By Jan Mercker

Twenty years ago, Andy Hawk was a young English teacher at Loudoun County High School and Justin Trawick was a student at the school, already writing and performing original songs. This year, both Hawk’s and Trawick’s bands are front and center at 2019 Wammie awards, which celebrate the best of the DMV’s music scene.

Western Loudoun-based Andy Hawk and the Train Wreck Endings are nominated for best rock album for last year’s “Bourbon Rain,” while Leesburg native Trawick and his band The Common Good are nominated for best bluegrass artist or group and for best bluegrass album for their EP “The Riverwash.”

For both bands, the honors come on the heels of evolutions in their respective sounds in recent years. For Hawk and company, the change has meant venturing away from the Americana umbrella they’ve been operating under for years and toward a more rock-influenced sound. For Trawick, the shift has been in the opposite direction, as he swaps out electric guitar for mandolin and builds a more traditional sound. For both musicians, the changes are paying off in terms of recognition by their peers.

For Trawick, the Wammie nominations reflect the hard work he’s put into building up The Common Good over the past two years after several years of focusing on his ongoing project, The 9 Songwriter Series, which spotlights singer/songwriters in performances around the country. “The Riverwash” is the first recorded release for The Common Good.

“To some degree it was kind of like a new chapter for me, starting essentially a new band, a new sound and debuting new songs a certain way,” Trawick said. “I’m very proud of all the previous records I’ve done, but this is the one that I’m most proud of.”

Andy Hawk and the Train Wreck Endings are nominated for best rock album for “Bourbon Rain.”

Trawick says the band’s transition in style began in part when longtime bandmate Josh Himmelsbach made a shift from electric guitar to mandolin around 2014, helping contribute to the band’s more traditional Americana/bluegrass-inspired sound. Core members also include Jean Finstad on upright bass, Aaron Malone on fiddle and Bobby Birdsong on pedal steel.

Trawick has always been a genre bender and says his work remains hard to categorize, so the nomination in the bluegrass category was something of a welcome surprise.

“I’m just happy to be nominated for something,” he said. “To be recognized by your peers—because ultimately the people that are nominating you are your peers—is an honor.”

The “Riverwash” EP includes five of Trawick’s original songs and a quirky, twangy cover of the 1995 Oasis hit “Wonderwall.” One audience favorite, “All the Places That I’ve Been,” is a tribute to Trawick’s beloved grandmother who died last year at 99.

“She led a long life and had amazing experiences and stories,” Trawick said. “The song if nothing else is a gift for me because every time I play it, it’s a reminder of her.

Trawick, who grew up near Leesburg and now lives in Arlington, has been returning to Loudoun more frequently lately as the county’s music scene booms thanks to the attraction of wineries and breweries. The Common Good recently made their second appearance at the music-focused B Chord Brewing near Round Hill and are slated to play the Purcellville Music and Arts Festival next month.

While Hawk didn’t have Trawick in English class back in the late ’90s, they collaborated on the school newspaper when Hawk was staff advisor and Trawick a photojournalist. Trawick already was writing and releasing songs as a teen and even then had a clear goal to make music his career.

“I was very impressed that he was on that so early,” Hawk said. “He’s always had that track and I’ve always respected that.”

For Hawk and the Train Wreck Endings, this year’s nomination in the rock album category also reflects a shift, in this case to a more electrified rock sound. The transition started with the departure of the band’s former mandolin player, and remaining members followed their musical roots back to rock.

“I think we kind of evolved into more of a classic rock sound. That’s what we grew up with. … We’re much more electric now,” Hawk said. “I think we’ve slowly turned that way over the last five or six years, and now it’s kind of come to fruition.”

“Bourbon Rain” features Hawk’s intelligent songwriting and a little bit of nostalgia, with tributes to Boston and Columbus, Ohio, both of which Hawk has called home. “Bourbon Rain” was released digitally and on vinyl, with the band opting to skip CDs for this release.

Like many local favorites, The Train Wreck Endings is made up of GenX musicians with day jobs, with Hawk, now a librarian at Potomac Falls High School, as front man, brothers Chuck Bordelon on bass and Paul Bordelon on electric guitar and Michael Gavreau on drums. Trumpet player John Hassan joined the band just after the album’s release last fall.

The band is well-known locally for regular gigs at King’s Tavern in Leesburg and The Horseshoe Curve in Bluemont and at a number of local wineries. For Hawk and his band, the post-Wammie focus will be on continuing to build their local fan base while pursuing new opportunities in the mid-Atlantic and beyond.

The band travels to Columbus, OH next month for a big charity gig, and Hawk will be a featured performer at Trawick’s upcoming The 9 songwriter performance at Jammin’ Java in Vienna on April 10.

“We’re happy with what’s going on and hoping to keep taking little steps,” Hawk said.

Hawk, Trawick and dozens of other nominees are celebrating the return of the Wammie Awards after a three-year hiatus. The awards were put on hold in 2016 after the Washington Area Music Association, which launched the Wammies three decades ago, disbanded. The program was revamped and reintroduced by DC-based nonprofit The MusicianShip, which pared down the long list of categories and added a daylong conference to the upcoming Wammie weekend program.

And for regional musicians, a little recognition goes a long way.

“It’s nice to have that nomination because sometimes you don’t know if you’re releasing stuff in a vacuum,” Hawk said. “Somebody’s listening I guess, and that’s nice.”

The 31st annual Wammie Awards feature a conference on Saturday, March 30 and awards ceremony Sunday, March 31 at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC. For tickets and information, go to wammiesdc.org

For more information on Andy Hawk and the Train Wreck Endings go to andyhawk.com or follow The Train Wreck Endings on Facebook. For information on Justin Trawick and the Common Good, go to justintrawick.com or follow Justin Trawick Music on Facebook.