Parsing the Poll

Behind the scenes at Best Music Central
By BOB GULLA  |  April 4, 2006

Every year at this paper we produce something called the Best Music Poll ballot — you’ve seen it — and every year we encounter a new crop of challenges in putting it together. The local music scene being what it is here in the area — and everywhere else, for that matter —it’s forever in a state of flux, a fluid, biomorphic blob that changes its shape hourly. Bands come, bands leave. Bands change members, swap drummers, hire keyboard players. They splinter into separate pieces. There are hundreds of bands to keep track of across the great spectrum of sound, from conventional blues/R&B to punk and electronic, and it all needs to be considered when the BMP ballot rolls around.

This year, as in each of the past few years, we retired a few names in order to make room for new blood. Acts such as Roomful of Blues, Young Neal and the Vipers, and Duke Robillard have already had their musical jerseys hoisted to the rafters. Inveterate country blues picker Paul Geremia, oft-decorated Celtic folk heroes Pendragon, and tenor sax monster Dan Moretti have also had their collective unis drycleaned and stored for posterity, which is why you won’t be seeing them on the ballot this year.

Some bands take a hike, but only for a while. Zox, Sas­quatch, and Midnight Creeps, for example, still call Providence home, but they seem to be spending more and more time far from these shores, on that lonely stretch of highway called “The Road.” Ideally, rock and roll bands are built for that road, and should spend as much time as possible logging time on it. Of course, that doesn’t al­ways happen. But, still, it’s a job, a goal, a birthright (sort of), for rockers to play music for people. And the more diverse and far-flung the audience the better.

And speaking of far-flung, Lightning Bolt, Made in Mexico, and the forward-thinking cabal of sonic medalists are also local, but have since become co-opted by a wider national audience. We worried momentarily about nominating them in the “No Longer Local” column while at the same time throwing their new recordings in the Best Album category, but what the hell. They made great records and they deserve all the notoriety they can get.

And speaking of great, another goal we tried to accomplish with this ballot was to give as many deserving art­ists a berth as possible. In some cases, this meant shuffling things around a bit. For example, we nominated Becky Chace in a different category this year than usual; ditto with Heather Rose and Santa Mamba (formerly Planet Groove). Not only does this make sure that as many de­serving artists are on our list as can fit, but by removing them from their customary perches it gives us a chance to open up slots up for names we haven’t been able to place on previous ballots: Lori Amey, Otis Read, Verbana Darvell, Katahdin’s Edge, etc.

Sure, there will always be a few problems, a few complaints, about our tactics — some of them may even be legitimate. But we think that this poll is one of our strongest yet. One thing’s for certain: it has enough homegrown talent to measure up to cities twice our size. For all the grumbling many of us do about how down-in-the-mouth the local scene is, there’s a superabundance of great music in these parts. And it’s about time we all took notice of it.

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