Music 2010: Writer's Picks 

Best of Nashville 2010

Best of Nashville 2010

BEST SONG ABOUT NASHVILLE: THE JOINERS' "GLORIOUS GLORIOUS"

If you're going to bother writing a song about the trials and joys of coming to Nashville to be a singer, you have to nail it, because you're competing with songs like Lacy J. Dalton's "16th Avenue" and "Nashville Cats" by The Lovin' Spoonful. The Joiners' "Glorious Glorious" nails it. It sounds like a song written by people who spent a lot of their youth singing along with whatever they could find on the radio in between trips to church choir practice. And that phrase — "If you like what you hear, buy me something to eat" — says more about the struggles to make it here than most folks could do in 1,000 words. BETSY PHILLIPS

BEST LOCAL ALBUM ONLY AVAILABLE AS AN IMPORT: CAITLIN ROSE, OWN SIDE NOW

Despite "doing it right" in the eyes of most Nashvillians by paying her dues — in the form of relentless local gigging for what's going on years now — said dues have predictably failed to pay off on a national level. As usual, leave it up to those bloody Brits to start digging our local bands more than we do. Following the lead of Cage the Elephant, Turbo Fruits, Cortney Tidwell and even Kings of Leon, Nashville's sweetheart Rose scored a record deal overseas, leaving fans on this side of the pond forced to pay import price for her impressive debut, which the U.K. has almost universally eaten up. SETH GRAVES

BEST HOOK-DELIVERING APPEARANCE IN A RAP SONG: HAYLEY WILLIAMS

On "Love the Way You Lie," Rihanna might as well be singing, "There's no elephant in this room," the way she's relegated to providing the lilting chorus around which Eminem gets to rap about how he's felt conflicted about domestic violence. Really! Wonder what Rihanna might have to say about that, if only she could speak! But on B.o.B.'s sweetly melancholy "Airplanes," Hayley Williams finds the emotional center of the song and delivers its wistful chorus firmly, making her voice as much a truss as a foil — and making "Airplanes" more a true duet than most of this year's he-raps-she-sings fare. STEVE HARUCH

BEST FLOOD BENEFIT: NASHVILLE RISING AT BRIDGESTONE ARENA

If there was one shining silver lining in the dark clouds that rained down devastation on Nashville in May, it's that the flood put Nashville's deep sense of community into perspective for its inhabitants. In the wake of the disaster, local musicians, promoters and advocates big and small showed their flood-affected neighbors they felt their pain through an endless stream of benefit shows, the largest of which was the Nashville Rising concert. Headed up by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, the swiftly assembled and instantly sold-out June concert brought to Bridgestone Arena a who's-who of Music City superstars — including Taylor Swift, Michael W. Smith, Carrie Underwood, Brooks & Dunn, Amy Grant and both Cyruses — for a single night of music and civic service that raised over $2.2 million for flood victims. ADAM GOLD

BEST LOCAL BAND COMPETITION: ROAD TO BONNAROO

When Heypenny won a spot at Bonnaroo in last year's inaugural Road to Bonnaroo contest by parading through Mercy Lounge with an honest-to-God marching band, the gears started turning in local rockers' heads on how they could top that. This year's local rock bloodbath saw Cheer Up Charlie Daniels challenging the rest with an epic battle hymn, Moon Taxi stitching together glow suits and failed attempts to rig the thing by The Dozen Dimes and their ridiculous manager Tex. Local rockers set the theatrics bar pretty damn high this year, and although the most theatrical didn't make the cut, they made the process thoroughly entertaining. LANCE CONZETT

BEST PLACE TO DROP OFF AN OUT-OF-TOWN GUEST: THIRD MAN RECORDS

Out-of-towners are so damn cute about Nashville — especially the music nerds. To them, everything here is infused with History, and while their earnestness is endearing, watching them weep over The Ryman becomes tiring. If you need a hosting reprieve, just drop them off at Third Man Records. Some one-of-a-kind fetish pressing is probably about to go on sale, and between their wait in line and the hours they'll spend lovingly caressing their purchases, you'll have time to reassess your friendship. Hell, I even hear someone dropped off Conan O'Brien in June, and that nerd loved it so much he ended up recording a performance. ASHLEY SPURGEON

