by RFT Music
The 2014 Riverfront Times Music Showcase will be held this year on June 7 in the Grove! Think of it as St. Louis music's own official holiday and consider this the season. Throughout May we at RFT Music will be making our cases for all 140 bands and artists nominated for an RFT Music Award this year, so that you will be able to make a fully informed decision with regards to your vote. Read on and get yourself acquainted, and we'll see you at the showcase!
See also: Vote Now For the 2014 RFT Music Awards
Like his clearest influences, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, Coultrain (née Aaron Michael Frison) has always had a spiritual bent to his music. The son of a preacher, Coultrain, for all his local and national success, views music through the prism of metaphysics, poetry and praise. It's not every artist who can invent a fictional character like Seymour Liberty and make you care what happens to him as he shape-shifts from album to album. Last year's highly experimental Jungle Mumbo Jumbo furthers Seymour's sojourn into glitchy, polyrhythmic, psychedelic terrain that at times borders on the inscrutable, but mostly proves that the velvet-voiced Coultrain isn't content to settle into anyone else's definition of soul music. -Roy Kasten
Kenny DeShields has charisma to burn and a flair for engaging audiences with both R&B catchiness and gospel conviction. When he's on stage, he isn't just singing; he's testifying in a way that even non-believers can believe in. The last few years may have been a trial for DeShields, as he's faced down his own doubts about a musical career, but he continues to push on. Whether you've seen him perform in a small coffee house like Foam, thrill a packed nightclub like Off Broadway at one of KDHX's many tribute nights, or move a congregation to joy and tears in church, you know you're hearing and seeing the real deal. -Roy Kasten
On the lilting, cascading 2013 single "Ice Moon," St. Louis native and New Jersey-based singer SZA (Solana Rowe) delivers the line "Go to church if you're scared" with just a little extra spin on the phrasing. As one of the newest additions to the Top Dawg Entertainment roster -- which includes Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolBoy Q and Jay Rock for starters -- SZA isn't remotely intimidated by the new career (she says she's only been singing professionally for a few years) that has found her recording with the likes of Lamar and Chance the Rapper, touring the continent and even opening for freaking Coldplay. Her voice is smoky, her sound is steamy anti-R&B and her future looks blindingly bright. -Roy Kasten
If you must put Teresa Jenee in a tradition, it surely stretches from Roberta Flack to Lauryn Hill to Erykah Badu. She's a strong, poetic songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist who can handle drums or the clarinet as well as she can the piano, and a singer with breathy, confident range. She finds and gives more pleasure in a sultry phrase than a full-on soul roar -- though she can do that too. Last year she released a tantalizing concert recording, the Lower East Live EP, which features just the singer and her piano, scatting, soaring and swinging before a rapt New York audience. She deserves the same in her native St. Louis. -Roy Kasten
This past March Theresa Payne found herself before a national TV audience on The Voice. Payne more than earned the right to be there: She is one of our city's most commanding singers, and though her version of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" didn't woo the likes of Shakira (who, for the record, Payne can sing circles around), she isn't letting that disappointment derail her. Released this past March, "Bye Fear" is her strongest single to date: With tense strings and her killer band and backup singers urging her on, she makes a statement of future promise that her voice will surely keep. -Roy Kasten