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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

 

Best Museum

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

225 South St., Williamstown, Mass.

In serene and lovely Williamstown, a fittingly handsome building houses the most impressive collection of art in the region, specializing in 19th- and 20th- century American and European painting (even more specifically, the musuem showcases a number of gems from French impressionists and American notables such as Winslow Homer). The museum also assembles top-flight special exhibitions, such as the current Unknown Monet.

Best Museum (Bring the Family)

The Berkshire Museum

39 South St., Pittsfield, Mass.

With special exhibits featuring such themes as toys, bugs and solve-it-yourself detective mysteries, along with permanent exhibtions, many interactive, that appeal to children’s interest in animals, rocks, dinosaurs and such, it’s no wonder that this is a family favorite way to spend an afternoon in the Berkshires. And don’t forget the aquarium downstairs. Or the mummy upstairs. The kids will be having so much fun, you might even be able to coax them into the gallery where you can show them several fine examples of Hudson River School painting.

Best Avant Garde Museum

MASS MoCA

87 Marshall St., North Adams, Mass.

What exactly is it that we love most about MASS MoCA? Is it the amazingly creative re-use of an electronics factory? The sprawling, enormous galleries, the largest space for contemporary art in America? The classic movies projected outside? The unique musical performances? The stunning exhibits? What we love most about MASS MoCA is that it is just a leisurely afternoon drive away.

Best Museum for Exhibit-Related Programming

Albany Institute of History and Art

125 Washington Ave., Albany

Everyone loves the AIHA. (They usually win the Reader’s Pick for Best Museum, too.) One of the things that makes them special is the programming that goes along with each exhibit. If you visit the museum regularly, then you know that the Albany Institute continually offers lectures, artists’ receptions, theme parties and family friendly events related to whatever they’re exhibiting. (Peruse the events calendar in this paper once in a while and you’ll see them listed.) The AIHA knows how to enhance the museum experience.

Best Multipurpose Museum

New York State Museum

Empire State Plaza, Albany

This isn’t a museum with just one mission; the New York State Museum has multiple missions. The permanent exhibits educate thousands every year about the people, history, geography and plant and animal life of New York state. Traveling exhibits, like the Bank of America-sponsored Great Art Series, bring world masterpieces to our state capital. The NYSM also uses its great auditoriums to present concerts and special events, including marathon screenings of works by local filmmakers. And it has that nifty carousel, too—we can’t wait until the repairs are done.

Best True-to-its-Mission Museum

Norman Rockwell Museum

9 Glendale Road, Stockbridge, Mass.

As you could guess from the name, the Norman Rockwell Museum is the best place to see the works of America’s best-loved illustrator, Norman Rockwell. Along with all 323 covers Rockwell painted for The Saturday Evening Post, the Rockwell Museum offers temporary exhibits of other illustrators of the same period, which not only puts Rockwell’s work in context, but gives us a window into a long-gone period in American publishing. For example, check out their terrific current exhibit of illustrations for woman’s magazines of the 1940s to ’60s.

Best Floating Museum

USS Slater DE-766

Hudson River (Broadway near Madison), Albany

During World War II, this Cannon-class destroyer escort battled Nazi gunboats and Japanese submarines. After decades of hard duty in foreign waters, the Slater made its way up the Hudson to Albany, where restoration began in 1997. The only original DE still in existence, the Slater has been restored from a rustbucket to a see-worthy museum, thanks to a heroic grass-roots effort mostly performed by naval veterans. Tours of the ship provide a vivid sense of the onboard lives and military operations of its 216-man crew.

Best Gallery (Get the Hell Outta Your Parents’ Basement)

Albany Center Galleries

39 Columbia St., Albany

Albany Center Gallery made a great move this year, from its confines at Albany Public Library on Washington Avenue to a big, spacious gallery downtown on Columbia Street. The new space lets the gallery breathe, and it’s very inviting to patrons. Congratulations on your move, ACG! It’s like you’re all grown up. Sniff.

