The 2012 Riverfront Times Music Showcase is two weeks away. And if that is our own St. Louis Music holiday, then consider this the season: Throughout May, we've been making our cases for all 125 bands and artists nominated for an RFT Music Award this year, introducing the nominees from one or more of our 25 categories. For each artist you will find a photo, a streaming track to sample and a few words from the staff at RFT Music.
Colonel Ford First and foremost, country music is dance music, at least according to Colonel Ford, the hardcore honky-tonk band led by guitarist and singer Gary Hunt and bassist and singer Dade Farrar. With ace guitarist John Horton, drummer Danny Kathriner and semi-regulars Jay Farrar on pedal steel and Justin Branum and Matt Wyatt on fiddle, the Colonel, at full strength, is an imposing ensemble, surprisingly hard rocking, but mostly wickedly swinging. And though the band always keeps the dance floor happy with its up-tempo covers of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and George Jones, it also knows that "Crying Time" isn't just a song - it can be barroom way of life. Collectively, the band may be a human honky-tonk jukebox, but it never loses that deep country feeling. --Roy Kasten
Dive Poets The Dive Poets is one of the most accurately named bands in St. Louis. These are the stories of cheap beers and deep connections, rendered in aching strings and simple melodies. This is the music you lean over the bar to and order yourself a whiskey. Eric Sargent stands tall, smiling assuredly, singing the mood of a few beers in and feeling warm. Anna Drexelius is a mighty presence with her voice as well as her viola, Karl Eggers is one of St. Louis' best pickers and Jeff York and Renato Durante keep everything in check in the rhythm section. Christian Schaeffer (a senior RFT Music Writer) is a more recent addition on keys, but he lends a very useful swell and grace. --Kiernan Maletsky
Lonesome Cowboy Ryan & His Dried Up Tear Drops Ryan Koening is a busy, busy man. He's a multi-instrumental virtuoso for Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three, a folksy outfit that's currently touring Europe. When he's not jet setting, he also performs with the Rum Drum Ramblers and Alley Ghost. If that wasn't enough, the "Lonesome Cowboy Ryan" persona is yet another conduit for Koening to create country music. He released 19 of his songs for free on his website earlier this year, many of which harken back to laid-back sing-a-longs by a smoky campfire. The "& His Dried Up Tear Drops" part of the equation refers a backing band that includes South City Three compadres Adam Hoskins and Joey Glynn, as well as other guests such as Tim Sullivan of the Red Headed Strangers. --Jason Rosenbaum
Prairie Rehab Studying Prairie Rehab is a lesson in the contrast of generations. The band is comprised of the remains of St. Louis's now-defunct alt-country gurus, The Lineman, and features newcomer singer/songwriter Lacie Mangel and her fresh approach to songwriting. On the surface, its sound is conventional Americana pop executed by learned guitarist/pedal steel wizard Scott Swartz and various other StL music veterans. But with Mangels's abrupt, hyperliterate lyrics pushed to the front, you get a balanced attack of fresh-faced folk rooted in traditional, soul-twang expertise. The strengths of each generation within the band shines as bright its wide-eyed and tear-stained melodies. --Michael Dauphin Western Satellites At this point in their storied careers, the five veterans that make up the Western Satellites shouldn't have much left in the creative tank. And yet somehow they still have swing, soul and twang to burn. Margaret Bianchetta, Vince Corkery, Bob Breidenbach, John Ferber and Scott Hughes can play it all - jazz, blues, country, rockabilly, bluegrass - and, as a point of fact, have done just that for decades in a host of configurations bandwidth won't permit naming. As the Western Satellites all of their chops, quirks, instincts and tastes come together to orbit something like western swing, but in an easy-burning arc of blues. They take their time to ring out all the textures and nuances the country chapters of the Great American Songbook will afford. Their playing and singing is always hot but it's always in the service of the songs. --Roy Kasten