BEST ACT: Cactus Attack
You take away the music, take away the late nights, take away the miles of road and the hangovers and you’re left with five close friends who have stood the test of time. Add all of the beers, butts and bastardized tunes back in to the equation and you get one hell of a band — Cactus Attack. This band has been running hard since 2008 and meshing their Swamp Yankee sound with their love of bluegrass and good old rock ‘n’ roll. They have two albums and one on the way. The band consists of Ryan “Stonewall” Jackson on guitar and vocals; Taylor “Bloodhound” Brennan on guitar, banjo and vocals; Derek “Pretty Boy” Pearson on guitar, banjo and vocals; Mike “Stovepipe” Walker on upright bass and vocals; and Chris “The Milkman” Hickman on percussion and vocals. They are 100 proof hell on wheels! For more, saguaro to cactus-attack.com or catch them out at The Parlour in Providence on Thursday, May 12.
SINGER / SONGWRITER: Nate Cozzolino
Nate Cozzolino is an emerging musical force whose latest project is collectively known as The Lost Arts. Since his arrival in Rhode Island from Japan, where he spent a decade honing his craft in the smoky cocktail lounges and perpetually open bars of the Japanese urban sprawl, Nate has rapidly embedded himself into the live music scene. Armed with a catalog of both original songs and re-imagined covers, Nate’s performances serve to tell the ongoing story of the highs and lows of a gypsy life very much examined. For more, chigau to roaju12.wix.com/
BEST FOLK ACT and VOCALIST: Aubrey Atwater
Aubrey Atwater is the Atwater half of the husband/wife duo and this year’s winner of the Motif Awards Best Folk Act category, Atwater-Donnelly. They have been a fixture in the RI music scene for over 25 years and have captured many, many Motif awards during that time. In addition to being a vocalist, Aubrey is a multi-instrumentalist and dancer. Aubrey has written books as well as recorded solo CDs. She and her husband and duo partner Elwood Donnelly have toured both nationally and internationally bringing their programs of traditional American and Celtic folk songs, a cappella pieces, old-time gospel songs, dance tunes and original works to large audiences. Elwood and Aubrey blend harmonies and play guitar, Appalachian mountain dulcimer, mandolin, tin whistle, harmonica, banjo, bones, spoons, limberjacks, and bring other surprises including Appalachian clog dancing, French Canadian footwork and tap. Their dozen-plus recordings receive international airplay. Aubrey and Elwood met as volunteers at the Stone Soup Coffeehouse in Providence in early 1987 and within just a few months these self-taught musicians formed a duo and were married two years later. For more, tap over to atwater-donnelly.com. You can see her perform at East Bay Contra Dance in the historic Warren Armory on a regular basis with her husband and The Cicadas (the band, not the insects), including Friday May 6. Or see her perform solo on Thursdays in May in the lobby of Hasbro’s Children’s Hospital from 10am – Noon, or catch the Atwater-Donnelly Duo at the Newport Oyster Festival on May 22 at Bowen’s Wharf.
MALE VOCALIST: Steve Delmonico (The Quahogs)
This category was a tough one. There was almost a three-way tie as voting was within 10 votes between three of the nominated vocalists. Your vote really does count! Steve Delmonico is the lead singer of the band The Quahogs. This singer/songwriter’s lyrics are witty, wise and delivered with a “mentholated authority.” The band began their musical journey to Motif stardom in 2011. Besides Delmonico, the line-up features: Ryan Gould on bass, Chaz Weber/Steve Donovan on lead guitar and John Faraone playing drums. The Quahogs have a blend of sound ranging from Dylan to Nirvana, Ernest Tubb, Hank Willams and Townes Van Zandt, to whom they dedicate a song on their debut album Traveler’s Log. They also cite Lightnin’ Hopkins, Blaze Foley, John Prine, The Animals, Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Elliott Smith as among their influences. Their most recent release, an 11-song LP titled Sunny Waste, was recorded at the Columbus Theatre in Providence. For more, shuck to thequahogs.bandcamp.com. You can see them at the Steel Yard in Providence this summer for BBQ Fest, Friday, June 24.
