Blues Nominees Announced 

The nominees for the 29th annual Blues Music Awards, presented by the Memphis-based Blues Foundation, are out, with Bobby Rush, Watermelon Slim, and Bettye LaVette leading the way. All three are nominated for the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award, as well as album of the year for LaVette's The Scene of the Crime and Watermelon Slim & the Workers' The Wheel Man and acoustic album of the year for Rush's Raw. Additionally, Rush is up for acoustic artist of the year and soul-blues male artist of the year; LaVette is up for contemporary-blues female artist of the year; and Slim is up for band of the year, contemporary blues album of the year, contemporary-blues male artist of the year, and song of the year for "The Wheel Man."

For a genre constantly warding off contemporary irrelevance and niche-genre stasis, Rush, LaVette, and Slim are strong standard-bearers — blues artists who make traditional but still broadly relevant new music.

There's not as much Memphis-specific action in the nominations as in past years, though the Memphis-based Yellow Dog Records had three artists nominated: The Soul of John Black for best new artist debut, Mary Flower for acoustic artist, and Fiona Boyes for contemporary blues female artist.

The Blue Music Awards move to Mississippi for the first time in 2008, with the ceremony to be held at the Grand Casino Event Center in Tunica on May 8th.

A Vending Machine Xmas

Vending Machine, the musical brainchild of indie-rocker Robby Grant, is responsible for one of 2007's very best local albums with King Cobras Do. Now, Grant is giving fans a Christmas gift in the form of a four-song holiday EP available for streaming and downloading on his Web site, VendingMachineBand.com. The highlight is "Wot Is Nog," a musical paean/instructional duet with ex-Memphian Shelby Bryant. Vending Machine also plays a holiday show Saturday, December 22nd, at Young Avenue Deli with Jump Back Jake. Doors open at 9 p.m.; admission is $5.

In related news, Bryant has a new, Memphis-record album, Luscious, out now on Smells Like Records.

Plan Ahead

January is shaping up to be a strong month for live music in Memphis. Locally connected indie-rock up-and-comers The Whigs will be at the Hi-Tone Café January 12th. One of the best bands of the past — yep! — 20 years, New Jersey's Yo La Tengo, play the Gibson Lounge for the first time on January 18th. Current indie darlings Band of Horses join Cass McCombs at the Hi-Tone January 30th. And FedExForum will feature a couple of big shows, with hard rockers The Foo Fighters on January 25th and country crossover star Brad Paisley on January 31st.

Or, to plan even further ahead, roots-music fanatics might want to start making plans for the 2008 edition of Ponderosa Stomp, the New Orleans roots festival that recently announced its lineup.

There are copious Memphis-connected acts on the bill for the Stomp, including The Bo-Keys, Syl Johnson, The Hi-Rhythm Section, William Bell, and Sonny Burgess. The Ponderosa Stomp takes place April 29th and 30th at House of Blues and The Parish in New Orleans.

Riffs: The Hard Rock Café hosts a benefit concert — dubbed "Applause for the Cause" — this week for Global Angels, an international children's charity organization. Local hard-rockers Egypt Central headline the 12-band bill on Friday, December 21st. Admission is $5.

Live From Memphis is hosting a podcast from local label Makeshift Music. The 17-track podcast features songs from bands such as Snowglobe, The Coach and Four, and The Subteens. You can hear it at LiveFromMemphis.com/listen/radio/Makeshiftfamily.

Memphis International Records will release a solo album from California-based ex-pat Memphian Bob Frank. The album, Red Neck, Blue Collar, takes its title from the Frank song Jim Dickinson used to lead off his Jungle Jim and the Voodoo Tiger album and will be released by Memphis International on February 19th.

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