Best DIY Gallery

The Red Gallery

29 2nd St., Troy

The basement came with the brownstone, but Anne-Marie Dambournet-Gunn wasn’t really using it. So she transformed the unique space into a cool gallery. To alleviate some of the duties of running said gallery, she implemented a simple procedure: If you want to show, sign up and do the work. That’s it. The space is tight but inviting, and the shows that we have seen so far are top-notch. Creative use of excess space—that’s an idea we would like to see catch on everywhere.


Best Gallery Tour: Hudson.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

Best Gallery Tour

Hudson

It used to be if you said “Hudson,” the free-association reply would be “antiques.” (If you go back a couple of decades, the reply might have been unprintable.) There are still plenty of reasons to go antiquing in Hudson, but it’s the art galleries we honor here. We’re not going to list them all by name because we don’t want to inadvertently leave anyone out, but Hudson is now the place to go on a weekend gallery tour.

 

 

Best Art Gallery Food

Kismet Gallery

71 4th St., Troy

New kid on the block Kismet in Troy rocks a hardcore political manifesto and features some righteous art, but man, the food. We ain’t talking cheese and crackers here peoples, no: fresh crab rangoon, chicken skewers and chocolate fondue. It’s like we died and went to, well, Kismet on an opening night.

Best Visual Artist

Laura Glazer

Known regionally for both her former radio show, Hello Pretty City, and her exquisite photography, pixie-like Laura Glazer has been an admired fixture on the local arts scene for years. She has lately been focusing on drawing in addition to her photography, and her recent exhibit at Albany Center Gallery, Birds Are Beautiful, featured whimsical sketches of birds (which can now be found in the form of bags, T-shirts and onesies, among other things, at local boutiques and on etsy.com). Make no mistake, her drawings are almost as charming as she is.

Best Photographer

Robert Guille

Whether it’s in the pages of Upstate Fashion, on the cover of Chronogram, or hanging on the walls of your local gallery or coffeehouse, Guille’s distinctive hand-tinted prints are sure to catch your eye. His subject matter seems to be yanked from waking dreams, and his colors are wonderfully playful. The man has been doing what he does for so long, we have to say that he is a master of his technique.


Best Performance Artist: C. Ryder Cooley.

PHOTO: Shannon DeCelle

Best Performance Artist

C. Ryder Cooley

With her antlers, deer head and accordion, singer-poet-artist C. Ryder Cooley has charmed and confounded audiences all over the Capital Region. Whether singing her own dark, free-form songs or Henry Mancini, Cooley is fascinating. It’s provocative, challenging work laced with wit and a sense of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

Best Arts Festival

Bard Summerscape

We almost titled this category “Best Arts Festival to be praised in the International Herald Tribune.” That’s how big Bard Summerscape has become. It’s not just about the size and number of events, though. It’s the quality and thoughtfulness that go into the planning. (Well, and the money—Bard apparently has boatloads of money.) This year’s theme, Elgar and His World, takes us deep into the culture of the United Kingdom at the beginning of the last century through music, theater, opera, cabaret and film. The breadth of Bard Summerscape is amazing.

Best Art Trend

Arts Nights

Every Damn Town

It started regionally with Albany’s First Fridays—monthly events where downtown galleries and museums combine efforts to institute a citywide arts walk, complete with after parties, music, snacks, and most importantly, plenty of art to admire and to buy. This idea spread like wildfire throughout the area, and now we have these types of arts nights in Troy, Schenectady, Ballston Spa, Glens Falls, Poughkeepsie, Hudson, and Pittsfield, Mass. We want to take a moment and give a shout out to Saratoga Springs, who, though they didn’t exactly start the trend, have been doing the monthly arts nights for years.

Best Cultural Freebie

Saturday Morning Open Rehearsal at Tanglewood

297 West St., Lenox, Mass.

A lovely summer morning, a picnic breakfast on Tanglewood’s splendid lawn, the Boston Symphony Orchestra tuning up for their evening performance—and trust us, they sound pretty darn magnificent even when they’re just “rehearsing.”

Best Dance Venue

Jacob’s Pillow

358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.

We all know that the Pillow showcases the very best in dance from around the world, but the facility itself is almost as impressive as the performers, with its theaters, dance studios, extensive archives, and lovely grounds, gardens and trails. Add a variety of community programs, including free outdoor performances, and you’ve got just about everything you could ask for from an arts institution.

