Austin Music Awards 2002-03
Austin Music Hall, Wednesday, March 12
The more things change ... If you listen closely, you could probably hear the carping when the 2002-03 Austin Music Awards lineup was first announced, "C'mon, Steven Fromholz, Ray Benson, Billy Joe Shaver, Ray Wylie Hubbard? Isn't that a little predictable?" Not predictable were Shaver's stunning version of "Honky Tonk Heroes," Ray Wylie Hubbard's raw take on his anthem "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother," and Ray Benson tossing out a quip about when Austin rents were $100 and a bag of weed was $10. And granted, the 2002-03 Music Awards did deliver some results that weren't exactly huge shockers: KGSR, who presented a $220,000 check to the SIMS Foundation, as Best Radio Station; Eric Johnson as Best Electric Guitarist; Monte Montgomery as Best Acoustic Guitarist; Waterloo as Best Record Store; and Willie Nelson, Joe "King" Carrasco, Stephen Bruton, and Eliza Gilkyson all getting nominated to the Texas Music Hall of Fame. You'd have to be living under a fairly good-sized rock for the last several years to not have seen those awards results coming from several miles away. Still, the 2002-03 AMA did manage to serve up a surprise or two before the night was up. Granted, the city's old guard, represented by Fromholz, Benson, Shaver, et al., was out in force for the evening in a fine example of "What Goes Around Comes Around." On the other hand, Ruthie Foster, Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez, and Jane Bond (appearing with the Hole in the Wall Gang), exemplified some of the best of what's going on in Austin in 2003. Foster's hybrid of blues, gospel, and folk would seem better suited for a more intimate setting like the Saxon Pub than the barnlike Music Hall, but she comes across with an amazing amount of power and command. Taylor and Rodriguez, backed by Kevin Smith on standup bass and former Van Morrison guitarist John Platania, did "Sweet Tequila Blues," "Him Who Saved Me," and probably the most restrained version of Taylor's "Wild Thing" ever attempted. The Hole in the Wall Gang, with Paul Minor, Beaver Nelson, all of Fastball, Ted Roddy, and other motley Hole types, backed Bond for a sweet version of "Bring It on Home," amid mutterings from emcee Paul Ray about a reopening of the Hole in a couple of months. More instructive than the evening's talents, though, was the way the awards fell. Kevin Fowler walked away with Musician of the Year, Country Artist of the Year, Song of the Year (for "Señorita Mas Fina"), and Songwriter of the Year. Del Castillo brought home Band of the Year, Cruiserweight knocked down Alt-Rock/Punk Band of the Year. All fairly new talent; all on the rise. Austin is a city in transition. Rents keep going up, the economy lurches through another boom/bust cycle, clubs close, the live music scene gets put through the ringer. There's no question that it is not the same city that it was 15 or 20 years ago, and the changes keep happening; where it'll all lead is anybody's guess. The fondly remembered days of the Armadillo were a long time ago, and they aren't coming back. You can't expect the music scene to not evolve as well.