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Copyright Nick Morgan, Kate Kavannagh and Serge Valentin

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like everything by the Malt Maniacs.
2007 Whiskyfun Music Award Winners
by Nick and Kate
It’s gratifying to see that, as the world spirals into a credit-fuelled recession, and the conscientious carefully calculate the size of their carbon footprint, at least some have still got time to swamp our mailbox with nominations and votes for these most coveted of awards. So thank you all, every one, for your input, all of which was characteristically ignored in favour of a selfish, subjective and totally self-indulgent summary of a wonderful year of music. So here goes …
Fractious Family Feuding Lifetime Achievement Award 
Well, there didn’t seem to be any strong contenders for this award in a year of fraternal friendliness, that is until the New Musical Express published an interview with Morrissey by writer Tom Jonze, which included allegations (not for the first time in the NME or for that matter elsewhere) that the singing Harvey Smith look-alike held racist sentiments. Author Jonze subsequently distanced himself from the piece (because, it turned out, he felt it was “too soft” on Morrissey) but the often miserable Mancunian songster and his people, not to be placated, placed the matter in the hands of their lawyers, where it remains, “in court” as they say. Meantime we have a party arranged to see the old boy at the Roundhouse in January – moral dilemma – should we go or should we stay (at home)? Morrisey
Bass Player of the Year 
Tal Wilkenfeld I had written in my notes, Paul Simeon, the stylish and roguish ex-Clash bass player who teamed up with Damon Albarn & Co, in the Good, the Bad and the Queen for his performance on a very wet summer’s night in the unlikely setting of the Tower of London. But then out of nowhere came Tal Wilkenfeld, the deceptively youthful bassist who wowed everyone playing alongside Jeff Beck in his wonderfully intimate gig at Ronnie Scott’s. Stand aside men, for a worthy winner indeed.
Re-released album of the year
Perhaps you recall that we saw Glasgow’s finest funky firebrand Lulu singing with Jools Holland in the summer. If you want to know just how good she was then get hold of The Atco Sessions 1969-1972 – just released for Christmas, it’s her equivalent of Dusty Springfield’s famous Memphis sessions, and well worth the money. But the winner by a long-neck is Fairport Convention’s mould-breaking and genre-shaping Liege and Lief from 1969, which I may add, we were privileged to hear performed in its entirety by the band’s original line-up (minus the sadly departed Sandy Denny) at Cropredy in August. More goosebumps, nostalgia and musical heaven under the stars. Ace. Liege and lief
Seasick Steve

The ZZ-Top Beard of the Year Award

Rarely awarded but fought over with gusto this year, when for some, facial hair was the new black (although oddly the Kings of Leon shaved theirs off). Scrapping for a gong were Grinderman’s wild men, violinist and guitarist Warren Ellis and fearsome drummer Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave’s effort barely warrants mention). But they were totally outshone by Seasick Steve, who launched himself on an unsuspecting British public on a TV show on 31st December 2006, and has been a huge force for the blues and for good during the year. This little tribute to a bearded wonder is the least we can do.