BEST SUPERSTAR SIGHTING: STEVIE WONDER AT GUITAR CENTER

We may have heard it second- ... hell, maybe even third-hand. But substantiated rumors of The Great Stevie appearing at Guitar Center right here in Nashville were plentiful, and that got us all a bit excited. It was the week of Bonnaroo, and according to a Guitar Center employee or two, Wonder popped into the store the day of his Manchester set in order to pick up some very essential supplies — namely the keytar with which he opened his set. (According to one employee, Wonder "played it for about two seconds, bought the floor model and paid full price.") Just goes to show you that all musicians, great and small, get a hankerin' for a new toy every now and again. D. PATRICK RODGERS

BEST YEAR FOR CONCERTS: 2009-2010

Astoundingly, in a year that saw the concert industry constantly blinking in the eye of slow sales and cancelled tours, Nashville seemed to attract a grander, more varied cache of bucket-list A-listers than ever. Not only that, but our local enormodome finally got a name that needs no explanation. So which show was your favorite? Was it Leonard Cohen's age-defying revue at TPAC? The Boss' Music City serenade at Sommet? Neil Young's solo two-night takeover of The Ryman? Jay-Z's unforgettable dominance of Bonnaroo's What Stage? The Kings of Leon's sold-out middle-finger salute to their detractors at Sommet? Or Paul McCartney's knighting of the newly named Bridgestone Arena in July? ADAM GOLD

BEST NATIONALLY HYPED LOCAL ACT: THOSE DARLINS

Seems like just yesterday Those Darlins were a scrappy trio known best for tap-dancing in lieu of a drummer and looking cute while playing Carter Family standards. Then we blinked a few times, spun our heads and found they'd not only hired a full-time drummer, but self-released a full-length making waves all over the place that dwarfed the hype Nashville was spewing in an effort just to keep up. The status clincher came during an episode of the revamped 90210 when the Darlins' "Red Light Love" played underneath the scene of a lavish yacht party. SETH GRAVES

BEST NEW ROOTS MUSIC VENUE: THE LOVELESS BARN

Every Wednesday night for the past year, Music City Roots has been broadcast live from the Loveless Barn — behind the biscuit-making landmark the Loveless Cafe — on WSM. Besides airing on the same station, there's one other similarity to the Opry — Eddie Stubbs' announcing. Otherwise, the midweek show's a different animal, more akin to what the Opry must've been like some 60 years ago. The tickets are cheap, the atmosphere loose, the lineups interspersed with up-and-comers and veterans, and it's truly an all-ages crowd. JEWLY HIGHT

BEST ART-RAP ALBUM: CHANCELLOR WARHOL, JAPANESE LUNCHBOX

Yes, the label "art-rap" is kinda stupid, but how else are we supposed to differentiate between rappers bragging about shit they don't do/own/sell and rappers who are trying to not only push their own boundaries but the boundaries of hip-hop itself? Yeah, that's what we thought. Futuristic and ethereal — like a Phillip K. Dick novel without the crippling paranoia — Japanese Lunchbox flirts with deep house and melancholy pop while the rhymes lay back ... way back. Plus, it's probably got the only hip-hop song in town that boasts a Human League reference and sounds like Giorgio Moroder. Think about that. SEAN L. MALONEY

BEST COLLABORATION WE HAVEN'T HEARD YET (TIE): JAY-Z AND JACK WHITE/KORT

Under the moniker KORT, Kurt Wagner (Lambchop) and Cortney Tidwell, two Nashville treasures, have pulled together an album of long-lost gems from the Chart Records catalog, stitching Music City's indie-rock underground to its country past — and Tidwell's family musical lineage. Meanwhile, Jack White's been letting his bluesrockmobile drift into the rap lane lately with The Dead Weather, so he might as well just swerve all the way over and let the pedal drop. And with Jay-Z — who we hear stopped in at Third Man for a post-Bonnaroo recording session — riding lyrical shotgun, it should be one hell of a ride. STEVE HARUCH

