The 2013 Riverfront Times Music Showcase is a week and a half away! Think of it as St. Louis music's own official holiday and consider this the season. Throughout May we at RFT Music have been working hard to make our cases for all 130 bands and artists nominated for an RFT Music Award this year in 26 categories. Read on and get yourself acquainted, and we'll see you at the showcase!
Bob Reuter's Alley Ghost:
Though known primarily for his black-and-white photography, Bob Reuter is also a St. Louis music scene lifer. Considering the wealth of material that a musical career spanning 30 years provides, it is notable that Reuter's current output is more prolific than ever, and the music he plays for the wandering man remains as reliable as a train whistle. A backing band populated by respected youngsters from Big Muddy Records -- already fixtures of the new scene in their own right -- have brought fresh blood and a big boost to Reuter's songs. Reuter not only documents the musicians of the south-side scene, he is one of its elders. -Jaime Lees
2013 saw the return of Grace Basement after a few years of quiet, and Kevin Buckley's vision was both familiar and brand-new. After a few indie-leaning records, Buckley and company embraced the acoustic folk traditions of the best American balladeers and Irish session players, producing a record that was exuberant in its ability to understate itself. Wheel Within a Wheel is marked by Buckley's most introspective songwriting -- you can thank the arrival of his thirties and his recent marriage for some of that progression -- but he refuses to pen any song that isn't peppered with smart turns of phrase and trickier musical runs. -Christian Schaeffer
One could argue that the music of Melody Den could only be written by a handful of Midwestern folks, all of whom are products of their environment. It resonates through, from the Ozark foothills to the flat land of Illinois, and the music is catchy enough to resonate with any blue-collar, working-class citizen. There is sincere grit that's embedded within the trusty Americana chords, the Stones-influenced horn blasts and the somber, clinking keys. It feels familiar and comfortable without escaping the desperation and frustration that comes with it. Just like the Beach Boys wouldn't be the Beach Boys if the bandmates grew up in rural Delaware, Melody Den is unique to the land it calls home. -Michael Dauphin
Pretty Little Empire:
Does Pretty Little Empire really belong in the Americana category? Eh, not really. If we had a Run-Down-A-Hill-While-Holding-Hands-With-Your-Love-And-Feeling-Like-Your-Heart-Might-Fly category, that might be a better fit. That's not to say that PLE's songs all have happy endings -- far from it. There's plenty of misunderstanding, regret and release in singer-songwriter Justin Johnson's words. But Johnson, Wade Durbin (bass), William Godfred (guitar) and Evan O'Neal (drums) come together in such a frenzied Voltron of talent and emotion -- on the albums, sure, but especially during the band's live shows -- that you can't help but feel starry-eyed even during the melancholy tunes. Our prediction: At least one song from 2010's fabulous Reasons and Rooms will end up in a cell phone commercial about long-distance romance. -Allison Babka
The self-proclaimed "outlaw country" outfit fronted by Ryne Watts and Coop Cooper wears overalls onstage and sings vulgar ditties about sex, weed and moonshine. Oh, and it also had the gall to not only think of but agree to the moniker "the Hobosexuals." Perhaps the only thing the group takes seriously is its headfirst commitment to spaghetti-Western tunes, ranging from bar-fight enabling anthems to gin-drenched ballads for lonely nights at the saloon. The Hobosexuals recently celebrated a seven-inch on St. Louis' Big Muddy Records, a release format that actually seems futuristic for a band whose music could exist on yellowed player-piano rolls. -Ryan Wasoba