The Luc Besson Cinematographer’s Award
for Music DVD of the Year
You may have noticed that film crews have been almost ever-present at gigs this year, as the tour DVD becomes an essential piece of merchandise in artistes’ money-making armoury. Pity that the crews rarely think of the audience when they plan their shoot. And one from this year’s concerts is already for sale. It’s Dear Mr Fantasy, the memorial concert for Jim Capaldi that we saw back in January with such luminaries as Steve Winwood, Pete Townshend, Paul Weller (singing a memorable ‘Paper sun’ which has been playing on the i-Pod in my head ever since), Jon Lord, Bill Wyman etc. etc. etc. But it’s the film of a gig from back in 2004 that takes the prize – although to be honest we saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on November 12th, and this was recorded at the Brixton Academy the night before. But when I think about that night I can still feel it, so powerful was the performance, and it’s captured as well as it could possibly be in this two-disc set which also includes film of other performances and a live CD. The Abattoir Blues Tour – if you’ve any money left after Christmas then rush out and buy it. Abattoir blues
Best Bang for your Bucks Special Category Award
Cocker A previous contender for this distinguished award, Ray Davies, was in the frame again this year – as were Squeeze for their almost relentless stream of hits a few weeks ago, while the star-spangled guest list who turned out to remember Jim Capaldi also brought Dear Mr Fantasy into consideration. This has to go to Jarvis Cocker and co-conspirator Hal Willner for Forest of No Return – Music from the films of Walt Disney, part of this year’s Cocker-curated Meltdown. With a band of thirty or so, and twenty or more vocalists, ranging from Grace Jones to David Thomas (with the likes of Nick Cave, Pete Doherty and an unsurprisingly intoxicated Shane MacGowen in between) this was already money in the bank. And even if we didn’t quite get all of the 38 songs we were promised (you may recall they kept us waiting in the foyers for half an hour or so whilst rehearsals finished) the sheer breadth and depth of eccentricity, entertainment and simple fun was almost overwhelming. Awarded with honour.
The Amy Winehouse Award
Sadly, she didn’t show up to collect it.
The errr… what was that all about? Award
A puzzling category, but no more puzzling than Steven Seagal’s gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire with his band, the unfortunately-named Thunderbox. Quite why this purveyor of pornographically violent action flicks (I should mention also that he’s a famous philanthropist) should reincarnate himself here as ‘The Mojo Priest’, a wooden and stumbling blues guitar player (‘though, as I’d be the first to admit, a hell of a lot better than me) complete with a faux southern accent, I can’t imagine. And why was Yussef Islam there watching him in an almost empty theatre? And come to that why were we there? What was that all about? I think I need some Lightning Bolt Asian Experience Energy Drink, with Tibetan goji berries and Asian cordyceps it fortifies the immune system, decrease blood pressure, and promotes energy and vitality, then I’ll be able to perform like Mr Seagal too. Steven Seagal
Jim Sclavunos

Drummer of the Year

We’ve seen some pretty good skin-merchants this year, but none went through their chops with as much grace, grit and the occasional grimace as the bearded and pink-suited “tallest man in rock and roll”, Jim Sclavunos of Grinderman, and sometime, of course, of the Bad Seeds, and his own band the Vanity Set. If you want to get an idea of his prowess then take a forensic listen to the award-winning Grinderman album, from his driving rhythms to his louche throwaway riffs. We got all of this and more during a scintillating performance at the Forum – and if you want to see what Sclavunos looks like in action then take a look at Whiskyfun’s Luc Besson Cinematographer’s Award for Music DVD of the Year winner.

Virtuoso of the Year
Blimey – just think of Jeff Beck, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Richard Thompson, Martin Carthy. Martin Simpson, Bert Jansch, Guy Barker, Dave Swarbrick, Allen Toussaint, Charlie Musselwhite, Donald Fagen, Steve Winwood and the entire cast of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – well it’s almost impossible to pick between the immense and varied musical skills of these and the many other wonderful artistes whom we’ve been able to see and listen to this year. And our award winner has a shy and almost reluctant stage persona that belies his genius and sublime performance. I wrote the following of the gig he played with Chick Corea at the Barbican: “Rarely will you see someone engaged with an instrument with such intensity – I count one missed note (“thud”) all night – otherwise his playing is as close to perfection as you might get.” And I meant it. Virtuoso indeed, and truly memorable. If he comes to your town don’t even think of missing him. And he’s so shy you’ll just have to guess who.
Album of the Year
We all liked Richard Hawley’s enchanting (is that a word you can use about Sheffield?) Lady’s Bridge very much, and personally I considered that Richard Thompson’s Sweet Warrior was one of his best works for a while. Martin Simpson’s Prodigal Son was a real and very pleasant surprise, and I have to mention that the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (who sadly postponed their Shepherds Bush Empire gig a couple of weeks ago) came out with a new album, Pour l’Amour des Chiens, which was much better than one might have feared. All this and more. Grinderman
But only one winner, the Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn Casey co-operative’s Grinderman. Grinderman, according to Sclavunos, sums up the way the band play – “we grind songs out” – possibly, but there’s no grind listening to this powerful, dark, witty and enervating stuff. Buy the CD, close the curtains and play it VERY LOUD – it’s from the heart of rock and roll.
Seasick Steve

Performer You Would Most Like Your Daughter to Bring Home

Well apparently she almost did bring home a Bad Seed, which would have been much against Daddy’s advice. But to show that I bear no ill-feeling against older men this award goes not to the youthful and much commended Jamie T, but instead to the heavily bearded Seasick Steve, one of the year’s most engaging performers, and certainly someone to enjoy a dram and a jaw with while the girls cook up a mess of who-knows-what in the kitchen ….


