By Rita Ballou

(LSM Jan/Feb 2013/vol. 6 – Issue 1)

If you are reading this, I think it’s safe to assume that the Mayan’s were wrong with their end of the world predictions and we are all still here. Phew! Well, to celebrate — and keep in mind that I’m writing this before we’re officially in the clear, so call me an optimist — I thought I would commemorate the highs and lows of the past year (hopefully not the last year) in Texas music by introducing my very own awards show. And by “show,” I of course mean “list,” because as it turns out, renting a venue and red carpet and production crew and celebrity presenters and publicity is crazy expensive, and I was too lazy to put together a clever Kickstarter campaign to get other people to pay for it all. But who knows? Next year’s edition just might be glitzy enough  for network prime time TV … or at least CMT. Until then, though, grab your popcorn and snarky friends, imagine a cheesy dance montage to kick things off, and settle in for the 2012/2013 Velvet Koozies!

The “For the Troops” Velvet Koozie

No matter who you voted for or where you stand on the matter of our nation’s wars in the Middle East, just about every American can agree on this much: We’re all for the troops! But it’s one thing to just say you’re for the troops, and quite another to go the extra mile by staging a big-budget music video with explosions, a real-life reality TV babe, and a surprise-ending homage to The Sixth Sense. Josh Abbott not only did all of that in his video for “Touch,” he also shaved his head and dressed up like a real soldier! What did any of that have to do with the song itself, a tune which seemed written for starry-eyed 15-year-old girls to listen to while reading their Twilight books? Not a thing, really — which only further shows how much Josh cares. “Touch” was for the troops, but Abbott, this Koozie’s for you!

The “Best Use of a Fundraising Platform” Velvet Koozie

This award goes to Bruce Robinson and Kelly Willis for their Kickstarter campaign, in which the first couple of Texas country music was “interviewed” by one Gil Webb in a series of hysterical videos. Not only did the campaign successfully fund their new album, Cheater’s Game, the videos were so entertaining, you didn’t even mind the fact that Willis and Robison, who’s penned a number of Top 10 and even No. 1 hits for the superstar likes of George Strait, Tim McGraw, and the Dixie Chicks — and owns his own recording studio — played the no-way-we-can-pay-for-this-without-YOUR-help card. Mitt Romney should be kicking himself for not using The Gil Webb Show to raise cash for his own campaign.

The “Stick Your ‘Carney Man’ Request Where the Sun Don’t Shine” Velvet Koozie

Cross Canadian Ragweed fans who were still under the delusion that Cody Canada and Jeremy Plato’s new band, the Departed, was going to shape out to be the same old Ragweed under a different name got a reality check with Adventus. Not only did the Departed’s rocking and downright funky second release and first album of all-original songs sound nothing at all like Ragweed, half the songs were sung not by Canada but by co-frontman Seth James. Not that the Departed’s more adventurous fans had any complaints about that. In fact, not only did Seth’s hot, dirty, sexy-angel mojo win over plenty of wo-MAN fans, more than a few of them came away from Adventus and/or the band’s live shows asking themselves the question, “Cody who?”

The “Cash In on those Last 15 Minutes” Velvet Koozie

This one’s a tie, going to the Casey Donahew Band and JB and the Moonshine Band, both of whom had the wherewithal to cast the most random CMT reality TV stars in their music videos: for Donahew, it was Ali Dee and Brooke Jeter of Texas Women, and the Moonshine Band used Sweet Home Alabama’s Paige Duke and Jeremiah Korfe. We all remember those highly relevant TV shows don’t we? Bonus audience Velvet Koozies to everyone who even remembers the actual videos. (Guilty pleasure disclosure: I actually kinda liked the Donahew tune, but as long as I don’t mention it by name, I keep my cred, right?)

The “Yellow Snow” Velvet Koozie

This Velvet Koozie goes to Curtis Grimes for being, uh … “Irresponsible” and partaking in a little too much altitude up on the mountain during the Music Fest at Steamboat Springs, Colo., and “writing” his name in the snow — if you catch my drift.

The “Screw You, He’s From Liverpool” Velvet Koozie

You’d think just being Ray Wylie Hubbard would be cool enough. But leave it to Mr. Snake Farm to outdo himself by going out and getting a real, live BEATLE to sing and play on his latest record, The Grifter’s Hymnal — enlisting Ringo Starr to cameo on his own song, “Coochy Coochy.” Bonus points for getting a song called “Coochy Coochy” played on Americana radio.

