Blues Critic Awards
2016 READERS POLL
Southern Soul Blues
As voted by Blues Critic readers...
Best Southern Soul/R & B Album
Tucka "Long Live The King"
2016 was a very strong year for Southern Soul/R&B albums, which is comforting in a market that seems to be becoming a digital singles-infested market. We had albums from big names like Willie Clayton ("Heart & Soul"), TK Soul presents ("Southern Soul Mixtapes 1 & 2"), O.B. Buchana ("Mississippi Folks"), Donnie Ray ("Two Way Love Affair"), Ms. Jody ("I Got The Feeling"), Wendell B ("The Next 1"), Bigg Robb ("Got My Whiskey Party"), Ricky White Presents ("Combination 3"), LJ Echols ("Taste Like Candy"), Rue Davis ("Big Hip Woman"). 2014's "Southern Soul Artist Of The Year" Tucka ("Long Live The King") narrowly bested 2015's "Southern Soul Artist Of The Year" and runner-up Pokey (Bear) ("Mr. It Ain't Fair"). (Note: We had a couple hundred write in votes for Jeter Jones BUT since "Trailride Certified" was released in December 2016 it is eligible for next year's awards).
Best Soul Blues Album
Bobby Rush "Porcupine Meat"
Any year Bobby Rush releases an album he is a good bet for winning "Best Soul Blues Album". He has won the award in 2005 ("Night Fishin'"), was runner-up in 2008 ("Look At What You're Gettin'"), won in 2010 ("Blind Snake") and won in 2011 ("Show You A Good Time"). He wins in 2016 with "Porcupine Meat", which also won this year's Grammy for "Best Traditional Blues Album". Another Grammy winner ("Best Americana Album" strange as that sounds??), William Bell, was runner-up with "This Is Where I Live". Other top vote earners in 2016 were Grady Champion with "One Of A Kind", J.J. Thames' "Raw Sugar", Stevie J. with "Back 2 Blues", Johnny Rawls' "Tiger In A Cage" and Eddie Cotton's "One At A Time".
Best Southern Soul/R & B Song
"The Three Of Me" by William Bell
Unlike recent previous years the Southern Soul, Rhythm & Blues world of 2016 didn't have that one red hot breakout hit that was an undisputed song of the year (say like "Hell Naw To Da Naw Naw" by Bishop Bullwinkle, "Mr. Sexy Man" by Nellie Tiger Travis or "My Sidepiece" by the Louisiana Blues Brothas) but there were plenty of "warm" hits. Runner-up "Single Woman" by T.K. Soul, "Be My Shawty On The Side" by Vick Allen, "Naked" by The Louisiana Blues Brothas were all pretty even in votes, which may have helped Grammy-winner William Bell to sneak on in with "Southern Soul/R&B" song of the year ("Three Of Me"). Other notables were Bigg Robb's "I Love You Baby Please Don't Go", Ms. Jody's :"There's A Party Going On", newcomer Cold Drank's "Three", Ricky White's "Cookie Thang", Donnie Ray's "Pop It Baby" and Ghetto Cowboy's "My Main Squeeze".
Best Slow Jam
"Two Way Love Affair" by Donnie Ray
Donnie Ray channeled his inner Tyrone Davis to deliver a fantastic vocal performance on "Two Way Love Affair" the title cut to his latest masterpiece. This was by far the closest race of this year's awards. The top five vote earners where separated by less than 20 votes (out of several thousand cast). When the smoke cleared "Two Way Love Affair" by Donnie Ray (written and produced by Ricky White) was the last one standing. Runner-up was Stevie J. with "Hit It Again" and Nellie Tiger Travis' "All The Lovers" was third, which also earned her "Best Vocal Performance FEMALE". Other noteworthy vote getters were : I'MON PUT IT DOWN TONIGHT Wendell B, DO YOU THINK ABOUT ME Wendell B. & Lacee', BABY YOU'RE READY Ricky White, I LOVE YOU BABY PLEASE DON'T GO Bigg Robb, SAME FIRST NAME Patrick Green & Patrick Henry, Wendell B & Lacee, A LIE DON'T CARE WHO TELL IT Napoleon Demps, OLD SKOOL KINDA GIRL Avail Hollywood, SUNSHINE LADY Vick Allen & Ricky White, IF WE STEAL AWAY OB Buchana, ALL TRUE MAN Ms. Jody, COUNTDOWN El' Willie and PLEASE LET ME HOLD YOU Lomax
Best Dance Or Funk Song
"Got My Whiskey REMIX" by Bigg Robb
Another very close race. You had jams like "Party N' Step" (Bigg Robb), "Tootie Boot" (Stan Butler), "Trail Ride" (Jaye Hammer), "Calling All Riders" (TK Soul), "Get On Up" (Sonny Mack), "Come Saddle Up" (Big Cynthia), "Girl With The Coke Bottle Frame" (Nelson Curry), "Dog House" (Donnie Ray), "There's A Party Goin' On" (Ms. Jody), "Dump Truck" (Luster Baker), "Work That Thang" (Big G) and others but the Bigg Robb's version of Mel Waiters' classic "Got My Whiskey (Remix)" takes the prize. A close runner-up was Mr. David with "Knock That Fire"
Best Down Home Blues Song
Ms. Jody "I Got The Feeling"
Bobby Rush already won "Best Soul Blues Album" with "Porcupine Meat" and he very narrowly lost "Best Down Home Blues Song" with the title track. Other notables were runner-up Stevie J. with "Cradle Robber", "Woman Scorned" by JJ Thames, "Heels And Hips" by Grady Champion, "Poison In The Well" from William Bell, "Shotgun (Remix)" by the late Big Cynthia, "Filling Me With Pleasure" (Eddie Cotton), "Born To The Blues" by Johnny Rawls, etc. Although she's not known for the Bluesier side of Southern Soul Ms. Jody delivered a great one with the winning title track to her latest album, "I Got The Feeling".