Best Dance Series

Proctor’s

432 State St., Schenectady

Over the past year, Proctor’s brought some of the most innovative dance troupes to their stage. From Pilobolus to Alvin Ailey to Burn the Floor’s amazing show Floor Play, we drank up every last bit of it. We look forward to next season’s programming, which will include performances by companies like African Footprint, Momix, Peru Negro, and the St. Petersburg ballet.

Best Dance Troupe

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company

This year, Ellen Sinopoli and her company blew our minds when they performed the modern dance original work (created by Sinopoli and architect Francis Bronet) Spill Out! at the Gasholder Building in Troy. We commend them on their originality and imagination.

Best Movie Theater

Spectrum 8 Theatres

290 Delaware Ave., Albany

“One might expect that the Spectrum would, one fine year, get some competition for this category, yet year after year it goes unchallenged.” We wrote that four years ago, and it’s still true. They still have the best snacks, and an uncanny knack for balancing art-house fare—who else in the first-run business books so many foreign-language films?—with box-office blockbusters. (In other words, we’re still delighted they booked Blades of Glory.)

Best Film Series

New York State Writers Institute

Page Hall, 135 Western Ave., Albany

Don Faulkner, William Kennedy and their cohorts at the New York State Writers Institute stepped up their game this year. There were the expected classics by Kurosawa, Renoir and other masters, but tracking down and screening the very looooong director’s cut of the notorious Heaven’s Gate? Balancing films from Angola and Cuba with glossy Hollywood gems starring Barbara Stanwyck and Clara Bow? Nicely programmed.

Best Classic Movie Theater Experience

Proctor’s Theatre

432 State St., Schenectady

You still can’t beat Proctor’s, with its huge screen and 1920s opulence. It’s what, in a better world, the moviegoing experience would always be like.

Best New Movie Theater

Bowtie Cinemas Movieland

State Street and Broadway, Schenectady

While they’ve only been open three months, we’re tipping our hats to Schenectady’s new downtown six-screen multiplex for their state-of-the-art stadium seating, solid mainstream programming and unusual (for here) selection of real-food snacks. We hope they’ll become a fixture in a downtown that could use a few more.

Best Film Series Sponsored by Beef

Certified Angus Beef Film Series at the Palace Theater

19 Clinton Ave., Albany

Thanks, Certified Angus Beef, for this fine film series at our region’s other grand, supersized movie house, the Palace Theatre. From single showings of classic and recent films to fun-and-quirky events—an all-day Lord of the Rings marathon, a nifty pairing of the two versions of The Manchurian Candidate—the results won’t make a movie buff ask, “Where’s the beef?”

Best Theater Company

StageWorks/Hudson

41 Cross St., Hudson

The little theater that could, StageWorks/Hudson stages some powerful, seldom-seen-north-of-Manhattan plays. Despite the loss of its usual spring signature and most adventurous productions, Play by Play, to the corporate confines of Schenectady in the fall, StageWorks/Hudson stretches its audiences’ imagination with risky, excellently done plays you won’t ever see in dinner theaters.

Best Director

Kevin G. Coleman

Coleman is Shakespeare & Company’s secret weapon: actor, director, teacher, he heads the troupe’s nationally honored education program and too rarely plays the clown role in a Shakespeare production, and even more rarely directs at the company. That’s a shame, because his production of Stoppard’s Rough Crossing is tight, fast, and funny.

Best Musical Director

Julianne Boyd

For years Julie Boyd has been honing her skills as a director of troubled or troublesome musicals. She breathed new life into Mack and Mabel and Cabaret, and her sublime production of Follies represented her at a height difficult to match. But this year’s production of the very different West Side Story exhibited her ability to mount even the biggest and most dance-intensive musicals in Barrington Stage Company’s new facility in Pittsfield.