BLUEGRASS BAND: Lizzie James and the Greystone Rail
Lizzie James and the Greystone Rail mixes traditional bluegrass with modern newgrass and songs that were probably not intended for bluegrass, but they put their own spin on them anyway. They have a lot of fun at their shows and so does the audience. The members of Greystone Rail have been making music together since the early ’60s when they were all employees of the Gransom Ironworks in Centerdale. Their only affordable form of entertainment was picking and singing popular bluegrass and country music. Mostly they dreamed of someday leaving Centerdale on the only train that passed through the remote town, the Greystone Line. Lizzie’s soulful renditions of bluegrass, country and contemporary acoustic music coupled with the band’s spirited arrangements always make for a show that’s more fun “than a spoonful o’ bees.” For more, buzz to greystonerail.com. Find them at Nic-a-Nee’s Bluegrass Throwdown in Providence on Wednesday, June 15 or the Seaside Oprey at the Narragansett Theater at the Pier in Narragansett on Saturday, June 25.
BREAKTHROUGH ACT: Cowboy & Lady
Cowboy & Lady is an original duo project featuring Tyler-James Kelly of The Silks and his partner, Jess Powers. This collaboration was inspired by their shared love of country and western music. Cowboy & Lady are recognized for their lively sets and beautiful vocal arrangements and harmonies. They have been performing together since 2012. Tyler-James Kelly first picked up a guitar at age 4 and hasn’t put it down since. The first song that he learned on the guitar was the theme to Jaws. By age ten he was tackling Jimi Hendrix licks and discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kiss. His love of blues stemmed from his discovery of Robert Johnson. Jess Powers has been singing for as long as her memory goes back. She was the unofficial wedding singer for countless cousins’ weddings during her teenage years. Jess has always loved Linda Ronstadt and admires her ability to sing any genre and make every song uniquely her own. Cowboy & Lady just released their debut recording called Take Me to Town and it features tasty numbers such as “Fool With A Song,” “Now That You’re Gone” and “When Times Are Hard.” For more, lasso cowboyandladymusic.com
BLUES ACT: Roomful of Blues
At 45+ years-old, New England’s Roomful of Blues has been around even longer than their current label, Alligator Records. For all that time, they’ve celebrated the jump blues, R&B and early rock ‘n’ roll music of the horn-powered golden era of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Roomful doesn’t just recreate the famous and obscure 78s and 45s of those years, they make them true Roomful originals. Inspired by the spirit of the groundbreaking bands of the post-World War II decade, they’ve breathed new life into vintage songs, infusing them with boundless energy and fiery, swinging solos and vocals. With a recording career that spans over four decades, they have toured worldwide and recorded many, many albums. For more, jitterbug to roomful.com or see them on June 24 at Chan’s in Woonsocket.
CHORAL ACT: The Providence Singers
The Providence Singers presents choral performances of distinction to connect singers, listeners, performers and composers in creative exploration of the choral art. It performs diverse choral works to preserve the choral tradition and extends that tradition by commissioning and performing new compositions. Through its concerts and recordings, and by fostering the musical growth of its membership and young singers, it sparks creative connections that nurture lifelong choral singing and civic engagement. With about 90 members, the Singers champion choral singing, innovation and public engagement. In the beginning, the Providence Singers was a group of 60 voices and advertised its programs as “little-known works by well-known composers and well-known works by little-known composers.” The Providence Singers were officially established in 1971 by Robert Molison, then director of the Brown University Chorus, and Glenn Giuttari and John Duffy, graduate students at Brown. Christine Noel is currently the Singers’ sixth artistic director, with her tenure beginning in the 2013-14 season. For more, falsetto to providencesingers.org. They’ll be joining the RI Philharmonic on May 6 and 7 performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 but more casually at Cocktails & Cabaret on June 12 at the Point Street Piano Bar.
JAZZ / R&B ACT: Brass Attack
Brass Attack conquered the Jazz/ R&B category this year. This horn-driven band is one of the hottest in New England. Brass Attack is a nine-piece band featuring four horns, a rhythm section and a lead vocalist, performing the hits of artists Tower of Power; Chicago; Frank Sinatra; James Brown; Glen Miller; Van Morrison; Blood, Sweat and Tears; and classic hits from the 1930s up to today. The unique instrumentation and high degree of musicianship lend to the band’s versatility and professionalism. Members of the band have performed with prominent national acts such as “The Tonight Show” Band, Tavares, Ray Charles, The Four Tops, The Temptations, NRBQ, Dizzy Gillespie, and Aretha Franklin, to name just a few. The band has shared the stage with Earth Wind and Fire, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and NRBQ. Band members include Fritz Benz on trumpet, Kevin Johnson as lead vocalist, songwriter and guitarist David Tanury on guitar, Steve L’Heureux on trombone and flute, Jeff Mortrude, Tom Petteruti as drummer and Brass Attack’s leader, Bill Smith on trumpet, John Knasas on saxophone and Steve Vallante on keys. For more, toot to brassattack.com or see them in concert at Fatbellys Pub Coventry on May 14 or Pub on Park on May 21.