BEST COUNTRY SINGER-SONGWRITER: ELIZABETH COOK

In this town, aborted major-label deals are more common than seasonal colds. But rare is the turned-out artist who comes into her own like Cook has. There are songs on Welder, her latest, that couldn't be more high-quality, down-to-earth country. And right alongside them is some knowing, fantastically detailed straight-talk on subjects such as shady hookups, sober sex and dating bar musicians. She gives them a sly delivery with her stone-cold country soprano. It's all her, and it's all good. JEWLY HIGHT

BEST UNLIKELY BAND REUNION: THE PINK SPIDERS

By the time The Pink Spiders had risen, fallen, crashed and burned in 2007, they'd become Nashville's most eligible VH1 Behind the Music contender yet. Parting terms were bitter at best, and thus a reunion seemed likely as a third Bush term. That is, until one wealthy patron dropped an unsightly wad of cash on the band to reunite for his son's Bar Mitzvah. Since then, the trio has come to find playing music together exponentially more tolerable with the absence of both commercial pressure and mass quantities of chemicals. SETH GRAVES

BEST WRIGHT TURN: CHELY WRIGHT, LIFTED OFF THE GROUND

Country singer Chely Wright's coming-out party made a lot of noise earlier this year, earning the attention of national media outlets from People magazine to The Oprah Winfrey Show and creating a teachable moment for a genre not known for being gay-friendly. Unfortunately, all the talk about Wright's sexuality drowned out the release of the finest album of her career. Lifted off the Ground is the culmination of Wright's decade-long transformation from above-average country-radio craftsperson into an uncannily observant, emotionally cutting and often mordantly funny chronicler of the human condition. CHRIS NEAL

BEST USE OF THE PHRASE "NOT JUST STROKING THEIR POLE": CALEB FOLLOWILL IN NME

Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill didn't have to qualify his endorsement of beloved local power-pop quartet The Features by saying "I'm not just stroking their pole." (Do they share a pole?) He could have just said that his band started their own record label to release Some Kind of Salvation because they think The Features are a great band. But he didn't stop there. In a stream of consciousness that became less and less platonic by the NME column-inch, Followill doused The Features with effusive, polyamorous praise — and local-rock aficionados, be they self-identified as KOL lovers or haters, had no choice but to doff their caps. STEVE HARUCH

BEST OVERLOOKED BREAKOUT BAND: BAD COP

If Paramore, The Pink Spiders and Be Your Own Pet taught us anything, it's that if you want your band to get any props outside of Nashville, you've got to get the hell out of Nashville. It won't pay off much in the way of hometown favor, but the tradeoff of national recognition is typically worth a few extra haters back home. This year, the perpetually overlooked and regularly dissed on a local level Bad Cop signed to ROIR records, released their Battle Tapes-produced debut internationally, and played the Pop Montreal Festival in September. SETH GRAVES

BEST UNSUNG VENUE: NASHVILLE JAZZ WORKSHOP'S JAZZ CAVE

The Nashville Jazz Workshop is not only Music City's best place for topflight professional instruction in America's improvisational and compositional classics, it's also the best place to hear both major jazz stars and the finest area performers in an intimate setting. The Jazz Cave boasts excellent sight lines, a fine engineering setup and enough seating to replicate the club experience that's been jazz's primary training ground since its inception. Besides the NJW's staple programs like Snap on 2 & 4, the Cave has welcomed such giants as pianists Kenny Barron and Tamir Hendelman, saxophonist Houston Person and swing drum titan Duffy Jackson. With venues for Middle Tennessee jazz musicians still not abundant, the Jazz Cave stands as one of the city's prime spots to enjoy the best the music has to offer. RON WYNN

