It has long been maintained that the talent pool in southern New Mexico is deep, strong and, for the most part, virtually untapped outside our market. One organization in particular has been taking notice for years and honoring the musical artists in our midst. This year, they are honoring eight local artists with nominations for the 2015 New Mexico Music Awards.
Randy Granger, a multiple NMMA nominee and winner, is one of those musicians being so honored, in the Native American category for his song “Ancestor’s Lament,” from his seventh commercial release “Ancient Grace.” As a veteran of the system (he won his first NMMA award in 2004, then again in 2010 and 2011), he understands the importance of such recognition for musicians living in Las Cruces.
“The New Mexico Music Awards is organized and run by studio owners and producers,” he said. “They’re really big on quality, clarity and emotional content. They have studio ears, so they’re listening from a quality standpoint first. I believe that being the second largest city in the state, we are severely underrepresented. That’s why these awards are so important, because they help us get more gigs and better exposure. I’m always honored when somebody recognizes the work that I put into my music. Particularly industry people.”
New to the scene, but making big waves are the boys in the Country band Border Avenue. Nominated in the Best Country CD category and sharing that honor with another Las Cruces musician, Chris Baker – for his release “As The Gate Swings Free” – Border Avenue’s self-titled release is the album debut by the group. That makes the nomination so much sweeter.
“We’re excited,” said founder and bass guitarist Chris Nunez. “It’s the first time we’ve ever submitted our music to anything like this, so being nominated is an honor. In this particular category, there are two of us from Las Cruces going up against each other, which is kind of cool. Whether we win or not, I just hope that this nomination will get more people to hear about us and listen to our music. If it can inspire them in some way, that would be great. And if they’re willing to share our music, even better.”
Another newcomer to the NMMA, but one with years of experience is Naomi Vega, whose 16th cd “Crei” has been nominated in the Latin category. The daughter of local musical legend Tony Vega, of Anthony and the NiteLighters fame, Naomi made a concentrated effort to create an album – consisting of Spanish love songs from the 1940’s and 50’s – that would be noteworthy for its quality. The NMMA nomination suggests she hit the mark.
“I looked at that list and said, ‘wow, there are five us nominated and Nosotros is in that group!’ I thought it was pretty amazing to be part of it,” Vega said. “What makes this really special is that I actually got to collaborate with my dad. This is the first time I put a professional cover on the cd and got the copyrights for the songs. I actually took the steps to do all that professionally so I could enter it into the New Mexico Music Awards. I’m a little nervous, but I’m hoping this is a good thing for Las Cruces. People need to know that there are a lot of amazing talent here in Las Cruces.”
Also included in the nominations, alongside Granger, Vega, Baker and Border Avenue, are industry veterans and local favorites Tim May and Steve Smith in two categories, Bluegrass and Best Instrumental for the sprightly jig “Scotch On The Beach,” rising stars Efren Aleman and Steps Of A Giant in the Americana category for “Peace” and film team Scott Saiz and Deb Johnson in the Best Video category for their work on “Monogability” by Albuquerque group the Duke City Riots.
Winners of the New Mexico Music Awards will be announced at the NMMA banquet and show, taking place Saturday, May 30 at the Sandia Resort and Casino in Albuquerque. For tickets and more information on the awards, visit www.NewMexicoMusicAwards.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 28 issue of The Pulse, a supplement of the Las Cruces Sun-News. All rights reserved.