In bringing back the "Picked to Click" category for this year's local music poll, voters were asked what relatively new or unknown local artists were primed to break out in the coming year. ("None. They're all as broke as they're gonna get," one voter assured us.) The vote was pretty diffuse though seven artists got multiple mentions. Two of them -- Makeshifters the Glass and Blair Combest -- made the proper Top 10. The five others are profiled below (in alphabetical order), a diverse mix of hip-hop, hard rock, soul, roots, and rock-and-roll that might fairly depict a vision of the immediate future of Memphis music.
1. Chopper Girl
Genre: Dirty South hip-hop
Best-case scenario: Feminem with a gangsta lean
Will be spotted at: CD-release party for Dirty Dolla$ Saturday, May 1st, at the Complex at 704 Madison Avenue
With the success of Three 6 Mafia protÇgÇ Lil' Wyte, it's clear there's room out there for a pale-skinned version of Memphis gangsta rap, and Chopper Girl, aka Holland Taylor, seems poised to bring a little gender equity to the trend. First heard on the local comp Southern Raw Divas, where she demonstrated a surprisingly sure flow on the solo cut "Step On Bac," Chopper Girl steps out this month with the release of her solo debut, Dirty Dolla$. And if the by-the-numbers album art and song titles like "Murdah" and "Kill or Be Killed" suggest received content rather than personal statement, there's enough obvious skill and community-wide anticipation here to suggest that dismissing this artist would be an unwise move.
What a voter said:
Things are still a little backward in the Dirty South, and in the male-dominated world of rap, females are often seen as nothing more than fresh meat. Those who do cross the line from sex object to rap artist are usually tough, black Gangsta-Boo types. Rarely does a white girl manage to cross that line and still be taken seriously, but Chopper Girl has done it. Throwing down dark Triple 6-style beats set to lyrics with as much guns and bling-bling as the lyrics of any male rapper, she's proven that a little white girl can be as ghetto as she wants to be. It won't be long before the rest of the world finds out. -- Bianca Phillips
2. Egypt Central
Best-case scenario: Coming to an arena near you
Has been spotted at: The New Daisy Theatre
This Raleigh-based hard-rock band (named after a road in the 'burb) was all set to perform at a local Grammy showcase last fall at the New Daisy Theatre but pulled out at the last minute after sparking interest from Lava Records. Free Sol won the showcase, but Egypt Central made out okay with a recording contract from Lava, an Atlantic Records subsidiary that also boasts Kid Rock and newly signed, Memphis-connected Christian rockers Skillet. And so these relative newcomers have been in Los Angeles recently recording their debut album with a producer who has helped hone the sound of nÅ-metal successes Limp Bizkit, Korn, and Staind.
What a voter said:
Egypt Central has a lot of talent, good looks, and a lot of balls. And the most important thing is that they want this really, really bad. The band got picked up by a label on their eighth (eighth!) live show ever. They have signed a pretty good deal with Lava Records, with most of the bells and whistles. They are recording this summer and touring for the rest of the year. Go get 'em, boys. Don't forget to have fun. -- James Manning
3. Halfacre Gunroom
Best-case scenario: Post alt-country Uncle Tupelo
Has been spotted at: Earnestine & Hazel's, the P&H CafÇ, the Hi-Tone CafÇ
This roots-rock quintet has been playing around town for a couple of years but looks to get a boost this year with the release of their debut album, Wrecked, on the Massachusetts indie Icarus. Recorded locally at Easley, the record splits the difference between two recent local alt-country faves, the Pawtuckets and Lucero, boasting the rootsy purity of the former and the raw, rocking undercurrent of the latter. And in singer-songwriter Bryan Hartley, who named the band after a reference in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, Halfacre Gunroom may boast a sharper, more conversational lyrical viewpoint than either.
What a voter said:
Great, young singer-songwriter.
-- Sherman Willmott
4. Candice Ivory
Best-case scenario: The jazzy India.Arie; the R&B Norah Jones
Has been spotted at: The P&H CafÇ, Tha Movement showcases
This 21-year-old former vocalist for popular local band CYC wrote, arranged, and produced the vast majority of her promising debut, Path -- Undefined. The album was recorded in New York City last year, where Ivory was a student at New School University. Ostensibly a local jazz record, Path -- Undefined lives up to its title by bouncing from radio-ready neo-soul and India.Arie-style "acoustic soul" to tracks that echo Brazil and bop and hard rock. And, best of all, Ivory puts it all across live as an earthy, likable performer.
What a voter said:
She's a unique singer and an unusually gifted producer. Just hear a few songs from her self-produced debut CD, and you'll agree.
-- Eddie Dattel
5. The Lights
Genre: Everybody's talking 'bout new sounds, but it's still rock-and-roll to them.
Best-case scenario: Memphis' entry in the "The" band sweepstakes
Has been spotted at: The Hi-Tone CafÇ, Young Avenue Deli
The Lights are a supergroup of sorts in terms of the Midtown indie-rock and roots scene. Frontman Bret Preston led the popular group Eighty-Katie. Guitarist Kevin Cubbins played lead in the Pawtuckets and has become a sought-after studio hand through his work at Memphis Soundworks and Easley. And the band is driven by the ace rhythm section of John Argroves (the Secret Service, the Glass, Alvin Youngblood Hart) and Mark Stuart (the Secret Service, the Pawtuckets, Alvin Youngblood Hart). The band's recent club gigs have built a considerable buzz, whetting the appetite for a studio album that's sure to come.
What voters said:
It's not nuclear physics, it's just fun rock-and-roll. -- Julie Etheridge
All of this unbelievable talent in one band has to add up to something worthy, which it does. I cannot wait for these guys to come out with a CD. -- Janet Wilson
Others receiving votes: Slick Ballinger, David Brookings, Lynn Cardona, Chosen View, The Coach and Four, The Color Cast, Ron Franklin, Free Sol, Gusto, Richard Johnston, The Memphis Snake Doctors, Mercy's Webb, Mr. Airplane Man, Dan Montgomery, The Pirates, The Secret Service, The Six String Jets, The Tim Terry Experience, Tunnel Clones, Jed Zimmerman.