The 2012 Riverfront Times Music Showcase is a week 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.
Helen Marie The concept and title of Helen Marie's latest project, The Re-Education of Helen Marie, may be a conscious echo of her clearest influence, Lauryn Hill, but the young St. Louis native and recent Brooklynite does seem to be on her own journey of learning and relearning just how to transform her personal confessions into accessible pop music, while still retaining all the emotional truth. Marie has both the voice - high and delicate at one moment, sexy and brash at another - and the lyrical confidence - she's an impressive freestyler - to connect with R&B audiences looking for music that cuts a little deeper than catchy grooves -- though Marie has plenty of those as well. --Roy Kasten
Kenny DeShields With a style that he's dubbed "soulternative," Kenny DeShields is trying to breathe new life into the local soul scene. While his lyrics tend to be spiritual in nature, his music has a more secular sound. 2008's Mosaic EP was a satisfying introduction to DeShields as a singer, songwriter and all-around musician. Combining neo-soul instrumentals with his positive and inspirational messages, DeShields tops off his tracks with a satin-smooth voice much like a Carl Thomas or Dave Hollister. In between sessions with other artists like Theresa Payne and rapper Thi'sl, KD is hard at work on his next album, The Real Love Project, which is due out this fall. --Calvin Cox
Kim Massie With an incredible eleven-year-and-counting residency at the Beale on Broadway, Kim Massie has become one of the area's most recognizable talents. Although her voice is perfectly suited for jazz and blues, Massie and her band (the Solid Senders) will gladly take requests from any genre just to mix things up. And if a crowd-chosen setlist isn't reason enough to check her out, the longtime local favorite passed another milestone this year when she released her first original album, Inspired, back in February. Described by Massie as "contemporary spiritual," the album - much like her live show --pulls from various musical influences, while the songwriting delivers a healthy dose traditional gospel. --Calvin Cox Teresajenee If Teresajenee were to categorize herself in a genre, she would choose one of her own creation: Soultronicarock. But if the RFT Music had to do the same for TJ (real name Jennifer Sanders), we would be harder pressed: We'd name-drop Lauryn Hill or India Arie, maybe make allusions to gospel and R&B and remark on the electric, ethereal quality of her prose, which is as difficult to summarize as her vivid musical curiosity. We'd point to her deliberate arrangements and extensive gestation periods. (Judging by her progression, Teresajenee's next full-length release promises to be worth the wait.) But we're not the only ones drawn to the soulful singer-songwriter, who has collaborated with St. Louis greats including Black Spade, Tef Poe and Prince Ea across four years of exploratory genre-melding and easy fan-collecting. --Kelsey Whipple
Theresa Payne Pity whoever follows Theresa Payne onto a stage. On record, the singer is powerful and passionate ― her influence from the worlds of gospel and hip-hop lend weight and vitality to her wok. Live, she will put you on your knees. No studio can hope to capture the enormity of her voice or the way she so visibly acts as a conduit for her art. Get a taste with 2012's excellent The Moment EP, and don't miss her next gig. --Kiernan Maletsky