October 20, 2007 / 12:00 AM / 11 years ago

Detroit awards show spotlights soul up-and-comers

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Between the Grammy Awards, the BET Awards, the American Music Awards and the MTV Video Music Awards, the last thing anyone needs is another music awards show — unless you’re an independent soul artist.

With its Readers’ Choice Awards, soul music Web site SoulTracks.com has been giving under-the-radar talents a chance to vogue in the spotlight. The site’s third annual awards event will make the leap from the virtual to the physical world, a change indicative of the indie soul scene’s growing popularity.

The 2007 awards show will rev up November 16 at the 500-seat Riverfront Ballroom in Detroit’s Cobo Center. A rotating group of hosts will welcome a performance lineup including such indie soul beacons as Eric Roberson, Gordon Chambers, Maya Azucena and Conya Doss. Participating in the special lifetime achievement tribute to Stylistics lead singer Russell Thompkins will be Maysa and Phil Perry. Among the presenters is ‘70s-era R&B singer Linda Clifford.

SoulTracks publisher Chris Rizik said the live awards show was the next logical step after factoring in reader queries (from here and overseas), the re-formation of the legendary Stax label and the proliferation of soul music conferences and festivals.

“There has been increased growth on the site,” he said, noting that his site averages 100,000 visitors per month. “But whereas a couple of years ago, visitors were coming mainly for the old-school material, more and more people are checking out the new soul acts.”

With nominations determined by a select group of artists, publishers, writers and others working in the music industry, the SoulTracks awards comprise six categories: song, album, female, male, duo or group, and new artist of the year. Leading this year’s field with three nominations apiece are Roberson, Rahsaan Patterson and Anthony David.

In addition to major support from the city of Detroit, Rizik is working with lifestyle/promotion firms Jodine’s Corner, Mosaicthump and Urban Organic. The principals behind two burgeoning soul festivals — Frances Jaye (Dallas’ I Got Soul) and Terry Bello (Atlanta’s Soul Summit) — are also lending a helping hand.

The awards show doubles as the lead-in to the Urban Organic Festival (November 17-18). Now in its sixth year, the music, culinary, fashion and film fest is an outgrowth of founder Drake Phifer’s Urban Organic promotion firm, which has worked with such artists as Dwele, Raheem DeVaughn, Kem, Leela James and Goapele. “Connecting the Dots” is this year’s festival theme. Among the scheduled events: Roy Ayers headlining a Saturday night concert hosted by Amp Fiddler and featuring emerging acts from Detroit and other markets.

“These are artists, at least for now, who aren’t going to be recognized by the Grammys,” Rizik said. “The idea is to give them an evening to celebrate what they do and receive some of the attention they deserve. It also gives people the opportunity to listen to what most of radio isn’t playing — and let them know these artists are worth taking a chance on.”

Reuters/Billboard

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