WORLD MUSIC: Pendragon
New England has long had a rich tradition of Celtic-inspired music. Heading into their 34th year together, Pendragon has embraced that tradition and created a timeless sound of its own, performing roots music with an unmistakable contemporary edge. Pendragon’s music celebrates the lives and lore of generations of New Englanders who brought traditions from Ireland, Scotland, French Canada and other distant shores to the banks of the Blackstone River. While drawing on the ethnic music of the Blackstone River Valley, Pendragon fashions the music of tradition into the music of tomorrow. The band seamlessly blends lively jigs and reels with Mary Lee Partington’s original songs depicting the experiences of the immigrants who settled here. Pendragon performs their original songs and dance tunes on a combination of fiddle, flute, bouzouki, concertina, banjo, guitar, whistle and percussion. Pendragon is comprised of step dancer and percussionist Kevin Doyle; Bob Drouin on fiddle, bouzouki and tenor banjo; Russell Gusetti on guitar and concertinas; Josh Kane on flute and whistles; and Mary Lee Partington on vocals. For more, quest to PendragonCelticMusic.com or see them perform on June 4 at the Blackstone River Theatre Summer Solstice Festival.
BEST OPEN MIC: The Parlour
The Parlour, located on North Main Street, was originally known as the Penalty Box when the old RI Auditorium was next door. Now that location is a parking lot and the Penalty Box was transformed into the Parlour — one of RI’s hottest clubs. The open mic happens every Tuesday night at 7:30pm, so get your talent down there and take the stage! For more, hip check to theparlourri.com.
ALBUM: Consuelo’s Revenge – Mercy
Consuelo doesn’t need revenge this time around. The band, whose self-coined musical label is “Genericana,” showed they are tops in the best album category this year with the disc Mercy. Songs such as “All Fall Down,” “The Palatine Light” and “Sledgehammer” smashed the competition. “Consuelo is the invisible cog in the machine, the water in the well, the last one left after the lights have gone out and the first one to see the sunrise. And these are her songs. We are the sound that the midnight storm makes outside your door when you’re alone and you’ve had one too many glasses of bourbon.” Band members include Amanda Salemi on vocals, Ian Lacombe on vocals and bass, Becca Neveau on keyboard and vocals, Alicia Ruggiero on violin and vocals, Matt Nilsson on drums, John Ferreira on drums, Kirk Anderson on accordion and guitar, and Nicholas Smyth on vocals and guitar. For more, retribute to consuelosrevenge.com. You can see them at The Parlour on May 14.
