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Best Vocalist (Male) St. Louis 2009 - Justin Kinkel-Schuster

Readers' Choice: Seth Porter (the Blind Eyes) and Javier Mendoza (tie)

Few local bands share the all-for-one camaraderie of the experimental roots quartet Theodore (see Best Country Band [Alternative], in this very section). The bandmates swap instruments midsong and support each other onstage with an intuition that's equal parts musical skill and emotional intelligence. It is upon this bed of mutilated electric guitar, bowed upright bass and sympathetic drumming that guitarist and vocalist Justin Kinkel-Schuster makes his stand. His voice can shoulder the world-weary heaviness of lowdown acoustic ballads with a hollow, craggy delivery before shouting at the rafters in the next feedback-drenched dirge. His lyrics center on life's losers, drifters and charlatans, and Kinkel-Schuster is able to embody his characters like the best Method actors. Theodore's two albums — Songs for the Weary and the excellent Defeated, TN — showcase Kinkel-Schuster's pipes in fine fashion, but the band is best experienced live. At this past January's stellar Lambchop concert, the members of Theodore warmed the stage and came close to upstaging their idols as Kinkel-Schuster intoned the mantra, "The story's not the way it's told." Maybe not, but sometimes the story is the way it's sung.

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