Best New Theater Facility

Barrington Stage Company

30 Union St., Pittsfield, Mass.

Now that the mezzanine has been renovated, BSC’s theater on Union Street in Pittsfield is complete, and what a treat it is. Excellent sightlines, comfortable seats and temperatures, a sizable orchestra pit, and a stage that proved its versatility with last year’s jewel boxed setting for Ring Round the Moon and this summer’s expansive staging of West Side Story, establish the place as a dream factory for theater year round.

Best Theater Restoration

The Colonial Theatre

111 South St., Pittsfield, Mass.

Go to see anything here, but leave ample time to have your breath quietly stolen as the meticulously restored theater transports you back to the 19th century in all of its architectural splendor, gilt elegance and artisans’ pride. From the original seating in the balcony to the sweeping embrace of the mezzanine and box seats to the exceptionally plush seating in the orchestra and the magnificent acoustics, sightlines, and proscenium, the labor of love begun by Robert Boland evokes tears of joy.

Best Use of Donated Money

The Jaffe Fund/Berkshire Theatre Festival

Each year Ed and Lola Jaffe donate a substantial sum of money so that high-school students from surrounding communities may see the entire mainstage season gratis. The Jaffes also donate $20,000 to the theater, but it is this fund that should be the inspiration for all the summer theater educational programs around. If kids never get to see fully mounted shows, they never experience the magic of theater. The season is dedicated to Ed Jaffe, who died this year; Lola continues their mission.

Best Venue for Orchestras

Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

Second and State streets, Troy

And by orchestras, we don’t just mean the Albany Symphony or touring large ensembles from Japan or Russia. We mean big-band jazz outfits, like the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra. The size and peerless acoustics of the Troy Music Hall make for a powerful musical experience, whether the ensemble is playing Mahler or Mingus.

Best Venue You Should Get to Know

Carl B. Taylor Community Room

Schenectady County Community College, Schenectady

This is an absolute gem of an auditorium, and a great place to catch a concert. The acoustics and sight lines are first rate; the stage is wide and accommodating for both soloists and larger ensembles. It may be called a “room,” but, believe us, it’s a real fine hall.

Best Outdoor Venue

Agnes MacDonald Music Haven

Central Park, Schenectady

A beautiful, welcoming space in a great urban park. Nice stage, with plenty of good spots to sit and enjoy the show—without that overmanaged, herded-in experience you can suffer through at other local outdoor venues.

Best Orchestra

Albany Symphony Orchestra

David Alan Miller and the good folks at the Albany Symphony Orchestra continue to exceed expectations with excellent performances, smart programming, engaging world- premiere works, and a commitment to community outreach, arts-in- education programs and audience-building that is innovative and sophisticated. Consider this: In this past season, various ASO permutations performed concerts of beloved repertory (the Russian night, with the opera excerpt, was superb), a mixed-media concert with video artists, and young people’s programs with Cowboy Dave (one of Maestro Miller’s alter-egos). Pretty good, eh?

Best Summer Music Series for Adventurous Programming

Music From Salem

Hubbard Hall, 25 E. Main St., Cambridge

We like Beethoven. OK, not all of us like Beethoven that much, but most of us like Bach and Brahms and Schubert and . . . you get the picture. There are no shortage of places to hear this music in the summer. Music From Salem, up yonder in Cambridge, balances a traditional repertory with less-performed works by living composers—some of whom occasionally come to Hubbard Hall to perform.

Best Literary Series

New York State Writers Institute

University at Albany, Albany

We could prattle on about why this is a perennial winner, but why? It’s simple to list some of the writers who came to UAlbany so far in 2007: Norman Mailer, Wallace Shawn, Rebecca Wolf, Susan Cheever and Richard Ford. We hear that there are some big names coming this fall, too.

Best Local Author

Edward Schwarzschild

In 2005, Schwarzschild made a splash with his debut novel, Responsible Men. The work drew comparisons to Arthur Miller and accolades from the spectrum of mainstream press. Schwarzschild was only getting started. This year he was named a Fulbright Scholar and this fall he'll release a collection of short stories called "The Family Diamond." Word has it that on top of his engaging literary ability, he's also a "can't miss" professor at the University at Albany.