Best Vocal Performance FEMALE
Nellie Tiger Travis "All The Lovers"
Nellie Tiger Travis' popularity probably quadrupled in 2016 due to a stunning event in her career (discussed below) even though she only released one track in 2016, the ballad "All The Lovers", readers handed her "Best Vocal Performance FEMALE" by almost 2 to 1 over the runner-up Ms. Jody ("I Got The Feeling"). Also popular with voters were newcomer Miss Portia with "Use What I Got", Adrena ("Better Thangs"), newcomer Crystal Thomas ("Cowboy Gurl"), Big Cynthia ("Come Saddle Up"), rookie Lysa ("Sweet Nukie"), Katrenia Jefferson ("Living A Lie"), newcomer Sharnette Hyter ("Put In On Paper"), rookie JJ Thames ("Leftovers"), Nicole Jackson ("What You Do For Me"), newbie Toia Jones ("You Can get It") and More.
Best Vocal Performance MALE
Vick Allen "Be My Shawty On The Side"
He only released two songs in 2016 but both were hits. In late December 2015 (entries released after November 30th of a given year are eligible for the following year) Vick Allen released "Be My Shawty On The Side" and it earned him "Best Vocal Performance MALE". A very close second (runner-up) was TK Soul with "Single Woman". Other nominees included I WANNA BE YOUR MAN Donnie Ray, THIS IS WHERE I LIVE William Bell, DADDY'S GIRL J. Wonn, SATISFACTION GUARANTEED Big G., A WOMAN NEEDS LOVE Rue Davis, IF WE STEAL AWAY OB Buchana, OLD SKOOL KINDA GIRL Avail Hollywood, BABY YOU'RE READY Ricky White, I'MON PUT IT DOWN TONIGHT Wendell B., HOME TONIGHT Willie Clayton, MY MAIN SQUEEZE Ghetto Cowboy, MISTY BLUE Al Lindsey, MY BABY MY QUEEN TJ Hooker-Taylor, LET ME BE YOUR POKEY BEAR Pokey, SUNSHINE LADY LJ Echols and others.
Best Performance By A Duo Or Group
"Do You Think About Me" by Wendell B & Lacee'
Southern Soul collaborations have become "the thing" (or "thang" if you prefer) as of late. It seems the number of performances grows exponentially. Last year's winner The Louisiana Blues Brothas came in third (second runner-up) this year with "Naked". Other notables include SAME FIRST NAME Patrick Green & Patrick Henry, PUT IT ON PAPER Sharnette Hyter & Patrick Henry, SUNSHINE LADY Vick Allen & Ricky White, BODY ROLL Nathaniel Kimble & Ricky White, GROOVE IT HOW YOU MOVE IT Veronica Ra'elle & Tyree Neal, SO MUCH BETTER Sharnette Hyter & Jeter Jones, GET YOUR MONEY GIRL Miss Portia with Tyree Neal & Jackie Neal, I TIPTOED IN IT Mr Sam. & OB Buchana, ONE NIGHT STAND Pokey Bear & Cold Drank, SHAKE A LIL SOMETHING Karen Wolfe & Denise LaSalle, COME AND GET IT Big Yayo & J-Wonn, CALL OUT MY NAME J Red & Sharnette Hyter and winner Wendell B & Lacee' with "DO YOU THINK ABOUT ME". In second place (first runner-up) with nearly the same number of votes was THEM COUNTRY GIRLS Jeter Jones & Crystal Thomas.