BEST LOCAL VENUE COMEBACK: EXIT/IN

Seems for some indeterminate number of years, Elliston Place's Exit/In, a cavernous black box of a venue that doesn't exactly scream "cozy," had become the venue of choice for fewer and fewer fans. Even when big talent made an increasingly rare appearance, it made the joint only marginally more inviting. While they've done little or nothing in the way of improving ambience — though improvements are on the way — the tireless efforts of talent buyer Ryan Bruce and his onslaught of buzzy cameos by the likes of The Hold Steady, Liars and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — as well as the weekly "Rock the Block" free show series — have injected some much needed light into this legendary black hole. SETH GRAVES

BEST AMBIENT/INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM: HAMMOCK, CHASING AFTER THE SHADOWS ... LIVING WITH THE GHOSTS

When most locals hear Hammock for the first time, the response is almost invariably, "This came from Nashville?!" The surprise is justifiable: The band's lush ambient soundscapes recall next to nothing in our city's musical lineage — think more Stars of the Lid than Explosions in the Sky — and they rarely, if ever, perform here. Nonetheless, Chasing After the Shadows ... Living With the Ghosts is Hammock's fourth album, a gorgeous undertaking that saw the veteran duo add horns and a string quartet to the rich palette of expansive loops and deep drones they've always embraced to transcendent effect. If our seal of approval doesn't cut it, take it from Sigur Rós' leading man Jónsi Birgisson, who in 2007 personally invited Hammock to perform at an afterparty celebrating the U.S. premiere of Riceboy Sleeps, his music and design collaboration with partner Alex Somers. RYAN BURLESON

BEST INSTRUMENTAL HIP-HOP ALBUM: DUCKO McFLI, RETURN OF THE SOUL

The sleeper jam of the summer. Initially an invite-only affair, Return of the Soul isn't so much a mixtape, or an edit tape, or even an album as much as a collection of psych and soul samples gently coaxed in front of tasty minimalist drum programming — a Being John Malkovich-like look into the mind of Ducko McFli, producer, N.O.B.O.T. and American Pickers super-fan, if you will, and an unexpected treat for fans of Pete Rock and wire-jaw-era Kanye West. SEAN L. MALONEY

BEST TOUGH WOMAN IN COUNTRY MUSIC: MIRANDA LAMBERT

The wild streak Lambert displayed on her first two albums — titled Kerosene and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend no less — may have grown a hair tamer on her third, Revolution, but she still sounds ready to take up for herself with a cheating man or an uglier rival in a bar when the situation calls for it, and gets in her witty jabs. Even for those on her level she's tough to beat. When the CMA Award nominations were announced, her haul of nine dwarfed those of country's other two young, blond superstars. JEWLY HIGHT

BEST LOCAL SUCCESS STORY: KE$HA

Before she landed this coveted BON entry, Ke$ha was in contention for Best More-Than-Sold-Out Flood Benefit Show, Best Use of the Phrase "Show Me Where Your Dick's At" and Best Use of a Laser Harp on Saturday Night Live, to say nothing of her appearance on this publication's cover (or, ahem, elsewhere in this issue). No locally bred artist spilled as much of her glitter on the world this year as the L.A.-by-way-of-Brentwood trash-pop sensation, whose irrepressible goofiness was matched only by the utter ubiquity of her breakout hit "Tik-Tok," which spawned enough parodies, death metal covers, Star Trek clip montages and awkward YouTube lip-sync videos to fill five or six Bluebirds. STEVE HARUCH

BEST PHOENIX RISING FROM THE ASHES OF A CANCELED RADIO SHOW: THE CHRIS CROFTON SHOW

Just over a year ago, local comic Chris Crofton's WRVU program The Best of Bread was removed from the airwaves after a controversial kerfuffle regarding an alleged equipment violation. Crofton and his crew weren't stranded for too long, however, because we at the Nashville Cream — the Scene's music blog — offered to host a revamped version of The Best of Bread in podcast form. The podcast — produced by Lake Fever Productions, dubbed The Chris Crofton Show and featuring Chris's brother Greg, Lake Fever rep Joe Baine Colvert and a mysterious sideman known only as "Steve" — is now a smashing success. Not to toot our own horns or anything. Toot toot. D. PATRICK RODGERS