Best Concert Venue (Single)

Palace Theatre

Since getting a snazzy new marquee and interior overhaul, the Palace has diversified its programming by presenting, literally, something for everyone. Over a two-month period this summer, the musical schedule alone has included Hall & Oates, drug casualties Ween, Christian rockers Casting Crowns, and “Weird Al” Yankovic. Add to that an active slate of film screenings, plus comedy and theater productions, and you’ve got a jewel in the heart of downtown Albany.

Best Concert Venue (Double)

The Egg

Empire State Plaza, Albany

The Egg’s two theaters continue to impress. Either could claim to have the best sound in the area and few would dissent. All we could ask is to see some new names in there—not that we’re sick of Richard Thompson and Buddy Guy or anything like that.

Best Concert Venue (Triple)

Proctor’s Theatre

432 State St., Schenectady

Schenectady’s long-standing “If We Build It, They Will Come” ethos will be put to the test when Proctor’s opens two new performance spaces this fall. In the meantime, the Proctor’s main stage has been updated handsomely and is as wonderful a place as ever to catch not only music, but theater, film, and other productions.

Best Concert Club

Revolution Hall

425 River St., Troy

Revolution Hall is simply a comfortable place to see a show. The rich wood floors and inviting balcony recall some of our favorite venues in New York City, and the sound inhabits Rev Hall in such a way that there really is no bad place to hear the show. The acts booked at the Hall have gotten progressively more interesting and worthwhile. With a little more variation in their booking, the Hall could well end up being the most overall appealing concert venue in the Capital Region.

Best Variety Club

Tess’ Lark Tavern

453 Madison Ave., Albany

It’s a sports bar! It’s a nightclub! It’s a theater! It’s many taverns in one! Under Tess Collins’ adventurous ownership, this longtime neighborhood tavern has become the most versatile social space in town. Depending on the night, patrons can watch bands, perform at an open mic, catch the game, cheer on a burlesque troupe, or ogle a fashion show. And it’s available seven days a week for simply enjoying drinks with friends and partaking of tasty pub grub. Meanwhile, the list of activities is still expanding: In September, Tess’ will be the new host of Alien Nation dance night.


Best Band: Rocky Velvet.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

Best Band

Rocky Velvet

Local rockabilly kingpins Rocky Velvet have been popular in the region for more than a decade, but they’ve suffered from the more-than- occasional extended hiatus over the years while the members, particularly wunderkind guitarist Graham Tichy, have set out around the country on other gigs. They’ve been back in a big way this year, though, releasing their first album, It Came From Cropseyville, and undertaking a busy round of performances in the area. The boys are back and burning.

 

Best Rock Band

The Erotics

Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, Albany’s the Erotics are still kicking it chest-high with a sleaze-rock flair that’s unmatched around these parts. A case could be made that they’re just hitting their stride now, a decade in, with recent tours taking the band across the U.S. and throughout Europe, their fifth album due out soon, and several movie soundtracks enlivened with that brazen trash-appeal.

Best Pop Band

The Loyalty

There was a time when we couldn’t have justified this label, but since emo has become a staple of Top 40 radio, it seems safe to call the Loyalty, simply, a pop band. The Queensbury-based foursome have played a bunch of cherry gigs of late (including opening for the Strokes in Albany last fall), and the handful of tunes they have released so far are smart, punky, head-bobbing slices of radio-ready pop-rock—a better categorization might be Best Band That Sounds Vaguely Emo But Actually Doesn’t Suck.

Best Pop-Punk Band

Kitty Little

“Kitty Little’s songs range from sugary pop to driving post-punk, and we love them for it.” We wrote that four years ago, and still feel the same way—even if the music seems quite a bit harder. The band flew under the radar for a while, but released a propulsive, catchy CD, Know No Shame, in late 2006. Longtime guitarist-vocalist Matto Laque (who still keeps busy with other projects) and bassist Jessie Pellerin (also of species-benders Evolution Revolution) have been “keeping it real since 2000” (according to their MySpace page); we wish them (and drummer Geoff K.) well.

Best Punk Band

Public Access

Yes, they have two saxophone players and, yes, they often end up on bills with third-wave (fourth-wave?) ska bands, but Public Access are first and foremost a punk-rock band, and a damn good one at that. They’ve been banging out the anti-hits for six years or so now, and they’re actually getting more aggressive, further bolstering our point. Plus, we’re not about to start a Best Ska Band category.

