BEST R&B ARTIST - 2006
Unlike the younger generation of Bunker's bands—Kip Blackshire, the New Congress—Mick Sterling makes no pretension of connecting with the contemporary universe of black pop. His music is a blues fan's R&B. "I'm a meat-and-potatoes kind of singer," he writes in his highly readable 2005 book, The Long Ride Home: A Life in the Minnesota Music Scene (Crotalus). "Sometimes it ain't pretty, but I have my moments." Yet the horn-driven soul he performed for 17 years with the Stud Brothers—every Sunday at Bunkers until last September—was the essence of "rhythm and blues" as Minneapolis once understood it, back in the '60s and '70s before Sterling began taking the stage as a local version of Springsteen or Southside Johnny. Today, the demo-circulating Casanovas could learn a thing or two from the singer: He hits notes that matter, and always leaves something of himself in a song. Last year's Between Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, his first album without the Stud Brothers (backed by Etta James collaborator Kevin Bowe and band), found the white everyman powering through infectious accordion-gospel on "Lucky Man," though the hard-luck river town described couldn't be his own Golden Valley. Sterling's true biography is his book, and a forthcoming documentary about the scene he helped create: Bunkers: An American Music Story (www.bunkersmusicstory.com).