BEST CLUB SHOW: SLEIGH BELLS AT THE END

A line of fresh-faced hopefuls stretched from just outside the entrance, up the alley, out into the darkness. It was raining. It was lightning-ing. And everyone in that line knew the show was utterly sold out — and the rest of us knew the show was way too big for its venue. The instant the clock struck Sleigh Bells, we were so many carbon molecules crushing ourselves into a diamond. On that night, Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller absolutely thrashed the place with blast after blast of giant beats, mad shrieks and Slaytanic riffs. Respect to The Jesus Lizard, who did much the same across the street in February, but this was awesome insanity at its brain-wreckingest. STEVE HARUCH

BEST DANCE MIX: WICK-IT, "DEATHPROOF DUBSTEP"

When music historians look back at Nashville 2010, it will be pretty hard to miss that this was the year dubstep — the lumbering bass-monster of electronic music — destroyed the city's dance floors, due in large part to Christ Mironescu and the Everything's Nice crew. Their Strictly Dubstep parties continue to bring in some of the biggest national and international DJs in the genre while fostering a community of up-and-comers. For the first in their DJ mix series, our main man Dr. Andrew Owsley (aka Wick-It, Ph. D. in Wick-It-ology) gives a pretty serious dissertation on why this sound will be hard to kill. SEAN L. MALONEY

BEST URBAN MUSIC JOCK: KENNY SMOOV

Instead of placing emphasis on local events and community figures, many current radio stations feature a slick, ultra-sophisticated, uniform sound that's unchanging regardless of city, state and region. But WQQK-92.1 FM program director and morning jock Kenny Smoov combines the best aspects of the classic black community style that was once the norm for R&B stations, and the polished, big-city programming touches demanded by 21st-century outlets. He can engage hot button social topics or engage in light banter, and he's also very community oriented. Personality jocks are a dying breed, but Kenny Smoov's among the finest currently active. RON WYNN

BEST ENTERTAINERS IN BLUEGRASS: DAILEY & VINCENT

The duo of Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent rose to the top of the bluegrass world not over a period of years — like most groups do — but almost instantaneously when they released their first album in 2008. Their bright, brotherly harmonies are no small part of the appeal. Dailey's leads can shoot into the high-and-lonesome rafters and Vincent sticks close as a shadow. But there's also their energetic stage banter. They carry on like a couple of latter-day vaudevillians who know how to win over a room. JEWLY HIGHT

BEST NEW CONCERT SERIES: MUSICIANS CORNER

If setting up shop in an underutilized corner of Centennial Park, taking advantage of its built-in amphitheater-like terrain and inviting local musicians, restaurants and vendors to join in throwing a free party for the city every weekend sounds like a good idea, that's probably because it is. Musicians Corner may have been inspired by London's famed Speakers Corner, but it's already taken on a distinctly laid-back Nashville vibe since funky local greats The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker helped kick off the event back in July, giving Music City good reason to pull off West End every Saturday. (Sorry, Vandy football.) STEVE HARUCH

BEST URBAN MUSIC MAGAZINE: CONCRETE

When Bryan Deese began Concrete a little over six years ago, Nashville's reputation as an urban music site was limited at best. Though it's still not Atlanta or New York, Music City R&B, hip-hop and spoken word are far more visible today, and Deese's bi-monthly publication has played a big role in getting the word out. The current sixth-anniversary issue includes an interview with Miami rapper Rick Ross, a business feature on Nashville barber Sonny Cummings and a Latino hip-hop section featuring the Seis Uno Cinco Movement, a collection of city Latino performers who've joined forces for what they call the "Cashville Latino Anthem." The free magazine is available at more than 300 locations and online at www.concrete615.com. RON WYNN

