The Best in Local Music 2007
by Chris Wissmann
Nightlife can run the following statements every year,
almost verbatim, without shame or any fear of inaccuracy: This
paper's annual review of the year's local-music offerings, as
always, is a staggering reminder of how much incredible live and
recorded music is available in Carbondale and the surrounding
area. The following awards are entirely subjective, but this
statement is pure, objective fact: No city in the United States
produces more or better music per capita than Carbondale. No
city of this size-- especially one so isolated from a major
metropolitan area-- boasts a music scene of such vitality. Turn
on WDBX, surf the web, or head out on any given weekend (and
more than a few weekday nights) and the evidence is always
there, usually at a bargain price.
As always, Nightlife surveyed a selection of the
area's music-business professionals for nominations in the below
categories, then narrowed them down to find the winners. So
here's (to) a few of the year's highlights.
Best Local CD
One of the most-difficult categories to judge due to the
sheer volume and stylistic breadth of the material that has come
out this last year. Depending on what a person counts as a local
CD, thirty-some releases hit the shelves this year, in addition
to a handful of seven-inch vinyl records. To narrow it down,
Nightlife will only consider full-length CDs by groups that
Even then, it's hard to keep the number of great releases
A good place to start: Two CDs not only by local musicians,
but largely, even entirely, about this area. Stace England's
Salt Sex Slaves explores the fascinating legends and tall
tales of the Old Slave House in Equality. If the subjects don't
fit so neatly into rock 'n' roll songs as England's previous
concept album, Welcome to Cairo, Illinois, Salt Sex
Slaves rocks with great Keith riffage. Horsepower!
Horsepower! by Skinny Jim and the Number Nine Blacktops,
meanwhile, fires on all eight cylinders as it describes the joys
of Little Egypt dive bars, pretension-free scene-making chicks,
and the local music scene.
Somewhere between Prince and Dave Matthews is the
party/pop/funk of Mathien's Head, Heart, and Hands,
while Carlos Alberto's magnificent Mosaic Sky
heads into traditional flamenco music.
Runners Up: Defined Perception's Open Your
Eyes needs a little better sound quality. Ivas John's
Street Music is smooth blues that could use a little more
explosiveness. Secondary Modern's Vanilla to an
Englishman is slightly cold, à la Radiohead, if well-versed
in pop and new wave and quite creative. The DNA Vibrators'
The Shape of Things to Have Come and Gone and The
Result of Continuous Exposure to Radiation brought the
incredible bassist and songwriter Roger Pugh out of
retirement with a series of loud funk songs. Meanwhile, Pugh's
The Akademiks... Rock! is a Schoolhouse Rock-style
CD of geology pedagogy-- rocks set to rock, as it were, with the
wonderful horns in "Sweet Geology (The Mineral Song)" bringing
some old-school funk.
Honorable Mentions: JoBu, Assemble; the
Hell, The Hell; the Accelerators,
Haven't You Heard!; O'Fallon, Finish; Hang
'Em High, The One, the Only, Hang 'Em High; Motive
for the Soul, Unlock Your Mind; Annihilate the
Hero, Betrothing Dejection; Himalayas,
Numbers are Against Us.
Musician(s) of the Year
Hard not to give this honor to the Woodbox Gang, a
band whose accomplishments make them a perennial local favorite.
This year they played at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and
the Kennedy Center, and signed to the iconic Alternative
Tentacles record label owned by Jello Biafra.
Then again, Stace England and the Salt Kings have
charted in several European nations with Salt Sex Slaves,
a concept album about the Old Slave House in Equality, Illinois,
and did so before the CD's official release. They're also slated
for a couple of shows at South by Southwest this March.
Another local group that charted this year was art-rock group
the Kevin Lucas Orchestra, which hit number twelve on the
New Music Weekly college chart (and the top twenty and
the top forty on the publication's hot adult-contemporary indie
chart and adult-contemporary main chart, respectively) with "I
Can Dream." The current single, "Carol of the Bells," is also
moving on some charts.
The ferocious Skinny Jim and the Number Nine Blacktops,
however, deserve special mention for an amazing, blazing CD of
original hotrod rockabilly, Horsepower! Horsepower!, and
their deep bow to Warren Batts, who Jim and company
helped reestablish as a local rockabilly legend. (A Southern
Illinois native, Batts backed Bill Haley on guitar for a number
Honorable mentions: The Himalayas, the Ivas John
Blues Band, Carlos Alberto, and the Moon Buggy
The beat goes on...