From the sublime to the calamitous, the 37th annual Austin Music Awards show crammed a whole lot of highlights and a handful of low points in just over three hours at ACL Live on Wednesday evening. More than 30 awards were doled out between brief performances by several top Austin musicians plus a few visiting ringers.
Winners in the big categories included Shakey Graves for Musician of the Year, Bob Schneider's "Blood & Bones" for Album of the Year and Black Pumas' "Black Moon Rising" for Song of the Year." Black Pumas also took home Best New Austin Band, while Shinyribs won Best Austin Band for the second straight year.
The show ran remarkably smoothly early on, moving along at a pace that was almost a half-hour ahead of the published schedule. If it seemed too good to be true, it was: Everything seemed to fall apart at the end. The sound failed on Iggy Pop's videotaped plug for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and SIMS Foundation, mayor Steve Adler dealt with a defective teleprompter as he presented an award, and a well-intentioned tribute to the late MC Overlord was marred by ear-piercing feedback as the musicians prepared to perform.
Even as the show stumbled to the finish line, though, memories of some beautiful musical moments lingered. Recently retired keyboardist Glover Gill's "Dreamhouse: Cantus Firmus" was an exquisite opener, rendered beautifully by the Tosca Strings, house band director Charlie Sexton and guest vocalist Jon Dee Graham just a couple hours before Graham turned 60. Suzanne Vega, who along with Ryan Bingham and Jakob Dylan was one of three high-profile non-locals to perform, surprised with a splendid version of her hit "Tom's Diner," the Tosca Strings giving voice to the remix version of the song done by British electronica duo DNA in 1990.
Segments honoring special winners Dianne Scott, for the Margaret Moser Women in Music Award, and Alejandro Escovedo, for the Townes Van Zandt Songwriting Award, also worked well and featured memorable musical passages. Deftly singing Escovedo's rocker "Sally Was a Cop" was X leader John Doe, a recent Austin transplant; later, Dylan and Bingham joined Escovedo for a set-closing jam on "Castanets."
Arguably the most energizing musical performance of the night came from Black Pumas, whose "Black Moon Rising" proved well worth its Song of the Year honor. But the most touching acceptance speech came early: Roscoe Beck, accepting the award for Best Bassist, gave a heartfelt shoutout to Draylen Mason, the teenage upright bass prodigy killed by a package bomb at his house a year ago.
Here's the full list of winners:
MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR: Shakey Graves
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Bob Schneider, Blood & Bones
SONG OF THE YEAR: Black Pumas, “Black Moon Rising”
BEST AUSTIN BAND: Shinyribs
BEST NEW AUSTIN BAND: Black Pumas
BEST SONGWRITER: Bob Schneider
BEST MALE VOCALIST: Bob Schneider
BEST FEMALE VOCALIST: Gina Chavez
BEST GUITARIST: Jackie Venson
BEST BASSIST: Roscoe Beck
BEST DRUMS/PERCUSSION: Brannen Temple
BEST KEYBOARDIST: Emily Gimble
BEST HORNS: Grupo Horns
BEST STRINGS: Carrie Rodriguez
BEST MISCELLANEOUS INSTRUMENT: Guy Forsyth (harmonica)
BEST ROCK: Bob Schneider
BEST BLUES/SOUL/FUNK: Guy Forsyth
BEST COUNTRY: Willie Nelson
BEST ELECTRONIC: Ghostland Observatory
BEST FOLK/BLUEGRASS: Wood & Wire
BEST HIP-HOP/RAP: Magna Carda
BEST JAZZ: White Ghost Shivers
BEST LATIN: Gina Chavez
BEST METAL: Black Heart Saints
BEST PUNK: Sailor Poon
BEST WORLD MUSIC: Grupo Massa
BEST AVANT GARDE/EXPERIMENTAL: Octopus Project
BEST NONE-OF-THE-ABOVE: Bob Schneider & the Moonlight Orchestra
BEST RADIO STATION -- KUTX
TOWNES VAN ZANDT SONGWRITING AWARD -- Alejandro Escovedo
MARGARET MOSER WOMEN IN MUSIC AWARD -- Dianne Scott
AUSTIN MUSIC HALL OF FAME -- Ruthie Foster