk at its most expressive, punishing and rewarding. Jason Shawhan

Best Local Dance Music Phenomenon: Piper Nashville's dance-music scene reached a major point this past summer, when local remixers Piper scored a UK chart hit with their mix of Wynonna's version of "I Want to Know What Love Is." Play DJ Lenny Bertoldo, producer/engineer/masterer Tommy Dorsey, and WRVU/eXcesS/Connection DJ Ron Slomowicz comprise Piper, and their sound is contemporary house and trance music refined into a thumping mesh of glorious beats and synthesizers, equally at home with dramatic diva vocals and dubby clubscapes. Past glories include mixes for Kylie Minogue, Le Ann Rimes, and Kenne, though the only way is up for Nashville's first big-ticket remixers. Jason Shawhan

Best Move from Major to Indie Label: Allison Moorer There are those who think you can't join the Music Row system and make great albums. Allison Moorer recently was among those who proved that wrong. But making great music and getting airplay—there's the rub. Frustrated by a lack of support from radio and from the promotion departments of the labels that owned her masters, Moorer chucked the battle for the big-time and hooked up with an independent, artist-oriented label, where she knows she won't get left off the truck, and she continues her consistently interesting and unpredictable artistic path. Michael McCall

Best Redefinition of Music City: Night Train to Nashville When we say Nashville is Music City, we mean country music and Christian music, right? Just when you think you've got it figured out, the Country Music Hall of Fame, no less, comes along with a major revision to our self-image. As the Night Train to Nashville CD and exhibit make abundantly clear, Nashville's African American community produced a solid stream of great music from 1945 through 1970 that reflected the stylistic changes that occurred in R&B over those decades. Every song on this two-CD set hits the mark. My personal favorite is the downright weird "Buzzard Pie" by Rudy Green. The project is a credit to the CMHF for flexibility in interpreting its mission, but it also makes a good case for the value Nashville will get from having an African American history and/or culture museum. Dave Maddox

Best Country Newcomer: Gretchen Wilson At a time when Music Row transforms even charming girl-next-door types into designer-wearing glamour-pusses, Wilson proved that a woman can stay as down-home as can be and still convert millions of fans with just one great song. Of course, Wilson's much more than a one-hit wonder: her Here for the Party album, from its "eight-ball-shooting, double-fisted drinking" rockers to its country-to-the-core honky-tonkers, proves cut after cut that she can grab hold of her skyrocketing start and ride it for the long haul. Michael McCall

Best Musical Collaborator: Will Kimbrough Kimbrough's list of people he assisted is impressive enough on the surface: Adrienne Young, Todd Snider, Kate Campbell, Rodney Crowell, Amy Rigby, Greg Trooper, Vienna Tang and others. But talk to those artists, and hear what they've created with Kimbrough's input, and the value he brings to a project becomes even more vital. As a good producer or sideman should, he has a knack for contributing an idea and a suggestion that brings out the best in his creative partners. Michael McCall

Best Move from Major to Indie Label: Allison Moorer There are those who think you can't join the Music Row system and make great albums. Allison Moorer recently was among those who proved that wrong. But making great music and getting airplay—there's the rub. Frustrated by a lack of support from radio and from the promotion departments of the labels that owned her masters, Moorer chucked the battle for the big-time and hooked up with an independent, artist-oriented label, where she knows she won't get left off the truck, and she continues her consistently interesting and unpredictable artistic path. Michael McCall

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