2002 Riverfront Times Music Award Winners

Your verdict is in: Check out St. Louisí favorite local musicians.

Rest assured, the Daddys aren't going to score any hipster bonus points for innovation. They're about as likely to incorporate a turntable or a sampler or even a keyboard into their defiantly dated sound as they are to grow gills or launch into Esperanto. For these true believers, rock & roll is a sacred, ancient formula, one whose Dionysian properties are not to be fucked with. Their devotion to the hot-rod-tinkering, Bettie Page-worshiping, biker-jacket-wearing set is absolute: The beer's always ice-cold, the car's always in fourth gear and the women are always red-hot mamas in seamed stockings or teenage carwashing girls in cutoffs.

That's not to say, however, that the Trip Daddys are Brylcreemed clichés. Straubinger's guitar work is nothing short of astonishing, a quicksilver flurry of perfectly chosen notes that do more than fill the spaces left between the pounding, primitive rhythm section. Yeah, maybe he's a tad show-offy on occasion -- sometimes he plays his solos with his guitar held behind his head -- but hey, if you could pull off such gasp-inducing feats without humiliating yourself, you probably would, too. What distinguishes Straubinger's fretboard wizardry from Yngwieish wankery is passion and soul. You can't fake the rock & roll spirit, no matter how fancy the licks or how greasy the hair, and Straubinger and his able sidemen don't need to pose. They're the real deal, Daddy-o. (RSS)

Soulard Blues Band
Best Blues

If there's one thing proven by the Soulard Blues Band's string of consecutive wins as Best Blues act in the RFT Music Poll, it's this: Never underestimate the power of a brand name. For their ninth straight win in the category, the SBB has triumphed over a field that includes legends such as Johnnie Johnson, Oliver Sain, Henry Townsend and Bennie Smith, all musicians whose reputations extend beyond St. Louis to the nation and the world. That the SBB reigns again as RFT poll winners in 2002 is a testament not only to the group's musicianship but to its tenacity, longevity, work ethic and, well, to having established a name that's familiar to even the casual blues listener.

St. Lunatics & Highway Matrons
St. Lunatics & Highway Matrons
Steve O & Bottle Rockets Brian Henneman and Mark Ortmann (Robert Kearns not pictured)
Steve O & Bottle Rockets Brian Henneman and Mark Ortmann (Robert Kearns not pictured)

Anchored by bassist/raconteur/bon vivant Art Dwyer, the SBB has persevered on the local scene for close to a quarter-century now, weathering good times and bad and enduring many personnel changes along the way. (Among the band's more famous alumni are singer and character actor Jim Byrnes, a regular on the TV series Wiseguy and Highlander, and Larry Thurston, who's done several tours as vocalist for the Blues Brothers Band.) They've established a solid following for their regular gigs at the Broadway Oyster Bar, the Great Grizzly Bear and other clubs around town and have taken their act on the road throughout Missouri, Illinois and the wider world, even recording one of their albums live in Stuttgart, Germany.

As the SBB's style has evolved over the years beyond straight-up blues to include R&B and soul, as well as touches of jazz, zydeco and funk, they've remained a constant presence on the local scene. It may be true that in some circumstances familiarity breeds contempt, but for SBB and St. Louis blues fans, familiarity would seem to breed contentment.

Now, a recent reshuffling of personnel signals yet another new chapter for SBB. Only Dwyer and guitarist/vocalist John Mondin remain from the previous edition of the band; they're joined by drummer Leroy Wilson, guitarist Bob Kamoske and, perhaps most intriguing, trombonist John Wolf, a versatile musician whose résumé includes gigs ranging from straight-ahead jazz to free improvisation to vintage-style jump blues with the nationally known recording act Roomful of Blues. As the newly reconfigured ensemble refines its own version of the SBB sound, you can bet that local blues fans will be there listening with wide-open ears. (DCM)

Cobalt Blue
Best Groove

In a day when the word "groove" has been elevated to a kind of catch-all signifier of musical adulation and bands often sacrifice all memorable melody, lyrical care and vocal dexterity to a doodled-over Möbius strip of rhythmic invariance, it's worth stepping back a bit, if only to say, "What the hell?"

The members of Cobalt Blue definitely have groove to spare, but you wouldn't mistake them for a jam band or improvisational rock outfit. The band boasts two of St. Louis's most underrated and melodically intriguing guitar players in Sean Garcia and Tim Redmond, an open-ended, smartly layered approach to percussive arrangements and a sensual healer of a lead singer and image-focused songwriter in Rebecca Ryan. Growing up in St. Louis, Ryan attended a magnet school for visual and performing arts and made up songs about cars passing by her childhood apartment.

"I was a late-life baby, and so I grew up on a lot of big band and jazz," Ryan says. "I tend to gravitate towards singers who use their voices as instruments rather than your frontperson-singer types." After high school, she studied music in Santa Fe and formed her first band, O'Ryan Island, in 1991. After some seven years, that group dissolved, and Ryan -- who also sings with Languid -- met jazz-trained guitarist Tim Redmond, with whom she began playing as a duo. "We both liked the spontaneous conception," Ryan says. "Tim would go on with a few chords, going as long as half-an-hour, and stuff would come out. Sure, it was the good, the bad, and the ugly, but if it was something we were both grooving on, we'd stick with it."

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