BEST DANCE PROMOTER: LEON JACKSON, ULTIMO

Dance music promoters are sort of the redheaded stepchildren of Nashville's weird insidery-inside world, busting their tails to bring top-quality entertainment to our town but falling outside the purview of most navel-gazing industry types. Leon Jackson puts more muscle in the hustle than just about anybody to make sure there's a steady stream of big names flowing into our little backwater. Whether it's massive events like the annual Monster Boo or an intimate evening with a master of the art form, like Miguel Migs' recent show at Mai, Jackson makes sure our date book is filled with dopeness. SEAN L. MALONEY

BEST COVER OF A COVER OF A DONOVAN SONG: KAREN ELSON

"Season of the Witch" is a great song, no matter who does it, but let's be honest — the '60s psychedelia of Donovan's version was always a little cheesy. Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger covered the song in '67 sounding like a premonition of Fleetwood Mac and Iron Butterfly. It's great, but it has a LOT of organ. Karen Elson's version blends the best parts of Donovan's version and Driscoll's version, and comes up with something that sounds damn creepy and awesome. Her live rendition, recorded at Third Man Records, is a revelation. BETSY PHILLIPS

BEST COUNTRY ALBUM: JAMEY JOHNSON'S THE GUITAR SONG

It just so happens that 2010's finest country album is also the year's longest one — Johnson's The Guitar Song. It's got a whopping 25 songs, and the vinyl version fills three LPs. Here's the hard-to-believe part: There's really not a dud among them. Johnson wrote or co-wrote the lion's share and plucked the rest from top-shelf sources like Kris Kristofferson, Hank Cochran and Mel Tillis. No matter whose story he's telling — a poor man's, a torn-up lover's — he and his gruff drawl hit both the mind and the gut, and that's not easy to do. JEWLY HIGHT

BEST SOUL ALBUM: DEROBERT & THE HALF TRUTHS, SOUL IN A DIGITAL WORLD

That DeRobert has a monster set of pipes has been an undisputed fact for some time, but it wasn't until he teamed up with The Half Truths that we knew it was the straight dope. These Murfreesboro funk students might run G.E.D. Records but they've got a master's degree in deep, dirty grooves that are the perfect match for the meaty, mighty timbre of DeRobert's wiser-than-his-years vocal style. And the fact that their live shows are sweat-drenched rump-shaking affairs just seals the deal. SEAN L. MALONEY

BEST JAZZ STATION: WMOT-89.5 FM

When state budget cuts forced MTSU to consider either eliminating WMOT altogether or radically changing its mainstream jazz format, fans were forced to stop taking it for granted. Roughly a year after escaping extinction, the station still plays the best in bop, blues, swing and pre-rock vocals seven days a week — only it's not a 24/7 proposition anymore. Jazz on the Side, Beale Street Caravan and The Brazilian Hour remain on the schedule, but concessions to fundraising realities mean NPR morning shows now take up part of the day. Still, having authentic, classic and contemporary jazz on the airwaves some of the time beats nothing at all, and WMOT remains the same exceptional advocate for jazz that has earned it domestic and international plaudits. RON WYNN

BEST RAP SINGLE: SAM & TRE, "WE DO"

It took all of, say, 15 seconds of "We Do" to realize that Sam & Tre don't roll like the rest of Music City's rap acts. The first few piano stabs have an '80s-reggae vibe, but once that bass drops — or more accurately, barrels through your internal organs — it's nothing but next school. Tre's got a Cool Hand Luke kind of nonchalance on the microphone — say a prayer for the city's parking meters and hide your hard boiled eggs — that makes the party-chant chorus an instant hands-in-the-air classic. SEAN L. MALONEY

