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Who’s the best band around? 

The deadline is fast approaching; if you’re reading this Thursday there are only hours left. We’re looking for this year’s best original-music band in Arkansas, and we’re making a last call for entries to this year’s Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, to be held at Sticky Fingerz Rock and Roll Chicken Shack in the River Market district.

If you think you have a sound that everybody needs to hear, and you’re not getting a chance to get on a club’s lineup, this would be the time to enter.

Deadline for entries is 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12. I know what some of you are saying right now, because I’ve heard it about this time every year for the past eight via dozens of frantic phone calls: “Man, I haven’t heard about it until now, will you stick around for me to get my CD to your office?”

We usually get a box full of CDs arriving in the mail during these last two days. We get several more during the week after deadline, and we don’t even bother with them. The field will be chosen this weekend, and the best 16 bands among the submissions will get to be showcased on a Thursday night at Sticky Fingerz starting Jan. 25. So, we’re sorry if you missed the continuous running ad in the Times, or Jeff Allen’s announcements on KKPT-FM, 94.1, “The Point,” or on Sticky Fingerz’ website. There’s always next year.

But we want you in this year. A year from now, your bandmembers may have thrown you out and moved to Belize.

The eventual winner will earn a guaranteed spot in Riverfest, a gift certificate from Jacksonville Guitar, recording time from Blue Chair Studio in Cabot, a photo shoot from the Times’ photographer, Brian Chilson, dinner for the band at Trio’s Restaurant, and plenty more.

But, as I’ve said plenty of times before in writing about the Showcase, it’s mostly about the exposure, and we’re willing to give plenty of that to up-and-coming original bands in Arkansas. Any Arkansas artist who plays original music is eligible to enter.

Fill out the form in this week’s paper, or access a form on our website (www.arktimes.com) or the Sticky’s website (www.stickyfingerz.com), and rush it down here at the corner of Markham and Scott Streets along with a CD demo (it doesn’t have to be full-length; even one song will do). We’ll take it from there. Maybe by April, your weekends will be lined up through the fall with gigs, thanks to playing in the Showcase.

For more information, call me at 375-2985.

Houston Nutt’s well-worn line “We were so close” was never more true for the Razorbacks than this recently completed college football season. Three of Arkansas’s four losses came in a row at the end by a total of 18 points. A break here or there, or better execution in the kicking game, and Arkansas may have been looking at … no, we’re just not going to go there. But do you think now that Arkansas could have matched up with Ohio State, which Southeastern Conference champ Florida humiliated Monday night?

Last year at this time, the Razorbacks had missed out on bowling for the second straight year, but Nutt and his loyalists were pulling out the “we were so close” mantra to show that a 4-7 season could easily have been 8-3 with just a few extra points thrown around in four games. Arkansas lost four games in 2005 by a combined 13 points.

The Hogs also were extremely young in 2005. But a very good Darren McFadden in 2005 became an All-World McFadden in 2006, and the Razorbacks turned around a few of those close games. Some of the games that would have been blowouts in 2005 became the close calls in 2006.

Even with two juniors recently bolting for the NFL Draft and three offensive line stars and two solid defensive seniors graduating, Nutt’s Hogs figure to improve on 2006. Arkansas trades the Southern Cal Trojans for the Troy Trojans as their toughest non-conference game out of four. The SEC road tests are at Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU, not a one to be confused with a gimme.

But, Arkansas will return with the best player in college football, in the toughest league in college football, and its quarterbacking should improve. 2007 should be enjoyable, which is how Hog fans should be viewing 2006, though plenty of folks still carp about the three-game slide to end the year. Those three teams and Southern Cal, the fourth defeat, were in the top five of the final coaches’ poll this week. We’ve never seen anything like that in Arkansas football history. Usually, the Hogs’ great teams benefited from having to play only three or four winnings teams the entire season, much less a handful of teams at the top of the polls.

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