Performer You Would Never Want Your Daughter to be Seen Out With

The winner of this award took the honour by such a distance from other contenders that I can only wonder at the degree to which he has developed his venomous stage persona. Suicide’s Alan Vega (who “now holds all the threat and menace of an arm-waving crazed old man at a wind-swept bus stop on a deserted South Shields sea-shore”, or so I wrote earlier in the year) can certainly forget any chance of tea and scones chez Morgan.

Alan Vega

Guitar of the Year

What’s going on? Suddenly everyone wants a trash guitar. From Seasick Steve’s 3-stringed Trance Wonder guitar, bought from his friend Sherman Cooper in Cosmo Mississippi for $75 to Dexter Romweber’s ’64 Silvertone, everyone was headed for a trash guitar. And the winner?

British Blues Sensation Ian Siegal’s Harmony Stratotone H44 guitar. Despite the fact that when we last saw it both sellotape and gaffer tape were largely responsible for keeping it intact, Siegal uses it to deliver the sharpest electric slide guitar you can imagine. Why would anyone want to collect Single Malt Scotch Whisky when you can buy guitars like this?
Venue of the Year
Strangely an old aerodrome in the middle of Bedfordshire, and home to Jim Driver’s Rhythm Festival, it’s the Twinwood Arena, a perfectly formed and friendly little auditorium with (by festival standards) superb facilities and really helpful staff. So it should come as no surprise that we’ll be heading there at the end of August for 2008’s weekend of rhythm. Twinwood
David honeyboy Edwards

The Whiskyfun Long Service Award

This most honourable award goes to David “Honeyboy” Edwards, who on a long hot London summer night took us deep into that space somewhere between the Delta and Chicago, playing with a remarkable verve for a man of 92. Don’t we all wish we would last that long, and that well?….

Gig of the Year
From the moment that she leant forward on the microphone at an almost impossible angle, foot on monitor, jeans, long hair, baggy white shirt and long jacket (sound familiar?) and sang “Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine” this was always going to be the winner. No matter that it was only May and that we had many fine gigs before us, Patti Smith was just goose-bumpingly good. Of course we didn’t get to see Led Zeppelin at the 02 which many have written up as the best gig of the year but I think it would have been hard to beat Ms Smith’s burning-eyed passion and electric delivery. Patti Smith
Single Most Outstanding Song of the Year
Grinderman Richard Thompson came very close with two (which might be considered to be cheating) performances of his Iraq War song ‘Dad’s gonna kill me’ from his 2007 album Sweet Warrior, but the most powerful, visceral and ear-splitting three and a half minutes of the year came from Grinderman performing ‘No pussy blues’ at the Forum.
Simply outstanding. “Nick” asked an interviewer of Grinderman’s Nick Cave, “Is there a deeper meaning to ‘No Pussy Blues’?”. “No, it’s about getting no fucking pussy”. ‘Nuff said.

The Fookin’ Non-plus Ultra Award

Sheffield’s fookin’ Richard Hawley for a fookin’ wonderful album (Lady’s Bridge) full of fookin’ wonderful tunes and guitar playing, and a fookin’ fantastic gig at the Roundhouse. And we’re all off to see him in fookin’ February. Fookin’ ace.

Natalie Merchant

Serge’s 2007 Music Award

Nellie McKay came close (her music lulled us during most of our private tasting sessions at the Islay Festival this year) but let’s face it, Natalie Merchant is a more important artiste and as she’s had a stunning Retrospective album out this year, this Award goes must go to her.


There's nothing more down there...