The “Still Can’t Believe He Finally Made a New Record” Velvet Koozie

Take a victory lap, Stoney LaRue! Yes, I know his record came out in 2011, but seeing as how it took him six years to record a new studio album after The Red Dirt Album, his Velvet kinda still feels like a brand new release. Check back in 2017 to see if it’s still his newest album. Oh, and LaRue also gets a Velvet Koozie for naming his album Velvet. It’s just that easy, folks.

The “At Least You Didn’t Pull A Mike Eli” Velvet Koozie

There’s plenty of these Velvet Koozies to go around — one, in fact, for every single Texas artist that remembered the words to the “Star Spangled Banner” while performing the National Anthem at a Texas Ranger games this year … all 162 of them. And when I say all 162, I am referring to the artists, not the number of games the Rangers played. Seriously, who DIDN’T sing the National Anthem at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington this year? I’m surprised even I wasn’t asked.

The “Best Song Covered By A Mainstream Country Music Superstar that Wasn’t Written by Charlie Robison” Velvet Koozie

So many people in the “Nashville Sucks!” brigade got their panties in a wad over mainstream country cheeseball Kenny Chesney having the gall to cover Charlie Robison’s “El Cerrito Place,” you’d think they had no idea that Robison didn’t even write the song himself. It’s a Keith Gattis song, people, and he’s collected royalty checks from a lot more people than just ol’ Charlie, so get over your Texas elitism and celebrate the fact that a song this good — no matter who’s singing it — got some play on country radio to counter all the “Truck Yeah” crap. Also? Props to Chesney, who is proving of late to having a lot better taste than people give him credit for: I can’t remember any Texas country artists in recent memory naming an album after a Guy Clark song (Hemingway’s Whiskey).

The “Didn’t You Already Do That?” Velvet Koozie

This one goes to The King, George Strait, for announcing his retirement from touring in a highly anticipated press conference. George fans mourned when they heard the news, but give the guy a break, people — playing those two or three shows a year can really grind a guy down!

The “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” Velvet Koozie

Miranda Lambert’s still riding high with her music career — with or without the Pistol Annies — but judging from her acting debut on Law & Order: SVU, she’d best leave TV stardom to her hubby. It’s not that she was terrible on SVU, but most of her fans would probably agree that she fared better with her appearance on Say Yes to the Dress.

The “Oh, the Irony” Velvet Koozie

This Velvet Koozie goes to Jason Eady for his Top 40 debut on the Billboard Country Albums Chart with AM Country Heaven, an album on which he bemoaned the state of modern country radio. How true country was Eady’s album? So country that the title track couldn’t even crack the Texas Music Chart.

The “I Would Do Anything For Mailbox Money (Including That)” Velvet Koozie  

Y’all know Meat Loaf’s from Texas, right? Well, apparently the Loaf’s pretty hip to the Texas country scene — or at least it appears that way when you take a gander at the credits of his latest album, Hell In a Handbasket, which features no less than four songs written or co-written by scene favorite Sean McConnell, including “Another Day,” written by McConnell and Wade Bowen. Granted, Meat Loaf albums don’t sell quite as much these days as they used to, but those royalties should still buy Bowen a few fist-fulls of sparkly new man-jewelry.

The “Hold My Diaphragm and Watch This” Velvet Koozie 

This Velvet Koozie award goes to all the ladies on the “Hold My Baby And Watch This” tour. Ironically, only one of the ladies involved in this outing actually had a baby when the tour started, but two of them walked away pregnant.

The “As Seen On TV” Velvet Koozie 

This koozie, also affectionately known as the “Billy Mays Commemorative Award,” goes to the late-night television “docudrama” Troubadour, Tx. While all 14 of the people at home watching this season have truly appreciated the shorter episodes and the obvious increase in star power by showcasing the lives of better know Texas music artists such as Roger Creager, Wade Bowen, Josh Grider and Cody Johnson … the jig is up. Even if the show is actually more watchable now than it was in its first season, we have all figured out that it is just a big ol’ infomercial for the production and management companies that represent the artists that are on the show. Those Nashville carpetbaggers ain’t fooling us!

The “David Wooderson” Velvet Koozie

And last but not least, our final — and arguably biggest — Velvet Koozie goes to … Rich O’Toole! Just like Matthew McConaughey’s character in the movie Dazed and Confused, Rich has demonstrated time and again an endearing refusal to acknowledge the fact that he has been out of school longer than most of his fans have been of legal drinking age, as proven by his commitment to writing song after song about Spring Break and Instagraming pictures of tacos at 3 a.m. As David Wooderson himself would say, “All right, all right, all right!”