Best Nouveau Prog Band

Aficionado

We couldn’t think of a more succinct way to classify a band who sound like the Minutemen, the Beach Boys, the Mars Volta, King Crimson, Dashboard Confessional and Kansas, all in the course of one four-minute song. This seven-piece army of sound (eight, if you count the lighting guy) is one of the Capital Region’s most original acts. Catch them the next time they’re home between tours.

Best Old-School Metal Band

Empire State Troopers

Have you heard about that Jack Clutch? He’s a white-trash hero. The man counts to zero. That’s the best line ever, from the best band to arise from Ballston Lake in . . . well, let’s just say ever.

Best High-School Metal Band

Riffamortis

During a teenage battle of the bands at the Colonie Public Library two months ago, one group of youngsters from Schenectady stood above the rest with their sheer bravado, commitment, and skill. On that night, Riffamortis brought the thunder down like the best of their ancestors and showed that, while still in high school, they are serious contenders with the big boys for local metal gods. There’s just the matter of getting that learner’s permit first . . .

Best Freak-Folk Band

Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned

Self-described “Internet street musicians,” this gang of sweaty but huggable folk-waifs write songs filled with a wary innocence worthy of their hobo moniker. Acoustic guitars, horns and the occasional singing saw combine in a luminous haze while the vocalists sing of rambling through fields near and far, thankful to the people they meet along the way, be they good or otherwise. The Hobo Banned’s psych-folk songs don’t hearken back to the past as much as they yearn for the future.

Best Americana Band

The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers’ Catskills folk is rough around the edges and intoxicating. The U.K. magazine Uncut called them the “next generation of Americana heroes.” We couldn’t agree more. Their big-label debut Tonight at the Arizona sounds piped-in from 40-odd years ago, back before Dylan owned a Strat and the Band was, simply, a backing band. Ryan Adams, eat your heart out.

Best Acoustic Duo

Palatypus

While many like acts overcompensate for the lack of a backing band by playing loud and aggressive, Palatypus choose to explore the softer dynamic possibilities of two acoustic guitars. Matt Durfee’s melodic finger-picking is the perfect counterpart to Mike Poulopoulos’ Spartan folk strumming, and their two voices blend like gin and tonic on a summer day. Bring a blanket when you catch one of their frequent happy-hour performances at Red Square—this is music designed for laying around and passing a spliff.

Best Acoustic Trio

The Whippersnappers

Just as precious antiques should be preserved and displayed, the melodic gems of the folk tradition need to be handed down and performed. Fiddler-banjoist George Wilson, fiddler-mandolinist Frank Orsini, and guitarist/pianist Peter Davis are the consummate curators of a marvelous musical museum bursting with Celtic fiddle tunes, old French Canadian songs, and Appalachian string-band music. In the realm of acoustic trad, the Whippersnappers rule.

Best Jug Band

Ramblin Jug Stompers

With all of the jug bands in the area this was a close one to call (ha ha). But one jug band stood head and shoulders (and jug) above the rest. For the members of Blotto who are in this band, this is a return to roots, as Blotto’s origins are in’70s jug band the Star-Spangled Washboard Band. RJS take their old-time DIY ethos seriously though, taking a cue from Dave Van Ronk’s early ’60s jug band the Ragtime Jug Stompers. So many jug bands, so little time . . .

Best Transplanted Band

Severe Severe

The three members of Severe Severe came here from Memphis, Tenn. (and, originally, Los Angeles), last year, bringing with them a dark, pulsing sound that calls to mind mid-period Cure, the Rapture and Fugazi—it’s like goth turned inside out. Here’s hoping they stick around.

Best Cover Band

FLAME

FLAME are not your average cover band: The members have a range of developmental disabilities. They are, however, the most remarkable, and they get the nod here not just because of their back story, but because they’re a great band, period. Based out of Lexington Center (Fulton County Arc), they’re certainly the most talked-about cover band in the area as well.

