San Diego Music Awards: A Win for All

by Bart MendozaOctober 2014

This month we have a look at the annual San Diego Music Awards, from some of the musicians nominated as well as music reviews. The rest of the San Diego Music Thing reviews will follow next month.
San Diego Music Awards
There are really no losers at the annual San Diego Music Awards. Held this year on October 6 at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay, Just being nominated is an honor and the event, free to the artists nominated, is not only the party of the year, but money raised helps bring back music to the area’s schools — win, win, win.
Most artists do consider the event to be important. “It is great to be recognized amongst a community of awesome musicians,” said John Levan of Social Club. “We love this town and do our damnedest to represent SD when on the road.” Santiago Orozco agrees. “To be nominated it means that we are alive and someone out there is listening our product, gift and message with open arms and ears,” he remarked. “We feel grateful there’s people recognizing it and showing us their love for it. At the same time we don’t take it too seriously because we know how much we have to grow, and also we are aware of how much wonderful talent is out there and it doesn’t get recognized. So yes is important for us to be nominated but we always keep our feet on the ground. At the end the most important thing is to be true to yourself and keep growing, as people and artists.”
Action Andy Rassmussen also concurs. “I think it’s a very positive thing to be nominated. It’s great to be recognized for the hard work you’ve been pursuing, and it make you feel as if you’re efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. I’m very appreciative of that,” he said. He’s been nominated numerous times and plans on once again attending. “I’ll be going, along with the guys in the band to just relax and enjoy
the event,” he said. “I have no real expectation that I’ll be winning honestly. I typically jot down something to say on a scrap of paper, but this year I’m going just to have some fun and not worry about anything else.”
He looks at being in the running to be an honor, though of course, like everyone else, he’d like to win. “Funny thing is, I’ve been nominated at least 9 times through my solo work and various bands combined, and I can’t help but feel like the Susan Lucci of the SDMA’s sometimes. Then again, it took her 18 years for an Emmy, so I won’t hold my breath,” he laughed.
“Joking aside, one of my nephew’s was a recipient of a Taylor guitar through the San Diego Music Awards Foundation. I think it’s a great program, and just to know that the proceeds go to a great cause make me feel very proud to be a part of the event, no matter who gets an award or not, it’s the kids that win.”
Orozco will be performing this year, but noted one down side to the proceedings. The party atmosphere can sometimes lead to a less than attentive audience. “We like the award ceremony but we would like for the attendees to pay more attention to the live performances,” he said. “We have noticed many people go there just to gather and many times miss the great acts. For us this event is a great opportunity to get to know and discover all the talent around the San Diego community. It’s vital to know what is happening and who is part of your community. We are pleased and honored to perform this year in the ceremony. It means a lot to us.”
Where would Alison Marae put her award if show won? “I’d put my award in my home music studio where I can be reminded that making music is where I want to be,” she said. Meanwhile Levan plans to be a little more showy. “We were thinking about taping it to the top of the van for the next tour. If you got it flaunt it,” he joked. But perhaps Rasmussen has the best idea of all. “Honestly, if I win, I want my parents to have it,” he said. They’ve been so incredibly supportive of me playing music through the years. If I can’t get them a mansion on a hill, I want them to know how much I appreciate them.”
Gayle Skidmore: Barrel, Trigger, Gun / Rag Doll
Gayle Skidmore has a new single out, once again proving what a formidable talent she is.
The b-side, “Ragdoll” is a quiet, almost fragile, acoustic guitar, bass and voices tune, showcasing Skidmore’s harmonies. It’s really good. As for the A-side? “Barrel, Trigger, Gun,” is yet another great tune, a mid-tempo rocker that manages to melds elements of prog, Americana and pop music into a beautifully realized tune. Topped by an urgent piano riff (think Elton circa “Tumbleweed Connection”), set against synthesizer bursts and a descending middle eight complete with voice changes as the song progresses. Skidmore really knows how to arrange a song, and the lush production is superb. She avoids the obvious with an economy in the many swirling (phased?) elements of the song, so there is space in the song to help build tension, such as the instrumental six seconds starting at 2:00. This is great stuff, but music fans can rest assured — anywhere you dip your toes into Skidmore’s discography you’ll find good music. Her imagination is a wondrous thing to hear.
Triumph of the Wild: s/t
Acoustic Americana, highlighted by the twin harmonies of Christy Barrett and Ryan Schilling. They’ve cited influences from Woody Guthrie to Janis Joplin and that mix, minus any electric elements, is actually a pretty good description. With Schilling on vocals, harmonica and guitar and Barnett on percussion and lead vocals, the duo have an impressively full sound, enhanced by the albums sympathetic production. The songs are all solid, with an occasional Dylan or Lennon/McCartney moment, such as the tempo shift at 1:18 in “Simple Rider,” a song which feels a bit like a “White Album” outtake at that. Barnett has a powerhouse voice that goes from whiskey soaked wail to honeyed tones in a note, heard here at its best on blues stomper “Key To My Head.” Meanwhile, the single would be “Time Won’t Wait,” a terrific song with a melancholy chorus and a rockin’ beat — it wraps up with a split second of someone in the studio saying “nice” at the end of the take. I concur.
Matt Turk: Cold Revival (Turktunes)
An excellent album from New York based Singer-songwriter Matt Turk, with at least three singles to be heard amongst the albums eleven tracks. The disc features mandolin and lap steel at its core, though only one song could really be called “Americana”; a cover of Luke Thomason’s classic “Midnight on the Water.” Indeed, the album has a pop edge that’s equal parts Tom Waits and Billy Joel at his hitmaking best. The single here is “Cold Revival,” it’s descending riff matching it’s melancholy mood and Hammond backing. But there are plenty of other strong tracks including “Battle Song,” an adaptation of “Tunturisatu” and “Quiet Day,” a radio friendly, breezy acoustic shuffle. This well paced disc shows an impressive variety of both songcraft and execution of the songs themselves.
The Turtles: 45 RPM Single Collection (Floedco)
First the basics: 16 A-side’s 1965-1969, across eight 7,” big hole — jukebox friendly, singles, in a box set. Beyond that? This is essential music that should be required listening to both musicians and songwriters today. The tunes are timeless, pop perfection full of inspired arrangements and musicianship and above all, great songs. The big hits, “Happy Together” (#1 1967), “Elenore” (#6 1968) and “You Showed Me” (#6 1969) are all ingrained in the public consciousness, but this set also spotlights some of their lesser known gems from the era, including one of my all time favorite songs, “Can I Get To Know You Better.” This only reached #89 (1966) on the charts, but sunshine pop numbers about young love don’t come any better or more melodic. If you don’t have the Turtles in your collection, this set is the perfect introduction as well as the perfect medium, for one of the great singles bands of the 1960’s.

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