25th Annual Makin Waves Awards

Makin Waves’ annual holiday gift to the New Jersey music scene celebrates its silver anniversary with a bevy of goodness, particularly for top winners Renee Maskin and Jackson Pines, who each won three. And here we go …

Band of the Year: Dogs in a Pile

An excellent studio album, Bloom fused Dogs in a Pile’s tasty jams ‘n’ grooves with great pop songwriting. Other highlights of the Dogs’ year included a live album, professional narrative videos, lots of live videos, and extensive tours that took them as far from home as Iceland, opening for Disco Biscuits. A two-time Makin Waves Best Live Band, the Band of the Year will end 2023 at Sony Hall and Putnam Place.

Male Artist of the Year: Sam MacPherson

How fitting that the Makin Waves Awards celebrates its 25th anniversary with its first multi-generational winner. Sam MacPherson’s dad Jeff, aka Zeke Moffit, won the very first Male Artist of the Year Award in 1989. The young man made the old boy proud with heavy touring in support of his full-length debut album, Powerlines, that included a cross-country trek with Australian songsmith Ruel and a homecoming holiday show in Red Bank.

Female Artist of the Year: Renee Maskin

This marks the second time Renee has won this prize. This time, it’s based on the strength of two 2023 Mint 400 albums: a self-titled debut with her backing band, the Mysterious Wilds, and Shimmer, the veteran multi-hyphenated talent’s masterpiece. See her live January 7 at the Songwriter Showcase of RRAT Club in Pipersville, Pennsylvania, and March 29 for a Mint 400 Showcase with label mates San Tropez of Highland Park and Volatile Youth of Canada at Old Franklin Schoolhouse in Renee’s hometown of Metuchen.

Song of the Year: “Lust of the Night” by The Azures

Really looking forward to this bluesedelic groovy-doomin’ chocolate mushroom band’s debut album, but in the meantime, I’m more than happy with The Azures’ latest single, “Lust of the Night,” a haunting, mystifying ode to evening pleasures.

Songwriter of the Year: Renee Maskin

How good a songwriter is Renee? Well, on my national Top 10 album list, her latest and greatest album, Shimmer, is sandwiched between work by the likes of Starling Arrow, Eileen Jewell, Joy Oladokun, Antje Duvekot, Megson, and Honey and the Bear. ‘Nuff said!

Album of the Year: “Pine Barrens, Volume One” by Jackson Pines

My wife wants a lakeside cabin in the Pine Barrens. I should play her this warm, inviting musical equivalent. I love that Jackson Pines made the effort to shine a light on the Appalachian-like music of New Jersey’s Pinelands, as do folk festival organizers now enamored with the band. If there’s one thing I want from the New Jersey music scene, it’s “Volume Two.”

Best EP: “Reverie” by Fake Pockets

Another Mint 400 recording act taking a top prize. Fake Pockets share a penchant for power-pop that continues on Reverie, a six-song follow up to the 2020 EP Magnolia Street. The fab foursome beautifully blend the expressive vulnerability of Natalie Merchant with the pop edge of The Pixies and Weezer.

Best New Artist: Emerson Woolf & the Wishbones

2023 demonstrated great things to come for this emerging folk-rock band based on the strength of their jangly, harmonic debut single, “Oblivion,” and a charming, energetic live set. Look for an EP in early 2024.

Best Live Act: Jackson Pines

What I love about Jackson Pines is that they can go authentically folkie as an acoustic two-piece to please folk festival organizers, academics and others who never got over Bob Dylan at Newport, but then they can rip it up as a four-piece at The Stone Pony and blow rock bands off the fabled stage.

Tsunami Award: Asbury Park African-American Music Project

It’s no wonder that Bruce Springsteen donated $100,000 to this fine organization. They make Asbury’s rich West Side music history so much fun. And God bless ‘em for reviving The Turf Club. I love driving into Asbury through the West Side now.

Best Vocalist: Anya Schildge of The Well Wish

I’ve been wanting to give this nod to Anya for a while now. This is her year! Her lovely vocals on The Well Wish EP, Promises, couldn’t be beat!

Best Guitarist: Eric Lindberg of Nefesh Mountain

A one-man bluegrass band who also plays mandolin, banjo, and dobro, Eric is a master at whatever strings he plays. Can’t wait to hear what he does on the 2021 Makin Waves Band of the Year’s long-awaited forthcoming EP.

Best Bassist: Mike Noordzy

When not leading one of his own bands, this upright acoustic bassist adds greatly to the rhythms of Renee Maskin, High Standards Trio, and Chris Welcome. Guess I’ve got a thing for upright bassists because Mike marks the third winner in a row.

Best Drummer: Joshua Van Ness (The Wag, Bryan Hansen, Natalie Farrell, Jarod Clemons)

Each month, I am highly impressed by Joshua’s performance schedule because typically half of the calendar is booked with shows. Not only is he a very sought-after drummer with an impressive resume, he also has five solo LPs or EPs to his credit and should release another one as soon as possible!

Best Keyboardist: Ryan Gregg

This Asbury singer-songwriter-keyboardist- producer constantly is working on stage, in the studio, and on social media as a solo artist, founding member of The Shady Street Show Band, singer- keyboardist in Ocean Avenue Stompers, keyboardist-vocalist in “Stormin’” Norman Seldin’s Big Band, and as part of dueling piano duos with Norman, as well as Des Spinks of Des & the Swagmatics. Yet, Ryan never seems overworked. Rather the more he works, the more joy he experiences, expresses and shares. Look for a long-awaited solo album to drop in 2024.

Best Instrumentalist: Max Carmichael (Jackson Pines, Cranston Dean)

Banjo, mandolin, and Blackwood flute sound great with either of the roots acts Max plays. He also plays a lot of Irish music on all of his instruments, which makes for an awesome musical foundation.

Producer of the Year: Mike Montrey

Juliana Frangella’s LP Intrusive Thoughts is masterfully produced by Mike, a celebrated singer-songwriter-guitarist who, along with his excellent self-named Americana band, has won a few Makin Waves Awards. He took the angst of a privileged suburban white girl and turned it into a cohesive exercise in expression, the emotions of which are amplified by delicious layers of performances, especially the vocals and guitars.

Video of the Year: “Scrimshaw” by Renee Maskin

A great song inspired by a small exhibit of artifacts in Maine, “Scrimshaw” was made into an equally inspiring and impressive experimental short film – much more than a music video – by Renee’s talented BF, acclaimed filmmaker-photographer John Decker.

Bob Makin has produced Makin Waves since 1988. Follow Makin Waves on Facebook and contact Bob
at makinwaves64@yahoo.com.