Best New Band

Alta Mira

Clifton Park’s Alta Mira have been gracing the region’s clubs since late last year with a sound that fuses anthemic pop-rock to ornate, expansive arrangements, a la XTC, ’90s Radiohead, or some of Tool early stuff. They’re handy with a time- signature shift, they can rock a waltz with the best of ’em, and singer Joe Michon-Huneau has a serious set of pipes. Watch for their debut EP next month.

Best New Solo Artist

Ashley Pond

We’d like to say that Ashley Pond is the Capital Region’s answer to Cat Power, but that wouldn’t be at all fair: The minimalist, blues-based guitar-and-vocal explorations on Pond’s forthcoming debut disc Dala are far more outgoing. She claims to be influenced by Nick Drake and Led Zeppelin, and we can hear both: Her soulful voice sweeps from sassy purr to assured wail, and her guitar work is intricate and interesting (listen: There’s nary a strum to be heard). A welcome addition to the area’s already bustling singer- songwriter scene.

Best Vocalist (Female)

Sarah Pedinotti

She’s been described as a singer with the potential to follow Norah Jones’ path to stardom (and big bucks), but Sarah Pedinotti has a voice and style all her own. With a showcase at the Egg earlier this year, and the record labels lapping at her door, Pedinotti’s future is so bright, you should catch her now while she still plays weekly in her Saratoga hometown. Wear shades.

Best Vocalist (Male)

Sean Rowe

As thick and sweet as molasses, Sean Rowe’s baritone is one of those rare singing voices that will leave you forever changed. Like Al Green, Van Morrison, or Gil Scott-Heron at their best, this is deep soul you’ll feel right down to the tips of your toes, and, uh, other nether regions.

Best Guitarist (Electric)

Drew Benton

We hereby demand a dramatic increase in the frequency of Complicated Shirt live shows, because we need Drew Benton to tear our faces off. Benton’s guitar heroics are (almost) as vitriolic as his lyrics, and reason enough alone to check out the band.

Best Guitarist (Acoustic)

Maria Zemantauski

She may play a nylon-string guitar rather than the more common steel-string flat-top, but don’t be fooled—classical/flamenco ace Maria Zemantauski doesn’t pussyfoot around on those six strings and twenty-odd frets. She can set bass notes rumbling like an avalanche and treble passages flying like sparks off a blowtorch if she’s so inclined. Around here, she is unmatched for both chops and the power to telegraph emotion that all art aspires to.

Best Guitarist (Down by Law)

Trey Anastasio

Sentenced to serve out his post-drug arrest probation within spitting distance (er, that’s piss-testing distance) of Washington County, the famous Phish-founding guitarist and composer whiles away the days in his temporary residence of Saratoga Springs. Sightings of the red-headed ax man are a frequent, although low-key, occurrence downtown; will he leave without playing an impromptu gig at a local venue? We’ll find out.

Best Drummer Posing as a Singer-Songwriter

Steve Candlen

While our area is blessed with a precious coterie of talented drummers, special mention must be made of the one and only Steve Candlen. Yeah, he’s a fine enough writer, with some killer tunes and a smooth, soulful singing voice to his credit. But what we really love is his drumming: Candlen brings a sense of swing, fun and finesse to any trap set he sits behind. And like all great players, he elevates any musician fortunate enough to be playing alongside him.

Best Nuggets-Style Garage rock

Ian & the Aztecs

Everything, from the low, fuzzed-out fidelity of the recording to the rock-&-roll intensity of the performance, makes this vinyl single sound as if it was recorded by some white-hot, undiscovered garage band in the mid-’60s. But it’s very much a contemporary performance, led by the killer vocal attack of Ian Carlton (Rocky Velvet) and backed by Graham Tichy (Rocky Velvet, Lustre Kings), as well as Eddie Angel and Jason “Teen Beat” Smay, both of Los Straitjackets (a band you might recently have caught performing—for the seventh time—on Late Night With Conan O’Brien).

Best International Superstars

The Kamikaze Hearts

We’re being a bit facetious here, but, with their latest disc, Oneida Road, raising their profile here and across the pond, the Hearts are still poised for a breakout success. It’s never too late to be an overnight sensation.

 

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