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Hickman's Science Project

Plus: Houston musicians ask that eternal question -- Why doesn't anybody love us?

Former HSPVA golden girl Sara Hickman lives in Dallas these days, but if the audience that turned out for her Rockefeller's showcase some months back is any indication, she can always count on a crowd in her hometown. What she's had a more difficult time counting on is record-label support.

Former employers Elektra, after releasing two Hickman solo disks and recording a third, dropped the cherub-voiced songwriter from its roster, leaving the follow-up, Necessary Angels, in limbo, if not exactly daunting the indomitable Hickman. She raised the money to buy back her album, which California-based Discovery Records plans to release sometime this spring. But that's business, after all, and Hickman is in the game of making music, so it's not surprising that she used the meantime to moonlight. The side project is called Domestic Science Club, after a turn-of-the-century Oklahoma proto-feminist organization, and the eight-song eponymous EP just out on Discovery teams Hickman with ex-Dixie Chick Robin Macy and bluegrass singer Patty Lege. It's a lovely, lilting, jazzy acoustic goof of a record (sample lyric: "I can hardly wait for alpha state when we go kayaking"), and though on stage Hickman can get a bit preachy, the disk's got a light-hearted touch that tickles like sunshine on bare feet.

Hickman's April Fool's Day date at Rockefeller's is billed as solo, but I'm assured by the people who know these things that Macy and Lege will be on hand to perform the DSC material live. It's gonna be worth a listen.

The battle rages on, and on... Observers in all camps agree that there's no dearth of musical talent here in Houston, but on the heels of an event as awe-inspiringly huge as SXSW -- credited to dippy little Austin, no less -- our second-city inferiority complex kicks into overdrive and the question on everyone's lips seems to be, well, how do we sell the damn stuff? The Houston Music Council thinks it's got an idea. In the scattershot tradition of 1992's Made in Texas sampler, HMC has produced the Houston Music Council Compilation Volume 1. Sixteen local acts paid $200 a pop to offset costs, and HMC distributed about 250 disks at SXSW to "industry people," with more headed to college radio and press. The disk was mastered by local HMC member Richard Cagle and pressed by local Creative Sound -- facts of which the HMC is justifiably proud.

Council president Alice Romero says she was unhappy with the scarcity of Houston bands (eight) represented at the Austin conference, and that "lack of support from the inside has been part of Houston's downfall" when it comes to gaining national recognition. "We're really working hard to support local music, to let the world know that Houston has a music scene," Romero told me. To that end, the sampler pools the fledgling talents (in most cases) of Feo y Loco, Euphoric, Sol y Luna, Third World Rising, Dr. Joyce and the Brothers, Blind Rhapsody, Bollie Shade, St. Vitus Dance, Lips and the Trips, Pierre and the Zydeco Dots, Penny Lea, Inc., Poppeacocks, Mister Smith, Infinity, Release and Paul Kilpatrick.

The compilation covers a spectrum from hard commercial rock to Hispanic mood music to some guy dinking around with his Casio. With the exception of Pierre and the Zydeco Dots, the disk features acts at a stage of development such that their inclusion is likely to be of more value to the bands themselves than to anyone trying to discern a Houston "scene," but we all start somewhere. Volume 2 is in the planning stages, with tentative commitments from Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds, The Swamis, Eardrum and The Basics. HMC's next meeting, scheduled for April 4 at the European Tavern, explores the topic "Killer Press Kits." Call the KLOL concert line at CON-CERT (266-2378), access code HMC, for more info.

Local Bands You Might Want to See Before the HMC Discovers 'Em... On Thursday, March 31, End Result opens for Big Drag and the Rev. Horton Heat at the Abyss while Juan kicks off the Grifters' gig at Goat's Head Soup. Also on the 31st, Flaming Hellcats and Dixie Waste share a stage at the Shimmy Shack. Beefmasters play Goat's Head on Saturday, and Woody's Jukebox follows up last week's Mojo Nixon-previewing performance with a reprise at Rudz that very same April 2. DynoMUTT CONTINUES TO PUSH THEIR EXCELLENT NEW HANDBOOK FOR YOUNG SCIENTISTS CD (THEY'RE FROM RICE, YOU KNOW) WITH AN OPENING SLOT FOR THE SUSPECTS AND BOWLER BOYS AT THE ABYSS, ALSO APRIL 2. AND FINALLY, YOU'LL GET A REMINDER FROM ME NEXT WEEK, BUT SINCE TICKETS SOLD SO FAST LAST TIME, I'LL JUMP THE GUNo Dive has snagged the no-doubt-coveted opening spot on the Urge Overkill/ Eugenius bill scheduled for Numbers on Sunday, April 10. Snap 'em up, kids.

 
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