Edited by Chris Herrington
The Reigning Sound, indeed. This year's cover boys thoroughly dominated the Third Annual Memphis Flyer Local Music Poll. The smart money early on had this year's poll pegged as a two-band race, pitting two-time defending champs the North Mississippi Allstars against Greg Cartwright's garage-rock gods and their undeniable, timeless-on-contact juggernaut, Time Bomb High School. But it was a runaway from ballot one. The Reigning Sound this year doubled the point total and ballot mentions the Allstars won with last year. Time Bomb High School was even more of an avalanche in the album category, garnering 19 votes after the Allstars and Cory Branan split first-place last year with a mere four votes apiece. The best band in town? By acclamation. Who knows? Someday maybe they'll even get nominated for a Premier Player Award.
But almost as interesting as Our Big Winners were Our Surprising Runners-Up. Lucero finished a strong third in our inaugural poll two years ago then fell off the map last year. Now they've come back with a vengeance, leapfrogging their touring and recording comrades the Allstars for second and finishing strong behind the Reigning Sound in the album category.
For newbies, this poll asks a sampling of folks involved in the local music scene -- writers, record-store clerks, radio DJs and programmers, club owners and bookers, industry insiders, etc. -- to vote for the five most "vital" artists in local music today and to place one vote for their favorite local album of the past year. The motive is twofold: to provide a definitive annual snapshot of the local music scene and to provide a forum for those most intimately connected with it (outside of the artists themselves).
This year, the voter response jumped from 42 (the first two years) to 56, and we're pleased as punch about that, especially since an untimely vacation on the part of the election commission put a damper on this year's get-out-the-vote drive. The jump is due in part to a more active focus on recruiting voters from record stores and radio stations, especially WEVL. In matters such as these, I'm partial to writers, record-store clerks, and noncommercial radio programmers, and not just because, at one time or another, I've been all three. Rather, I especially value their input because their fandom is relatively unencumbered by the kind of conflict of interest and concern about offending people that's so unavoidable for those with a more direct financial stake in the local scene. And this poll is all about fandom -- local music as organic, participatory culture, bottom-up not top-down. No one's an expert -- and everyone is.
Despite the change at the top of the charts, the song sort of remains the same this year. Six of last year's top 10 repeat, and two of the four newbies are hard to count as such -- rebounding Lucero and Founding Father Jim Dickinson. But the other two climbers are refreshing: Longtime Midtown stalwarts Viva L'American Death Ray Music got busy this year, releasing a slew of new music and winning over a lot of new fans, and they were justly rewarded for it. And emerging DJ collective Memphix made a modest 10th-place showing that could portend a lot more for the future.
And if it's a future you're looking for -- and aren't we all? (well, aren't we?) -- there's plenty more of interest further down the list. Start with Snowglobe, who just missed the top 10 for the second straight year. Other notable runners-up, in terms of potential, include the Porch Ghouls, whose major-label debut dropped after ballots were due, and young punk-metal up-and-comers Crippled Nation, at 18th the highest-finishing heavy band (not named Saliva) in the poll's brief history. And there are other newish acts littered among the Others Receiving Votes who got multiple mentions this time around, most notably rapper Yo Gotti, soulstress Valencia Robinson, and indie rockers the Coach and Four and Dearest Darlin's.
Over the next several pages you can read about this year's top 10 and see what our voters had to say about them as well as a few of the runners-up. We blew it out for our cover boys, as the poll results demanded. In addition to our profile, you can read Chris Davis' critical discography on the career of Reigning Sound frontman Cartwright, a body of work that is likely to be the contemporary Memphis version of Big Star's '70s output: It may not top the charts now, but it'll be sought out for years and decades to come -- something our voters seem to understand.
-- Chris Herrington
Voters were asked to name the five most vital artists or bands in Memphis music today. Fifty-five voters participated, with points awarded as follows: five points for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote, three points for a third-place vote, two points for a fourth-place vote, and one point for a fifth-place vote.
Artist/Band - Points - Ballots
1. The Reigning Sound 118 28
2. Lucero 70 22
3. The North Mississippi Allstars 65 19
4. Saliva 45 14
5. Cory Branan 44 15
6. Viva LAmerican Death Ray Music 36 14
7. The Bloodthirsty Lovers 31 10
8. Richard Johnston 29 10
9. Jim Dickinson 27 7
10. Memphix 25 7
11. Alvin Youngblood Hart 18 8
12. (tie) Snowglobe 18 7
12. (tie) The Lost Sounds 18 7
14. Three 6 Mafia 13 5
15. The Cool Jerks 11 5
16. The Porch Ghouls 11 4
17. The Bo-Keys 10 3
18. Crippled Nation 9 4
19. The Final Solutions 9 3
20. The Gamble Brothers Band 8 4
Others receiving votes:
Adios Gringo, Lily Afshar, Akashi, Automusik, Robert Belfour, Bella Sun, Harlan T. Bobo, Stephanie Bolton, John Farrell Bonds, Kenny Brown, Los Cantadores, Carmen featuring Ascension, Clankys Nub, Clenched Fist, The Coach and Four, Joyce Cobb, Blair Combest, Dearest Darlins, Dis-Missile, Dora, Andy Earles, Doug Easley, Effingham and Wheatstraw, Epoch of Unlight, Jeff Evans, FreeWorld, Gangsta Blac, Billy Gibson, The Glass, James Govan, Al Green, Herman Green, Andy Grooms, Hammerfight, Eric Hughes, Kelley Hurt and Chris Parker, Impala, The Internationals, The Joint Chiefs, Rob Jungklas, Tyler Keith & the Preachers Kids, Wayne Leeloy, Legion of Divine Punishment, Susan Marshall, Little Milton, Blind Mississippi Morris, Mouse Rocket, Mrs. Fletcher, Muck Sticky, My Surrender, Robert Nighthawk, The Original Cindy, The Pelicans, Playa Fly, Project Pat, Di Anne Price, Ross Rice, Valencia Robinson, Reba Russell Band, Sid Selvidge, The Subteens, Scott Sudbury, Keith Sykes, Marvell Thomas, The Ultracats, Brad Webb, Charlie Wood, Yo Gotti, Young Avenue Sound.
1. Time Bomb High School --The Reigning Sound-19
3. Free Beer Tomorrow--Jim Dickinson-5
Others receiving votes:
The Hell You Say --Cory Branan, Welcome to Memphis -- Clenched Fist, Cleaned a Lot of Plates in Memphis -- The Cool Jerks, Delorean --Delorean, Live from Memphis -- FreeWorld, Down in the Alley --Alvin Youngblood Hart, Paycheck Boogie --The Eric Hughes Band, Jetty Webb --Jetty Webb, Foot Hill Stomp --Richard Johnston, Rat's Brains and Microchips -- The Lost Sounds, Susan Marshall Is Honey Mouth --Susan Marshall, Chains + Black Exhaust -- Various Artists/Memphix, With Hole Dug --Tim Prudhomme, Back into Your System --Saliva, Our Land Brains --Snowglobe, Justified -- Justin Timberlake, A New Commotion, A Delicate Tension --Viva L'American Death Ray Music.