After wiring a primitive microphone from a rusty Falstaff beer can, resourceful bellower Reverend DeadEye discovered a new way to speak in tongues. The Oklahoma-bred Bible-thumper creates an unholy noise with his mike and homemade slide guitar (with a resonator fashioned from a discarded wok), transforming the dirty Delta blues into a foot-stompin' hellfire revival. Can we get an Amen?
Magic Cyclops (born Scott Fuller) has been inciting head-scratching and bootie-bumping ever since he began mixing on-stage aerobics with cheesy '80s music a couple of years ago. And just as the mythological Cyclops had to make do with just one eye, so does Magic Cyclops: He deejays entire sets with just an iPod. Hot dance tracks like Rod Stewart's "Young Turks" and a-ha's "Take on Me" keep the crowd pumpin' while Fuller -- sporting oversized shades, an iridescent track suit and a Hulk Hogan headband -- blazes through his bizarre routine of calisthenics and cans of Hamm's beer. Magic, indeed.
While Outkast stole this year's Grammys with its cut-and-paste opus Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, George & Caplin, a much more modest duo, were employing a similar pop-exhuming technique. But instead of funk and hip-hop, the humble twosome of Jason Iselin and Jeffrey Stevens blends vintage synth pop and modern technology to create an atmospheric, hook-suffused sound awash in acoustic guitars and skittish circuitry. Still, if you need proof of the parallels between these seemingly polarized groups, see George & Caplin live and witness their ethereal, ice-cold rendition of "Hey Ya!"
Loud and brazen, Jet Black Joy is not trying to change the world. But as practitioners of a rousing, bombastic sound that frontman Jimmy Jet lovingly refers to as "wet-panty rock," the four-piece might make some members of the audience need to change their frillies. Meow!
The Frantix were the precursors to the Fluid, who helped popularize the grunge movement that shook the galaxy last decade. For that reason, the music on this disc (issued by Afterburn Records, an indie imprint out of Australia) is of historical importance -- but it's about as academic as a high-school dropout on a three-week bender. The rip-roaring title track sets a stage that the rest of the disc burns to the ground.
In no short order, the localpalooza called the Rock In' Freak Fest landed one of the organizers in the pokey, left another with a shiner and a splitting headache, garnered an assault charge for one local radio personality, bankrupted a local zine and left more than thirty local acts high and dry. Talk about a freak fest.
Known for performing marathon-length shows to rival Bruce Springsteen or the Grateful Dead, Ween played an abbreviated but remarkable set last fall to a standing-room-only crowd -- one that showered New Hope, Pennsylvania's finest with giddy praise, hand-made cards and a liter of Jack Daniels. The intimate, daytime setting found Gene and Dean trotting out both classics and rarities, honoring every request from "Reggaejunkiejew" to "Chocolate Town." Mang, oh mang!
Denver is crammed with every far-fetched country-music spinoff imaginable (Pentecostal Goth country?), but Out on Bail sticks out like a stubborn weed among all the hayseed wannabes. This wet-behind-the-ears quartet takes the bleak grace of Johnny Cash and crams it into the guttural sloppiness of old Bay Area punk like Crimpshrine and early Jawbreaker, combining twangy guitar, lopsided distortion, coed vocals and a skin-splitting honesty. A co-release with Pariah Caste is due soon, but until then, you'll just have to catch Out on Bail in its natural state: live, sloshed, and hemorrhaging gritty, tender heartache.

Best Metal-Scrapper Turned Authentic Bluesman

Willie Houston

When Willie Houston sings the blues, he draws from a deep reservoir of personal experience, including heartache, poverty and years of backbreaking labor in the Louisiana swamps. Still an engaging and soulful performer at 76, the Junkman adheres to a timeworn sound that grabs listeners with honesty and conviction.
Not long ago, Otis Taylor was a Boulder antiques broker, and uninformed observers of the local music community considered him to be something of an antique. How wrong they were. In the mid-'90s, Taylor reinvented himself as a modern bluesman, and since then, he's earned the kind of critical acclaim that most artists never experience. He's nominated for four W.C. Handy awards -- the blues equivalent of the Grammys -- and he probably won't leave Memphis empty-handed when the awards are distributed next month. After all, his latest disc, 2003's Truth Is Not Fiction, on Telarc Records, was named one of the top ten albums of the year in any genre by the New York Times and wound up on two different top-ten lists in the Washington Post. Some antique.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of