BEST UNDERGROUND VENUE: GLENN DANZIG'S HOUSE

Party houses are fleeting by nature. If they're not getting busted up by the cops, their inhabitants inevitably leave school and get real jobs. How un-punk. We've seen plenty of houses come onto the scene over the years — House House, Meemaw House, The Jungle — but none of them have had the staying power of Glenn Danzig's House. Once "The Precinct," the Southgate house has become the unofficial headquarters of the garage-punk blog Nashville's Dead and the host to local punks and out-of-towners alike. There's no guarantee that the Danzigs won't be ousted from their roost by a mob of unruly neighbors, but they're certainly smarter than the average party house owner. LANCE CONZETT

BEST LATINO MUSIC ON THE RADIO: LATIN JAZZ AND SUPER SALSA POTENTE ON WFSK

Fisk University's WFSK 88.1-FM was among the first HBCU stations to devote a significant chunk (six hours) of its format to Spanish-language music and culture. Sipho Dumansane's Latin Jazz (Wednesdays 7-9 p.m.) and "Super Salsa Potente" (Thursdays 7-11 p.m.) cover a wide range of Latino sounds from Cuba and the Dominican Republic, while also featuring updates, interviews and insights in both English and Spanish. Dumansane has also played congas with a variety of Nashville and Middle Tennessee Latin bands and brings an inspired mix of musical knowledge, energy, personal experience and stories to his programs. RON WYNN

BEST DANCE WEEKLY: Y2K

The thing about a weekly dance night is that it's kinda like fast food — you're going there because you know what you're getting every time. No showing up to find the DJ wasted and playing 20-minute psych freak-outs when you were expecting, say, new wave and indie rock. (Sorry 'bout that. Dark times.) Conversely, if you're behind the decks every week, you have to find a way to keep yourself entertained. (See above.) Jeremy "Coach" Todd finds the balance with dope house records and special guests and stunts — like handing out masks at an Eyes Wide Shut theme party — that are awesome rather than awkward. SEAN L. MALONEY

BEST CHOICE TO REPLACE VELVET THUNDER: MARK "PORKCHOP" HOLDER

When street performer extraordinaire Elringo "Velvet Thunder" De'Angelino passed last November, locals looked for "Thunder No. 2." Seemingly, the replacement was bluesman Mark "Porkchop" Holder, of Black Diamond Heavies fame. A Lower Broadway fixture, Holder (who writes on his website "I like chicken and porn") has been AWOL, leg surgery perhaps being a factor. Word is he's moved, but downtown Nashville needs Mark Holder. When the Chop's meaty right mitt claws the slide guitar and that raspy voice belts out "Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed," Lower Broad assumes a spiritual vibe. Come home, Mark. WILLIAM WILLIAMS

BEST DAY FULL OF FREE SHOWS: RECORD STORE DAY

We were heartbroken when we heard that independently owned East Side record store The Groove was closing its doors back in June. It remains to be seen whether or not they'll find a new place to set up shop, but at least they got in a pretty solid party before they had to shuffle off into the sunset. This year's national Record Store Day on April 18 — the third one yet — saw all sorts of special performances and one-of-a-kind releases at shops across the country. The Groove featured performances from Emmylou Harris, Tallest Trees, Tristen, Chris Crofton and more, while Nashville's flagship indie record shop Grimey's hosted free rock doc screenings and a show featuring The Coolin' System, Daniel Pujol and others. Good times. D. PATRICK RODGERS

BEST GUILTY PLEASURE THAT'S NOT THE GUILTY PLEASURES: MY SO-CALLED BAND

2010 was a big year for the '90s. Newt Gingrich made a comeback, The Stone Temple Pilots reunited and My So-Called Band became the hippest band in Nashville. As the kids of the Clinton-era begin to colonize the cubicle farm, their zeal for irony and nostalgia turns to the music of their actual youth. And this veritable local-rock supergroup are ready and willing to channel their 14-year-old selves and bang out "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" for the kind of crowd that used to rely on Guilty Pleasures to get laid. The strictly '90s cover band's spot-on treatment of the Y-107 playlist is relentlessly sincere and frighteningly faithful. You couldn't go onstage and ardently sing "Hey Jealousy" with a straight face unless you were really loving it. ADAM GOLD

