RFT Reader Picks

1. Tom Wood (2)
2. One Fell Swoop (Tie) (1)
2. Monica Casey (Tie) (3)
4. Joe Bidewell (5)
5. Marc Chechik (4)
6. Jobim Dreams
7. Geoff Seitz (6)

Best Songwriter
You won't find a more versatile songwriter in town than the New World Spirits' J. Chambers; he can move from soft ballad to roaring mallet seemingly at will. His songs bounce along, meandering just enough to make them interesting while remaining true to a solid structure. The result is enough to steal the hearts of our readers, who seem to prefer a layer of distortion inside their favorite songs, judging from the first- and second-place winners. The list in its entirety is a testament to the versatility of our songsters, a snapshot of a scene in which a folk singer can be sandwiched between two freaky song-stylists and not look out of place.

1. J. Chambers (New World Spirits)
2. Andy Schmidt (Stir)
3. Donald Williams (Sugardaddy)
4. Sarah Cloud
5. Jill Posey (Johnny Magnet) (Tie) (2)
5. Tom Wood (Tie) (5)
7. Mark Stephens (Highway Matrons) (6)
8. Bob Reuter (Kamikaze Cowboy) (9)
9. Pat Oldani (Starnineteen)
10. Hudson Harkins (Hudson & the Hoo
Doo Cats)

Best Jazz Artist
Guitarist Rob Block takes the honors as this year's Best Jazz Artist, and it's certainly a well-deserved win. Block has been a strong presence on the local music scene for the past decade -- leading his own groups, working on a regular basis with musicians like Willie Akins and Peanuts Whalum, teaching jazz as a member of the Webster University Jazz Studies faculty. In addition to being one of the best guitarists in the St. Louis area, Block is a fine keyboard player. And with an eclectic taste in music that encompasses everything from hard bop to Latin jazz, Block makes his presence felt across the jazz spectrum in our town.

1. Rob Block
2. Dave Black
3. C. Felton & Fast4Word (2)
4. Bosman Twins (1)
5. Ptah Williams (3)
6. Keith Ellis' Sessions Jazz Band (5T)
7. Willie Akins Quintet (4)
8. David Stone
9. Ray Kennedy (7)
10. T.C. Jazz Quintet (Tie) (8T)
10. Peanuts Whalum Trio (Tie)

Best Hip-Hop Artist
In the last few years, hip-hop in St. Louis has moved from the basements and home studios to slowly becoming a contender for national prominence. A whole network of producers, DJs and rappers are working together to get their message out, without a smidgen of help from the rest of the music community. The Midwest Avengers have been cutting it in area clubs for a while now, and they finally have a CD to back the club work up: Their hot-off-the-platter debut, Avengers Assemble, is a solid hip-hop party record -- or, in their words, "hip-hop love from the land in between."

1. Midwest Avengers (2)
2. Rukus Crew
3. Fat Trash (4)
4. St. Lunatics (6)
5. In Limbo (1)
6. Buddah Headz
7. Domino
8. MODU Crew
9. Bits N Pieces (10)
10. Mike Cheka

Best R&B Artist
Once again the one-two punch of the old and new schools tops the list, as the recently disbanded Sugardaddy win out over the legendary Oliver Sain. The combination of old and new bodes well for the vibrancy of the St. Louis rhythm & blues scene; in most of the other musical categories, the seasoned is often tossed off the list by the new and "improved," and in the process we forget whence we came. In this category, though, the two coexist, and as a result bridges are built and legacies passed on. Let's hope that the legacy of Sugardaddy is passed on, either in the form of offshoot bands or simply as a collective appreciation of such a remarkable soul band.

1. Sugardaddy (1)
2. Oliver Sain (2)
3. Mighty Big Band
4. Layd Bak
5. Ol Skool (8)
6. Tiorah (3)
7. Mystic Voyage (4)
8. Erma Whiteside (6)
9. Mazani
10. Master's Touch

Best Ska Band
St. Louis musicians and scenesters could learn a thing or two from the local ska contingent. The bands work together, support each other and throw massive celebrations a few times a year to boost the music -- and as a result, all the bands gain exposure that would have been impossible without the union. That said, each band has its own distinct sound -- some leaning closer to a ska/punk amalgam, some, like winners the Skalars, staying more true to the Jamaican roots of the music. This is the first year that ska and funk have had their own categories, and the voting turnout in the ska category was high, yet another reflection on the intensity of St. Louis ska fans' passion.

1. Skalars
2. MU330
3. Kinetics
4. Orange Tree
5. Fat Cactus
6. Suspenders
7. Secretaries
8. Big Boss Man
9. Red Stripe All Stars
10. Smooth Jimmy Apollo

Best Funk Band
The key to the funk is in the rhythm -- in the bass and in the drums -- and in its ability to magically get the juices in your booty flowing. Without that rhythm -- not necessarily slow, not necessarily quick -- the funk drops dead on arrival and the crowd wanders to the nearest dance club. Sky Bop Fly are masters of the rhythm, managing to stretch the sound without resorting to the dangerous and increasingly tired funk/punk amalgam. In fact, the top three in this category all stay away from the loud-guitar end of the evolved genre, preferring instead to concentrate on the groove.

1. Sky Bop Fly
2. Jive Turkey
3. Sugardaddy
4. Fat Monkey
5. UTI
6. Ghetto Blasters
7. Dangerous Kitchen

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