Best Female Rock Vocalist

The perennial winner of this category could easily have been eliminated from consideration this year if a major label had signed her to a deal and spread her fame beyond the boundaries of South Florida, as should have happened. Instead she iced the award by releasing in February another masterful CD of original rock, move. Like Mirror before it, the new disc showcases Ward's taffy vocals (they stretch but never break), evocative inflections, and razor-cut phrasings. Her latest effort was financed by yet another project, the highly collectible Bathroom Tape, recorded in an apartment studio in Plantation. These recordings stand with anything released nationally, but it's her live performances (with full band, solo, with guitarist Jack Shawde, or in the round) that keep bringing us back to worship at the Ward altar. As for the national stardom that has thus far eluded her, so what? Thanks to digital sound compression and the World Wide Web, people all over the globe can obtain Ward's work electronically, making major labels irrelevant and verging on obsolete. The reason no corporation has been tempted to exploit her sound might be this: It's too nicked and edgy and tough to meet pop standards, and too damn pretty for rock and roll.

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