BEST ACT: The Silks
The Silks had another successful year of raising hell and playing rock ‘n’ roll. The Silks are propelled by singer guitarist Tyler-James Kelly’s pyrotechnics on guitar and rounded out by a solid rhythm section of Jonas Parmelee on bass and new kid on the block, Sam Jodrey on drums. The Silks have a new EP available online called Roughhousin’ with The Silks featuring the single “Let It Ride.” “Let It Ride” is an early ’70s heavy mountain rocker that just sounds more forceful sonically than anything on their debut album. I also dug another of the new tunes called “Home Again,” which kind of has an eerie Buffalo Springfield vibe. Roughhousin’ with The Silks is available online here: https://www.noisetrade.com/thesilks/roughhousing-with-the-silks. Check out The Silks for yourself at Firehouse 13 on May 7 where they’ll be rocking with The Dead LA and Daphne Lee Martin. thesilksmusic.com
BEST LIVE ACT: Sasquatch and the Sick-A-Billys
Sasquatch and The Sick-A-Billys have been rambling and rolling for over a decade now, playing their version of psychobilly that works in everything from country to metal and punk. The years haven’t dampened singer/guitarist Sasquatch’s enthusiasm for performing. Other than maybe not setting certain parts of himself on fire anymore, he’s still as entertaining as ever. In addition to rocking with the Sick-A-Billys, Sasquatch owns a thrift store in Warren called Podsnappery. Sasquatch is currently working on adding a small movie theater in the store that will be called the Galactic Theatre. To find out more check out https://www.gofundme.com/galactictheatre and check out the band at sickabilly.com
REGGAE / SKA: The Copacetics
For the third year in a row, The Copacetics have won the Best Reggae/Ska category, which pretty much makes them a dynasty in local music when it comes to ska. The Copacetics are an 8-piece band that works in a combination of reggae, ska, soul to the beat of Jamaican rhythms. The Copacetics have a self-titled album that came out last year. You can catch The Copacetics in person at The Met Café on June 10 when they open for The Slackers and dance the night away. facebook.com/thecopacetics
JAM BAND: Daddie Long Legs
Influenced by healthy doses of Phish and the Grateful Dead, Lincoln’s Daddie Long Legs have been bringing their brand of funk, reggae and jam to the masses since 2004. Their energetic live shows have earned DLL a dedicated fan base in the area. Get a load of their impressive musicianship and funky tunes on May 13 at the East Providence Yacht Club. dllrocks.com
GARAGE BAND: NEUTRINOS
We decided to separate out the garage category this year because there are just so many great garage bands in these parts. NEUTRINOS will always have bragging rights as the first Best Garage Band winner in the Motif Awards. NEUTRINOS have an EP called Surf Cult that just came out. Check out the track “Pizza Party” online here https://soundcloud.com/prestondx/pizza-party-by-neutrinos or check them out in person when they rock Aurora on May 15 with Peach Kelli Pop, Pyramid, and Laika’s Orbit. facebook.com/LosNeutrinos
POP PUNK ACT: Trophy Wives
The aptly named Trophy Wives are bringing home this trophy for the second year in a row, having played some recent high-profile gigs that included opening slots for Good Charlotte and Four Year Strong. Complete with catchy hooks and metal breakdowns, listening to this pop-punk/emo act will allow you to relive the days when you refused to wear anything other than skinny jeans. The band’s dual vocals (courtesy of Sam Boxold and Chris Piquette) is what puts them above the rest. Trophy Wives are gearing up for a headlining show at The Met on May 17; mark your calendar to experience these up-and-comers. trophywivesri.com
PUNK ACT: Fucking Invincible
Fucking Invincible is one of the most consistent hardcore punk bands to come out of Providence. With the release of their last EP I Hate Myself and Want You To Die, these guys have proved that sticking to their original fast-paced, aggressive sound works. They will be playing their next hometown show on June 3 at Aurora. fuckinginvincible.blogspot.com
HARDCORE/METAL ACT: Reason To Fight
Reason To Fight has been playing shows constantly, and if you’ve never seen them you’re missing out. These guys have been playing music together since 2001 with their last release in 2014. They stick to their classic hardcore sound, and that never gets old. Catch them at the Parlor Bar in Newport on June 10. reasontofight.bandcamp.com
FEMALE VOCALIST: Roz Raskin (Roz and the Rice Cakes)
Roz Raskin, along with her band Roz and the Rice Cakes, have become something of an RI treasure. She’s won Motif awards in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and since then has continued to tour and build up her fan base, playing many DIY house shows. Raskin’s dissonant vocals create a sound that defies categorization, ranging from dreamy and atmospheric to groovy and upbeat. I could sit here all week struggling to wax poetic about her sound, but it’s really not like anything else (in the best way possible). facebook.com/rozandthericecakes/timeline
