Wammies, Wammies Everywhere: Chappell Tops Long Winners List

Dave Chappell (at right above with the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours, named best rock duo/group) took home four individual awards, as did folk singer Lisa Moscatiello (shown in 2000).
Dave Chappell (at right above with the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours, named best rock duo/group) took home four individual awards, as did folk singer Lisa Moscatiello (shown in 2000). (By Jezaira Knight)
By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It's not true that everybody's a winner at the Wammies. It only seems that way, at least to those paying attention to the proceedings.

The Washington Area Music Association handed out trophies almost as though they were door prizes at the State Theatre last night, when the local music industry gathered to celebrate itself and Wammies were awarded to a seemingly never-ending list of regional singers, songwriters, guitarists, engineers, producers, managers, video directors, conductors, designers and such.

More than 100 Wammies were given out in 21 genres, covering everything from electronica, go-go and classical to roots rock, reggae, bluegrass and blues.

Guitar whiz Dave Chappell and the bewitching singer and songwriter Lisa Moscatiello took home the night's biggest hauls with four awards apiece, including two of the most significant: musician of the year for Chappell and album of the year for Moscatiello's "Trouble From the Start." The album also captured the best contemporary folk recording award while Moscatiello was named best female contemporary folk vocalist, and Lisa Moscatiello and the Space Dots were named contemporary folk group of the year. Chappell was named best rock instrumentalist, best roots rock instrumentalist and best children's music instrumentalist in voting by the WAMA membership. He is also a member of the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours, which won best rock group/duo.

The awards came so fast and furious for Chappell, he didn't even know he'd won five until somebody asked him if he was taking the rest of the year off to celebrate his haul. "I'm flattered and humbled," he said. "I guess it was just my lucky night."

There may be no room more difficult to play than one filled with schmoozing musicians, especially when the liquor is flowing. The audience was chided several times by speakers and presenters for talking through the awards. (One exception: The room fell silent to hear a list of local musicians who died in 2005.) Performances, too, went unheard by a large chunk of the crowd, which was too busy drinking and dishing to notice the songs in progress. Soul songstress Wayna Wondwossen, for instance, performed a moving tribute to her mother, but her gorgeous voice and the piano accompaniment on "Mama's Sacrifice" were drowned out by the din. She was, however, unfazed, especially after a woman approached later to say that the song had moved her to tears.

"The reward is sharing her story, and when one or two people connect, it's worth it," Wayna said by the bar, as somebody got an award for something whose details we could not hear.

Not even loud outfits could capture the audience's attention: Daniel Lee, winner of the songwriter of the year award, performed while wearing a fleur-de-lis-patterned suit. Others were wearing their Monday-night finest, too, which ranged from sequined dresses and tuxedoes to Western snap shirts and ski caps (not, thankfully, at the same time).

Children's music specialists Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer won three awards, including artist of the year and song of the year ("Scat Like That"). The longtime Wammies faves also won best children's music recording, for the Grammy-nominated album "Scat Like That: A Musical Word Odyssey," while Fink and Marxer won five emeritus awards between them.

Though in this case, winning was actually losing: Upon turning 20 this year, the Wammies introduced the eligibility-killing emeritus "awards" to unclog categories in which the same names are called year after year after year. So, no more children's music vocalist or children's music instrumentalist awards for Fink or Marxer, and no more children's music duo/group trophies, either. The National Symphony Orchestra, go-go godhead Chuck Brown, the superlative bluegrass outfit Seldom Scene and a cappella and gospel greats Sweet Honey in the Rock are similarly ineligible for awards unrelated to specific recordings.

"They are indeed in a category unto themselves," the Wammies ballot explained. "In presenting the emeritus award, WAMA is paving the way for the successors in that category's musical lineage."

Said Brown in accepting his emeritus honors: "I won so many that they can't give them to me anymore."

With Seldom Scene finally out of the way, the vastly lesser-known band Dead Men's Hollow was named best bluegrass duo/group. Dead Men came alive at the awards ceremony, as their "Forever True" was picked as the top bluegrass recording of 2005 and the best debut recording in any genre.

At least one old-timer had a big night at the annual hootenanny: Ola Belle Reed, the country-folk singer from Maryland (by way of North Carolina), was inducted into the WAMA Hall of Fame -- perhaps her greatest tribute since a New York band named itself Ollabelle. Reed, who died in 2002, will be forever known for writing "High on a Mountain," which Del McCoury turned into a bluegrass standard.

The bluesman Tommy Lepson was also inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was set to celebrate by spending the night in the pits with his group, which served as house band for the soiree. Other performers included Esmirelda and the Tidbits, whose "Big Yella" was named the year's best rock recording; Bambu Station, winner of best reggae recording for "Talkin Roots II"; songwriter of the year Daniel Lee; and new artist of the year, the unfortunately named Suspicious Cheese Lords.

The complete list of winners can be found at wamadc.com, which was designed by Lawrence Marie -- who happened to win the best artist Web site Wammie for his work on eddiefromohio.com.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company