By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
Nominated in Major Label Act
If it wasn't for singer-songwriter Stewart Lewis, Acoustic Junction/Fool's Progress might never have wound up in Colorado. "I'm from Boston, Massachusetts, and I came out here about eight years ago to go to school," Lewis reports. "And Acoustic Junction followed me out." Lewis, who is Fool's Progress leader Reed Foehl's brother, was part of Acoustic Junction during its early phases, but, as he puts it, "I finally decided that I didn't want to be in a folk-rock band. Musically, I had so many ideas, and I wanted to explore other avenues. Plus, I'm kind of a control freak. I wanted to have total control of what I was doing." Lewis's vision took him in the direction of a solo career, and since making the break from Acoustic Junction, he's kept some tony company, touring with Shawn Colvin and opening up for what he calls "a who's who of Triple A acts, like Patty Larkin, Leo Kottke and Sheryl Crow." He has two albums to his credit--1993's Faces in the Crowd and 1996's Flip Side--and while he's fond of them both, he believes that he's entering a transitional period. "I've been sort of changing my sound lately, doing songs that are like poetry with weird electric guitar--sort of G. Love meets Soul Coughing. So I guess I'm moving away from the folk-singer thing into more of an alternative-folk or alternative-rock mode." Demos that represent Lewis's refashioned style are being completed now with an eye toward shopping them to music-business types. "I still love singing with my brother, and we've talked about maybe someday doing something together--something like the Finn Brothers album. But that will have to wait. My writing is getting edgier musically and lyrically, and I have to follow that and see where it takes me."
Nominated in Folk/Acoustic
6 p.m. McCormick's Fish House & Bar
Jamaica native Tony Lion left the Healers, the band that he had led for years, in January 1996. He has spent much of the time since then gathering a new flock of practitioners who specialize in his chosen musical form, reggae. Lion Zion, which brings together another Healers veteran, keyboardist Kathryn Harris, with bassist Chris Harris, drummer Joseph Skeet, keyboardist Ross Krutsinger and percussionist Ray Cruz, is the result of his toils, and since going public, it's been enticing growing crowds with its varied reggae styles. "Some people like dancehall and some people like classic roots reggae and others like lover's rock and rock steady," Lion says. "And we can deliver all of those things. We're not just stuck in one corner of the reggae-music bag." Lion, who issued a solo album, Nah Give Up, in 1995--shortly before his departure from the Healers--is aching to document the contributions of his latest group of collaborators. "Definitely, the most-asked question I get is, 'When is the next recording coming out?' And it's on the top of my list. We have a very nice sound, very upbeat, very lively, very positive, and I want to be able to make a CD that shows that. And we will--very soon, I hope." He also plans to raise Lion Zion's profile, so that those people who've lost track of him over the past couple of years will see that he hasn't gone anywhere. "Once we get some material together, we'll be beating a more heated path to the clubs around town. I think people will like what they hear."
Nominated in Reggae/Ska
Long has seen 'em come and seen 'em go during his two decades-plus in the Denver blues community, so it means something when he praises up-and-comers like Lonesome Dan Kase and Denver alum Corey Harris. "There are a lot of people out there with a lot of promise," he says. "I focus on my own career, but at the same time, I appreciate the other people who are carrying on the blues, too." In addition to regular appearances at Denver and Boulder clubs, this Mississippi native has been branching out of late, putting on concerts in Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, and appearing at regional colleges, where the young listeners who come out to see him can immediately sense his deep knowledge of the blues. He's become increasingly selective about the venues where he plies his trade, noting, "I prefer to bring my following into places where they don't feel hassled--places where they can feel relaxed and get into the music, whether they want to dance or to just listen." As more than a generation of Coloradans know, the tunes Long plays work well for those interested in either pursuit.
Nominated in Blues/R&B
LORD OF WORD AND THE DISCIPLES OF BASS
This summer, Theo Smith, aka Lord of Word, says that he was "pretty frustrated. It was the first time I really asked the question, 'Do I really want to do this?' Then I smacked myself in the head and said, 'Of course you want to do this. You've got to keep going.' And that's the way I feel now. We have no intention of stopping until we get to the point we need to get to." That's good news for the Lord's faithful followers, who've embraced the hip-hop, funk and R&B made by the Disciples of Bass (drummer Kyle Comerford, bassist John Hamala, guitarist Tim Miller, reed player Rick Demay and keyboardist/ saxophonist Jeff Lipton) for most of the Nineties. The unit has vigorously worked its 1996 CD, Positive, by touring throughout the West and Midwest, and Smith says, "Everything's been going really smooth. We haven't been making a lot of money, and we haven't expected to, but every time we go back to a place, the crowds have increased." The band has been the subject of numerous flirtations from record companies over the years, but none have borne fruit. Smith has no idea why. "Some labels say, 'We just don't get it,' and I'm like, 'What's not to get?' Our music is all about positivity and people having a good time. It's a happier alternative to all the negativity that's been going through the rap game. There are a lot of rap bands that are doing positive things, and they're not getting the push." However, he thinks that "we'll eventually catch on. We just have to keep pushing--us and all the other Colorado bands. Because one of these days, people will finally recognize Colorado for the music mecca that it is."