Sunday night, Feb. 15, the Washington Area Music Association held their 23rd-annual awards ceremony, familiarly known as the Wammies, at the historic State Theater in Falls Church, Va. It was a showcase for some of the best local talent of all genres, a chance to recognize some of the all-time greats, and some gifted newcomers.
The Wammie Awards is a prestigious event; past show participants have included the likes of Joan Jett, Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, LaVern Baker, Bo Diddley, and other luminaries with ties to the D.C. area. The talent on display Sunday night shows once again the depth and diversity of the artists who call D.C. home.
Jon Carroll was the night’s big winner – solo and with his band Love Returns, Carroll snagged 6 awards, sweeping the pop-rock category, plus picking up Musician of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. It was also a big night for Billy Coulter, who picked up 4 awards, including 2 of the biggest: Song of the Year for “Party of One” and Album of the Year for “Dose.” Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band, which took home 4 awards including Artist of the Year and Debut Recording, also had reason to celebrate.
Other multiple award winners include Thievery Corporation (4), for their nationally-regarded electronica, Esther Haynes (2) as both Big Band/Swing vocalist and Jazz Vocalist, Dead Men’s Hollow (2) in bluegrass, Phil Mathieu (2) in Classical, Ruth Logsdon (2) and her band The Wranglers in Country, Carey Creed (2) in folk, Christylez Bacon (2) in Rap/Hip Hop, Fools & Horses (3) in Modern rock and Record Design, Seth Kibel (2) in Jazz and World music, and Julia Nixon (2) in Urban. Unfortunately some of the winners were not available to accept thier award, but those who did were gracious and obviously thrilled with the recognition.
Interspersed with the awards (and the presenters vainly trying to convince the assembled musicians and fans to quiet down and show a little respect for their fellow artists) were a number of terrific performances. John Carroll and Love Returns rocked through two songs, and Christylez Bacon showed off his funky hip-hop stylings. Young talent Margot MacDonald, who played an original number along with a full-throttle shrieking cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” was another high point. A special performance by the recently reunited 4 out of 5 Doctors was a thrill – they were incredibly tight and energetic, their nearly 30-year old power-pop tunes sounding as relevant as ever. The best performance of the night might have been Go-Go group Familiar Faces – they were fresh, funky and had everyone grooving.
There were too many categories for all the awards to be given out during the show, but at the end of the night the hosts ran through a list of all the winners. A complete list is available on the Washington Area Music Awards website (www.wamadc.com/wama), and it’s a good guidepost for those interested in getting to know some of the thrilling music percolating around the DC area on a nightly basis.
Some albums to check out include: Cartoon Johnny’s (www.cartoonjohnny.com) terrific “Power Up” which snagged the Wammie for Best A Cappella Recording; the superb “Dose” by Billy Coulter (www.billycoulter.com); and Folk singer Lisa Taylor (www.lisataylormusic.com) and her exquisite “True North.” Another great record worth discovering is “I Am a Ghost” by alternative rock band and Wammie winner Fools & Horses (www.foolsandhorses.net). All of these are available via the artists’ websites, or through other online retailers, and these great records are just a tip of the iceberg – the Washington D.C. area has a thriving music scene with some incredibly gifted artists of every imaginable genre recording top notch albums and putting on terrific shows on a regular basis, and the Wammies does a great service by shining a light and acknowledging all of their hard work and talent.