Music Showcase, Take Three

Nominated in Rock/Pop
7:30 p.m. Rock Island (all ages)

The disc that the Dalhart Imperials hoped to have out by now isn't, and the group's bassist, Kurt Ohlen, finds that disappointing. "A bunch of consequences arose that have slowed everything down," he admits. But aside from that frustration, 1997 has been a fine year for this collection of Western swingers (Ohlen, vocalist/guitarist Les Cooper, drummer Rodney Bowen, lead guitarist Pascal Gumbard and steel player Les Cooper). The outfit was a featured performer at England's Hemsby Festival, arguably the planet's premier roots-rock showcase, and enjoyed a successful jaunt through Holland, Germany, Switzerland and France. "We were booked into a lot of rockabilly venues, so we ran into people who were more knowledgeable about that style than Western swing," Ohlen says. "But they were extremely receptive, and more than willing to hoot and holler and have a great time." Back home, the second annual Denver Rock-N-Rhythm Billy Weekend, expanded this year to three days, was a smash, with bands such as Bill Haley's Comets wowing true believers who traveled great distances simply to bear witness. "There were a ton of people there," confirms Ohlen, who runs the Weekend with his wife, Karen. "And we were really pleased with the attendance, enough so to convince us to do the whole thing over again next summer." Ohlen feels just as strongly about the progress made by the Imperials. "Pascal, our newest member, is such a terrific player that he's kind of forced us all to take another step up on our instruments. I think we're sounding fantastic, personally." Now if they only can finish up that CD, everything will be perfect.

Nominated in Rockabilly/Roots

Joe Vasquez, known to the patrons he entertains and occasionally bounces at the Cricket on the Hill as Denver Joe, apparently was not too impressed by his nomination for the Westword Music Awards Showcase. We asked him to perform. Didn't want to. We phoned him repeatedly in an effort to interview him for this guide. Didn't bother to call back. Crotchety behavior? Maybe. But Denver Joe's intractability--and his unwillingness to play any game other than his own--has everything to do with his appeal. So, too, does his music, a brand of drunken honky-tonk that comes a lot closer to capturing the essence of the country genre than the vast majority of sounds beaming out of Nashville these days. Most often accompanied by a trio that includes guitarist/pedal-steel player "Uncle" Dick Meis, bassist "Aunt" Lois Meis and drummer Graham Haworth, Joe essays a variety of vintage covers that he makes his own personal property. But he occasionally writes songs as well: In a rare profile that appeared in Westword last October, he presented his interrogator with the lyrics to a tune called "Song for Daddy (Whoever the Fuck He Was)" in the hope that it might serve as an adequate substitute for an actual interview. "I used to dream of seeing my name in print," he said at the time, "but now that's the least of my worries." That's telling 'em, Joe. Hope the fact that we wrote about you again doesn't piss you off.

Nominated in Country/Bluegrass

One of Colorado's best-known exporters of contemporary jazz, Dotsero is planning its next album for Ichiban International, an Atlanta company whose distribution is handled by the massive Capitol/EMI combine. Guitarist David Watts, who plays in the group alongside saxophonist Stephen Watts, bassist Michael Friedman, keyboardist Tom Capek and drummer Mike Marlier, says the recording process will be much different from the one used in last year's successful Ichiban release, Essensual. "Instead of doing the whole thing here, as we've done our past four records, we'll do it in Atlanta. Ichiban has a studio out there they want us to use. So we won't be able to take six months to do it. Instead, it'll be two or three weeks of eating, drinking and sleeping the project." David is the edgiest of his fellows about this shift in procedure. "I don't think it bothers any of the other guys, but coming from my standpoint, I need to try and put my guitar parts into nooks and crannies in order to make them special, and I'm not going to have nearly as much time to do that," he explains. "I won't have the luxury of trying twelve things and then settling on the right one. I'll have to find the right one right away and just go. But hopefully we'll wind up with a record that's going to have a more lively, immediate sound--a funky record that'll transcend a lot of different musical genres." After the as-yet-untitled disc's release, Dotsero likely will do what it's done during much of this year: tour. The act has traveled throughout the Midwest, East and South, concentrating particularly on several high-profile festivals in Florida. "That was really fun," Watts confirms. "It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it."

Nominated in Jazz/Swing
7 p.m. The Soiled Dove

It's late morning, and drummer Kazushige Takaku, of the Denver-by-way-of-Japan group Electric Summer, has just been awakened by a ringing phone. But groggy he's not. Rather, he's intensely wired, answering questions in the declamatory voice of a wrestling announcer and guffawing at things whether they're funny or not. The source of his elation, aside from life in general, is the EP that Electric Summer (Takaku, vocalist Toshihiro Yuda, guitarist Makito Fukuda and bassist Takakumi Toyoshima, all students at Teikyo Loretto Heights University) is in the middle of making for Boulder's Soda Jerk Records, which recently signed the band. "Bill Stevenson from the Descendents, he producing the songs," Takaku exclaims. "We had a show at the Starlight up in Fort Collins and he just visit and come to see us. And he like us. He think we're good. And then he say we should do a recording. And we say okay." Eight or nine songs have been earmarked for the disc, which is being put together at the Blasting Room, Stevenson's Fort Collins studio. The folks at Soda Jerk expect the result to be available for purchase by mid-November, giving fans of Electric Summer's exuberantly punky sonic mayhem an opportunity to take a little piece of the quartet home for the holidays. After that, Takaku says, "We are going to tour with the CD, but we don't know when. Sometime." And he laughs again.

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