BEST FUNKY RESIDENCY: OUTTA SIGHT RECORDS NIGHTS AT THE BASEMENT

There was nothing more satisfying this year than seeing the city's funky soul scene coalesce at February's Outta Sight nights — and this was before The Coolin' System even dropped their smooth-as-silk debut single. Seriously, it was beautiful, man. The last 12 months have seen the ranks of bands and audience members alike swell. A lot of that is due to OS honchos Bill "Leo Black" Elder and Doyle "D-Funk" Davis and their tireless effort to make this town a funkier place. Good looking out, guys. SEAN L. MALONEY

BEST LOCAL LABEL: INFINITY CAT

There's a good case to be made for Third Man Records in this category, but since TMR has Jack White's immense celebrity to help propel its catalog of peach-scented Karen Elson LPs, Conan O'Brien singles and Triple Decker Records, we're giving this one to the scrappy I-Cat (by a moustache hair, in a photo finish), for building a cult following around its flagship band (and label execs), JEFF the Brotherhood, bringing Nashville's riff-punk underground to a national audience and, in the process, incubating some of our best raw local talent — like Daniel Pujol, for instance, who just released a Jack White-produced 7-inch on Third Man. STEVE HARUCH

BEST FLOOD COMEBACK: GRAND OLE OPRY

A collective gasp went out from music lovers all over Nashville when word got out that the Grand Ole Opry was damaged in the May flood. But in a ceremony featuring Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens on Aug. 25, completed cleanup efforts were unveiled, and the historic circle — originally cut from the boards at The Ryman — was put back in its place in the Grand Ole Opry's floor. Shows resumed at the GOO on Sept. 28: the surest sign that, for all the things that the floodwaters swallowed in May of 2010, Music City's resilient spirit was not among them. D. PATRICK RODGERS

The Sweetest Thing

THE BLACK KEYS / ROBERT PLANT

By Doyle Davis and the staff of Grimey's

Grimey's is the city's pre-eminent indie music store and a hub of the local music scene. Doyle Davis and Mike "Grimey" Grimes are its owners.

The Black Keys, Brothers (Nonesuch) Brothers resonates with the Grimey's staff on so many levels.  Not only is it a fantastic album that is the culmination of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney's years of honing their feral blues-rock to a fine soulful edge, it's the rare record that everyone on the staff loves regardless of their eclectic tastes. It's also our best-selling record of the year thus far, which feels like vindication to us. The Black Keys released their debut album The Big Come Up in 2002, just a few months after the Doyle Davis/Mike Grimes partnership was formed, and it was the first record championed by Grimey's in its current form. We loved that record so much and played it so often in the store that it sold very well for us. Mike reached out to the band and convinced them to swing through Nashville on their first-ever tour, adding them as the opening act to a bill at the Slow Bar.  We managed to get about 100 people out to see The Black Keys and needless to say we were slayed. I can't even remember who the band was they opened for. Dan and Patrick returned the favor with an in-store performance at Grimey's in 2007. When Dan Auerbach moved to town this summer, he came in and bought a turntable within the first few days he was here and he's become a regular customer. We love The Black Keys!

Robert Plant, Band Of Joy (Rounder) I almost feel like we've been a part of the making of this incredible album. Robert Plant first walked into Grimey's when he came to town to record with Buddy Miller. I even special-ordered a compilation by R&B singer Barbara Lynn for him. He ended up recording one of her tunes for the Band Of Joy album ("You Can't Buy My Love"). The Golden God frequented our humble shop when in town, greeting customers and signing autographs while shopping. When the album was finally released, we couldn't believe he recorded TWO songs by staff faves Low!  As a long-time Los Lobos fan, I was sucked in immediately by the cover of "Angel Dance," one of my all-time favorite Lobos songs. After his spellbinding performance at The Ryman at the end of the Americana Awards show, I'm convinced Robert Plant's move into Appalachian psychedelia is his most potent post-Zep direction, and I had the pleasure of telling him so myself when he stopped by Grimey's the next day on his way out of town.

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