Hot Sounds in the City

The 5th Annual Houston Press Music Awards

Following the band's headlining date at this year's Press Music Awards, dead horse headed out on its first national tour in a year and a half. The roadshow may well see new material debuted. "We've been in writing mode again, for the first time in a while, and it feels good," explains Price. "We put the last demo [Feed Me] out just so the fans would have something to listen to, but those songs will probably be redone for the album."

Not just an album, but, the band hopes, a major label/large indie release. Having already declined a development deal with Interscope, dead horse is, according to Price, simply "deciding whether to take one of the deals currently out there or wait for something better." (C.S.)

Best Rock/Pop -- Trish and Darin
Trish and Darin. It's hard to imagine a more innocuous band name, but it's the handle of one of the most consistent live draws in Houston's music hierarchy -- and of a band scattered all over this year's Music Awards ballot, reining in nominations for Album of the Year (Tongue in Groove), Song of the Year ("Crimes of a Misspent Youth") and Producer of the Year (Bruce Coffman for Tongue in Groove).

Darin Murphy recently took a moment to talk about Tongue in Groove and the general goings-on of the four-piece outfit named after him and his sister Trish. "It's a record that we're pretty happy with," Darin says. "It much better represents the state of our band than our first one, which is a real good step for us because we've been trying to outlive this sort of folk/novelty reputation we've had for quite a while. That's been our Achilles' heel."

Part of Trish and Darin's increased following can be credited to the inclusion of "Sentimental Jerk," a cut from Tongue and Groove, on The Edge 94.5 FM's annual Tales from the Edge regional compilation. Darin is honored by the inclusion and hopes it's a portent of things to come. "We're definitely going for more of a solid rock approach, but it's always been very honest and straightforward," he says. "The music has gotten a lot more sophisticated lyrically, but it's always been real hook oriented, and there's always a sense of humor."

All qualities that strike a chord with readers, who voted Trish and Darin Best Rock/Pop Band for the second year running. (C.S.)

Best Blues; Best Funk/R&B;
Best Female Vocalist -- Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys
Regulars at Blythe Spirits in the late 1980's were understandably curious about the quiet little girl with the neon-red Big Texas Hair. She seemed like a nice kid, bashful as hell, but she was obviously way too young to be hanging out in a bar all the time. But if there was live music playing, she'd be upstairs, sipping a glass of water and studying every note with the obsessiveness of an overachiever cramming for the GSAT.

Nowadays, Carolyn Wonderland is old enough (though just barely) to order a drink if she wants one. And while Carolyn still listens as close as ever to whoever's on stage, her own throaty growls and drawn-out wails garner the same intense scrutiny she once gave to the bar-band parade. Much of her shyness has been replaced by self-deprecating confidence. In spite of having repeatedly headlined most of the major blues venues in Texas, her reaction to this year's Houston Press Music Awards is easy to predict. Ask her about being considered the Best Female Vocalist in Houston and she'll rave about Trudy Lynn and Lavelle White. Best Blues Act? Get ready for some serious praise for Joe Hughes and Big Walter "The Thunderbird" Price. And as for the Imperial Monkeys being the Best Funk/R&B Act, well, she'll say she's lucky to be part of a really good band, but there's a lot to be said for her friends in Beat Temple and Global Village.

On-stage it's easy to see why Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys made such a march to the sea. Chris King, Eric Dane and Erik Kolflat take rhythm and blues and rock-and-roll to a level that passed the bar-band average long ago. And when the little girl with the outrageous 'do -- hot pink and hippie-straight these days -- puts down her pink Strat and takes the microphone in a two-handed choke, it's obvious that this year's passel of Music Awards is just three more steps on a long stairway that's going nowhere but up. (J.S.)

Best Folk/Acoustic; Best Songwriters -- Shake Russell and Jack Saunders
Best Male Vocalist -- Shake Russell
Album of the Year -- The Thrill of Love: Shake Russell, Jack Saunders and Dana Cooper

The current vogue for '70s flashbacks celebrating disco and KISS and worse overlooks a crucial part of the Houston music scene. Two decades back, when cops stopped you for having the KLOL/101 Runaway Radio sticker on your bumper (or so rumor had it), Shake Russell and Dana Cooper played their songs at Anderson Fair. The seamless harmonies of Shake and Dana hit a unique note of nostalgia for anyone inside the Loop in the '70s, but that's not the end-all of their career. Dana Cooper played solo in those same folk venues, and then came Shake Russell and Jack Sanders as a duo, and now, with the three sweeping the folk/acoustic categories and more, it's high time to think of them as a trio.

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