Most of you will know that about this time of year, the Hat finds a new quill and writes a piece about the up-coming British Blues Awards voting. The final lists are now in and the public voting starts on June 1st. Get ready.
That brave little band of organisers have once again donned their hard hats and body army (sadly there is no Award for Being Mad Enough to Organise An Awards programme) and without doubt, the fans are already marshalling their voting troops - and the critics and the nay-sayers are already sharpening their witty green felt pens.
If you spend any time at all around the blues world, you discover very quickly that, for the most part, fans and gig-goers are kind, pleasant, cheerful, knowledgable, supportive people who are prepared to listen, to learn, to experiment with new music, go crazy about up-and-coming young talent and spend a lot of money on a regular basis punching the air and following their favourites.
There is a camaraderie that embraces the first-gig novice, to the gnarled veteran, from the club regular to the wide-eyed new visitor that is a wonderful part of the enjoyment of watching and listening in the blues world.
Every year, once all the final lists are out there and the voting begins, there is an outbreak of comment on the social media about who's hot and who's not. This can be hilarious reading, thought provoking and informative. This is the way with any short list. My dad played the concertina at funeral wakes and I always thought he should get an award for that...sorry I digress...
However last year, the genial banter brought with it some ugly commentary, some of it the worst I can remember – often from people who should know better. Inevitably there will be people, who for whatever reason are opposed to the BBAs....it's divisive, could be more inclusive, awards are not necessary and so on... I have no problem with that. Also, inevitably there will be people who failed to read the criteria and are outraged that their favourite musician isn't on the list – even though they didn't produce an album and barely appeared for a live performance last year. Go back and do your homework before tearing into your keyboard.
Last year, for a while, we were knee deep in experts who knew better. They hated the Awards, the voting process, the Panel – which was variously Useless, Ill-informed, Stupid and A Fix. The worst aspect for me was the fact that some of these critics chose to attack individual finalists who they felt had somehow got there by 'knowing people', 'having friends' - which in itself said more about the critic than the artist. Even the kind, gentle, sweet and Harmless Hat was abused by an expert for....er...'just blogging about his mates'...I fear his critical scatter-gun came from Toys R Us...
The debate about the BBAs is a good one, some would say it is a vital and necessary debate. Speaking personally, I am anxious that the debate continues and the process evolves. The BBAs are far from perfect and need improving in a number of ways. But, here's the thing, to my knowledge, none of last year's keyboard experts have come up with something better, some of them have declined to join the panel, none have come forward to help out - and most of them fail to realise that sitting behind your Facebook/Twitter page, criticising individual musicians who have worked their socks off, offering no actual constructive criticism – is not smart. It is not clever. It is shabby. It is the kind of side-line bullying that crops up all over the social media when someone you don't like does something good. Out come the Capital Letters and the Green Felt Pen. I think the blues community is Better Than That. Yes, please fill a page with some constructive, interesting stuff; start up some banter; flip us some wit and some wisdom.....otherwise go away and take your keyboard with you...
As you know, The Hat likes nothing better than quoting himself so here's something wat I rote last year at the time – let's hope it doesn't get repeated this year:
“I don't care too much about those who hang around and throw mud. What I do care about is that the (current) Tower of Babel back-chat runs the risk of drowning out both the importance of the need for a Blues Awards of some kind and how important it is to salute those on the final lists who have plied their trade with such huge talent and huge pride. So let us stop, take a breath and at least acknowledge that."
I am still of that view. If you have something constructive, interesting - even witty to say, then join in now. The finalists this year are all pretty amazing.
It's Time To Call Off The Dogs...
The Blues Man in The Hat