Best New Artist
"Best New Artist" is always the most hotly-contested race annually with fans of each artist voting incessantly to help the artist get noticed. This year nominees were Runner Up MISS PORTIA, LYSA, GILLEY WILTZ, MYS NIKI (NIKITA), STAN BUTLER, TOIA JONES, SUMMER WOLFE, CRYSTAL THOMAS, ROSALYN CANDY, COLD DRANK, RHOMEY, SHARNETTE HYTER and "Best New Artist" J.J. THAMES.
Best Record Producer(s) Of The Year
Floyd Hamberlin Jr.
Last year's winner Beat Flippa had another stellar year of success producing artists like Pokey, Big Cynthia, Louisiana Blues Brothas, others as did two-time winners Ricky White and John Ward and any of these gentlemen very easily could have won this year if not for a couple amazing events revolving around music written and produced by the under-appreciated Floyd Hamberlin Jr. First a little history on Mr. Hamberlin Jr. He has written and produced some of the biggest hits in the genre over many years. Some of his credits include "Mississippi Boy" or "Mississippi Woman" recorded by Charles Wilson and Denise LaSalle respectively, "Bangin' The Headboard" by Tyrone Davis, "If I Back It Up", "Slap Yo' Weave Off" and "Mr. Sexy Man" by Nellie Tiger Travis, "It's Friday" by Lee Shot Williams, "Rockin' Slide" & "Man Up" by Stan Mosley and others by Johnnie Taylor, Cicero Blake, Danny Reed, Lee Morris, etc. Three songs in particular are the reason for his being "Best Record Producer (s) Of The Year". Firstly is the runaway smash "Mr. Sexy Man", which has remained one of the most popular songs (along with "Hell Naw To Da Naw Naw" and "My Sidepiece") in the market for going on four years now! The song is so popular Tyler Perry mentioned the song as a favorite in an interview and the official music video has received over 1.5 million views on youtube. Second is the now classic "Mississippi Boy". The song was first recorded by an obscure artist dubbed Will T and released on a compilation album for Charles Wilson's now defunct Wilson Records . Because of it's popularity Wilson himself recorded what I consider the definitive version of "Mississippi Boy" found on his album "The After Party Deluxe". Later Denise LaSalle covered the song as "Mississippi Woman" for her album "Pay Before You Pump". Still later Sir Charles Jones covered the song with small alterations as "Country Boy", a highly sought-after promo-only release. This song continues to rack up airplay year after year. Thirdly comes the biggest surprise of 2016. In 2008 Nellie Tiger Travis recorded "Slap Yo' Weave Off" written and produced by Floyd Hamberlin Jr. for her album "I'm A Woman". The song was released as the album's first single and was a moderate hit on Southern Soul charts. Fast-forward eight years and the track gets noticed by Jimmy Fallon, new host of "The Tonight Show". Because of the comic element of the song (threatening to slap one's weave off, ahem, is pretty darn funny and original just like Hamberlin) Fallon played a clip of the song during his "Do Not Play" skit where he highlights funny and/or terrible recordings. It was clear by his comments that he was actually impressed with the song (funny rather than terrible) comparing Travis to Gladys Knight and saying it was his favorite of the bunch. By request from Fallon The Roots then did an impromptu performance of the chorus. Following this friends, family and fans of Travis began contacting the NBC-housed show on Facebook and elsewhere to get Travis to come on the show and perform the song. It worked! On January 18th 2017 Nellie Tiger Travis performed the song live with the Roots. History was made. Much of the credit must be given to Hamberlin's genius at producing hit Southern Soul tracks. Other record producers included Bigg Robb, Beat Flippa. Simeo, Ron G., Lomax, John Ward, Ricky White, Michael Lockett, Carl Marshall, Eddie Cotton and Big Yayo.
The BLUES CRITIC staff picks...
SOUTHERN SOUL ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Nellie Tiger Travis
Nellie Tiger Travis only released one song in 2016 ("All The Lovers") but her smash "Mr. Sexy Man" continued to dominate the clubs and weekend Southern Soul radio. Still greater though was her getting name-checked by none other than Tyler Perry for the song and then by Jimmy Fallon of the "Tonight Show" at year's end for a different song of hers! Fallon featured her 2008 song "Slap Yo' Weave Off" in one of his comedy skits, which prompted fans to inundate the show with requests to have Nellie perform on "The Tonight Show". The grassroots campaign worked and Southern Soul, Rhythm & Blues artist Nellie Tiger Travis performed "Slap Yo' Weave Off" live on the program backed by The Roots. This is one of the most thrilling events in Southern Soul from recent memory. Her performance was fantastic- with her not showing even a hint of nervousness. Ms. Travis (and let's not forget record producer of both songs Floyd Hamberlin Jr.) took the genre to another level in 2015/2016. There were other artists we could have picked from William Bell to Bobby Rush to Pokey to Bigg Robb and others but Nellie was the shining star of 2016. She also won Blues Critic's Southern Soul Award for "Best Vocal Performance FEMALE" for "All the Lovers".
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