Denton band The Southpaw Preachers nominated for Dallas Observer Music Awards, plans first album

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The Southpaw Preachers sit in Paschall Bar in Denton, Texas. (Photo by photographer Ed Steele, used with permission from the Southpaw Preachers / facebook.com/southpawpreachersband)

DENTON, TEX. — The Southpaw Preachers, which considers itself “dirty, gritty soul-funk,” has been nominated in the Best Jazz Act category for the Dallas Observer Music Awards 2016, along with Funky Knuckles and Grammy Award-winners, Snarky Puppy.

“Being nominated without having an album out is pretty rare,” the band’s singer Hale Baskin, 26, told Wanderer News.

However, Southpaw’s chances of winning are limited and the award would likely go to the Knuckles or Snarky Puppy, Baskin said.

“The jazz category is a little odd this year. Not only are we not exactly a jazz act, but Snarky isn’t based in Texas anymore. They moved to New York,” she said. “But we’re not bummed about that at all. Just getting the nod is an honor. I know that we’re coming up in the scene.”

The Observer likely nominated Southpaw because its members are alumni of the renowned University of North Texas jazz program, Baskin said.

Members have even participated in the Grammy Award-winning One O’Clock Lab Band and played with names including Josh Groban, “Blue” Lou Marini, Mario Cruz, the Count Basie Big Band and Cuban Jazz trumpet legend Arturo Sandoval.

But the Preachers, more of a fusion act, don’t really play jazz.

“Although our music can be dark and pretty heavy, you can hear the jazz influence in the harmonic structure and complexity,” Baskin said. “We sometimes use fancy chord changes, we have horns and people take solos. But our solos aren’t the longer jazz excursions of Funky Knuckles or Snarky.”

Baskin formed the band with Colin Campbell, its musical director, for a one-time show during the opening of the Denton venue Harvest House at the 35 Denton music festival in 2015.

“We received a much warmer response than we ever expected,” Baskin said. “Everyone in the audience had a good time dancing, drinking and hollering. So we booked more shows just for fun, since we pay our bills with private parties and general freelancing as musicians.”

The Preachers also includes Campbell on keyboards and organ, Horace Bray on guitar, Lupe Barrera on drums and Mike Luzecky on electric bass. The group also uses a three-person horn section with Kenny Davis on trombone, Jordan Carr on trumpet and Jonathan Mones on saxophone.

But Baskin said everyone will immediately recognize the band’s “Dallas Sound.” Some have described the sound as bass guitar-heavy, often a focal point in the song, and rooted in gospel music. It’s groovy and exists across musical genres — but most noticeably in music influenced by Snarky Puppy and the Funky Knuckles.

“Someone hearing us playing this ‘Dallas Sound’ may equate it to Jazz because Snarky is jazz and Snarky is Dallas,” Baskin said.

Campbell said that the band’s bassist has mastered that sound.

“Mike is the master of tones and sounds; he has a huge pedal board he uses to create some dirty, dirty music,” Campbell said in a press release earlier this year. “A huge part of our funky and diverse sound is thanks to our incredible bass player and drummer.”

Baskin said the Preachers are halfway through recording its first album, set for release in mid-December. The band is recording at Redwood Studios, owned by McKenzie Smith and Joey McClellan of folk rock band Midlake.

“McKenzie is also producing and he’s a fucking monster of a producer,” Baskin said. “We picked him because he’s a drummer and we call our drummer ‘the princess.’ Drums are super important to us and having a drummer produce ensures the drums are going to be mixed perfectly.”

The album will include four cover songs and two originals written by Campbell. The originals are fan favorites “Blank Minds” and “Anthem.” The band released a live studio performance video of “Blank Minds” earlier this year that was filmed at Blackbeard Studios in Houston.

“The music runs the gamut from heavy hitting funk to disco to neo-soul inspired grooves and a little metal outro thrown into one of the tunes,” Baskin said. “We take a huge range of influences and meld them into a cohesive sound that is decidedly Dallas.”

The track list includes covers of a Jimmy Cliff song Baskin learned as child called “Sitting in Limbo,” “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder, “Just My imagination” by The Temptations and “Didn’tcha Know” by Dallas legend Erykah Badu.

“And they are aaaalllllll fucked up,” Baskin said. “With the exception of The Temptations’ song, people won’t immediately recognized the other songs even if they know them.”

Baskin said she chose the Badu song to play homage to Dallas royalty in a creative way.

“She is the queen and has a huge influence over everyone in the band, so I hope she doesn’t hate it,” Baskin said. “She’s definitely fiery. I love a lot of her tunes but that one is about losing and finding yourself; it’s kind of a coming of age story to me.”

Voting ends Dec. 2. The DOMA showcase takes place in Deep Ellum on Dec. 3 and $10 general admission pre-sale tickets will be available Oct. 11. More than 50 area bands are scheduled to perform, according to the website.