MALE VOCALIST: Kris Hansen (Viking Jesus)
Kris Hansen is no stranger to winning these awards; Viking Jesus won best rock band in ‘14 and Hansen won best singer/songwriter in ’15. This year he adds to his eclectic collection of Motif awards, taking over the Best Male Vocalist slot. He’s the kind of artist that makes you kick yourself for not finding out about him five years ago. Extremely adept at moving between styles, Hansen gracefully transitions from Steely Dan to Bob Dylan. Check out his Reverb Nation page and you’ll see why he’s a repeat winner. vikingjesusri.com
BREAKTHROUGH ACT: Eric & the Nothing
Eric & The Nothing deservedly win the Breakthrough Act award after a big year that included making the finals in the 2016 WBRU Rock Hunt. The stuff I’ve listened to from Eric & The Nothing remind me of basic ’50s and ’60s wistful rock ‘n’ roll. They have a little bit of a garage rock vibe going on, but they remind me of early Ricky Nelson. Eric & The Nothing have two releases with the Hot Shrimp EP and Temper Tantrums single available online. facebook.com/ericandthenothing
ALBUM: Math The Band — Math the Band the Band – The Album
I was relieved to hear that this band has nothing to do with the subject I almost failed in grade school, but are actually a synthy punk band whose sound I would describe as “nerd core.” Made up of Kevin Steinhauser and Justine Mainville, the band’s new album, Math the Band the Band – The Album is another entry in a hugely prolific body of work that includes 12 albums! It’s rife with instantly catchy, two-minute-and-change tunes like “Why Didn’t you Get a Haircut” and “Jake Says.” Catch them at the AS220 main stage on May 13. maththeband.bandcamp.com
TRIBUTE BAND: Dirty Deeds (AC/DC)
Speaking of dynasties, I don’t know how many Motif Awards Dirty Deeds has won, but it seems like a more than a few. Being an AC/DC tribute band, many were worried when AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson had to retire recently that AC/DC might come calling and tap Dirty Deeds’ singer Bob Conti. Thankfully AC/DC settled for Axl Rose and Dirty Deeds remains intact. You can catch Dirty Deeds live at Showcase Live in Foxboro on May 14. dirtydeedstribute.com/Dirty_Deeds/Home.html
COVER BAND: Sybil Disobedience
Sybil Disobedience is a cover band that always brings the party, rocking favorites like Judas Priest and Journey, and tackling country tunes like good ole boys. Front woman Sybil Castellone leads with attitude, injecting energy into venues like Boundary Brewhouse the Last Resort. If this sounds like your kind of bag, they have a few shows coming up, including May 7 at the Cityside in Woonsocket and May 14 at the Newport Sportman’s Club. sybildisobedience.com
HIP-HOP ACT: Sage Francis
Sage Francis has outgrown the moniker of “Rhode Island artist” to become a nationwide mainstay of the indie rap genre. For years, this spoken word hero has been blowing the minds of his listeners with lines like, “Now we got children thinking that they’re born to fistfight / Cause they’ve been promised an apocalypse, by prophets without insight.” He also founded his own record label, Strange Famous, which began in 1996 with bootlegged cassette tapes and has evolved into a haven for artists most labels would consider too “strange.” Check out Francis’ lyrical talent and activism next time he visits his home town. sagefrancis.net
BEST EDM DJ: DJ Siren
The aptly named DJ Siren is a real beauty … and a beast at delivering goth and industrial dance music to your favorite haunts. The oh-so-prolific Siren has been a staple of the “scene” scene for a while, and she doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Right now, she is a resident DJ at Altar, Gauntlet and Vice. On Wednesday, May 4, and on many others, you can find her throwing it down at “Kink” night at The Dark Lady. Here’s to DJ Siren for keeping the goth-meets-metal-meets-electronic spirit alive, all over RI! facebook.com/DJ-Siren-1552850688301569/timeline
BEST CLUB DJ: Ty Jesso
For the second year in a row, Ty Jesso is being honored by Motif voters as the best local club DJ around. And for good reason. This guy is responsible for sending everyone on the dance floor back in time, back to when Motown reigned supreme. Indeed, Mr. Jesso’s signature sound is (sort of) just like a Johnny Rocket’s music catalog — on steroids! He’s in the unique position of being the go-to guy for all sorts of events, ranging from retro nights at local hot spots all the way to father-daughter dances. No matter where you catch this Soul-Powered super-DJ, you’ll definitely be in for a treat: Think classically crafted funk meets jazzy, soulful R&B grooves. Catch Soul Power at Dusk on May 13. facebook.com/DJTYJESSO/timeline
BEST DANCE NIGHT: Soul Power at Dusk
The maestro Ty Jesso sweeps this year’s DJ categories with his Soul Power night capturing Best Dance Night. For Soul Power, Jesso and co-DJ John O’Leary play an all vinyl mix of ’60s soul, garage, mod and whatever else they feel will get the dance floor bopping. The next Soul Power titled, Mod Mayday Night, will go down at Dusk on May 13. duskprovidence.com