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Sounds Like a Winner!

1996 Houston Press Music Awards

The woman who once brought President Bush to his knees with a crack of the ol' leather is at ease these days, establishing herself more as a heartfelt blues/soul vocalist while gradually distancing herself from her persona as Houston's reigning dominatrix diva. Reached at home early one morning, a still sleepy-eyed Molly -- who was happy to report she's been catching fish hand over fist -- said the award represents a token of friendship between her and the fans. "I hope," she added, "I can do right by them." (G.B.)

Best industrial
The Hunger

Knowing that the Hunger has taken the Best Industrial award for the fourth consecutive year is bound to piss off some people, but then again, they're not the ones who gleefully line up at the band's shows. Drummer Max Schuldberg, reached in California during a break from the band's current tour, said he's happy and also a bit surprised by the award -- happy that the fans are behind the band, and surprised that the group can still be considered industrial, especially given that "Vanishing Cream," the Hunger's Top Five single from its Devil Hitches a Ride CD, is playing on the straight rock radio format.

"It's weird to be considered both as industrial and rock," Schuldberg says. "I guess maybe we're somewhere in between." Formed by brothers/keyboardists Jeff and Thomas Wilson some six years ago, the Hunger's sound has spread out across the spectrum of '80s techno-arena rock, post-grunge guitar grinders and tortured, Reznor-influenced vocal ramblings. At this point, the Hunger's hard work in the early days is paying off big, with sold-out shows, a smattering of local radio support, hot tubs filled with champagne, stretch limos -- okay, maybe not those last two, but pretty damn close. The band will be home at the end of August just for a rest -- there won't be any local gigs until fall -- and then they'll be heading back on tour for nine shows opening for Kiss, something Schuldberg still can't get over. "Can you believe how cool that is? I mean, it's Kiss." (G.B.)

Best act that doesn't fit a category
Flamin' Hellcats

There I was, hittin' over a hundred roaring down the two-lane from the Bolivar Ferry to High Island in a "borrowed" turbo-diesel pickup, an unregistered, fully automatic assault weapon on the dash, a bottle of mescal between my legs and a head full of this weird jimson-weed seed analog some chemistry student from A&M had cooked up. Suddenly, I realized what was wrong with the picture: as I power-slid sideways to a halt, blocking both lanes, I crowbarred the CD player out of the dash, flipped it into the dunes and poured a full clip of hollow-points into the useless piece of junk. After all, there's no point in serious insanity without an appropriate soundtrack, and the Flamin' Hellcats' first CD still hadn't hit the stores. But it's a ride I'll have to take again when Speed Freak does come out.

Over the last couple of years, the Hellcats -- founders of a one-band genre called Texas vatobilly -- have established themselves as an act whose energy is as intense as its unpredictability. It's a niche that has made them the party band of choice for that kind of party where you might as well invite the cops, 'cause they're gonna show up anyway. I have it on reliable authority that at one such party, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons was spotted on the dance floor yelling, "Vatobilly! I get it!" Gibbons got it, and so should you -- but fasten your seat belt next time you "borrow" that truck. (J.S.)

Best local label
Justice Records

Justice owner Randall Jamail doesn't always get on well with the media. Critics have raised a landfill's worth of stink about his ego and his policies in the studio. But the fact is, a vat of bad ink couldn't stain his label's reputation as the biggest non-rap game in town. And it appears that voters see it that way, too.

Jamail has spent an inordinate amount of time this year wooing out-of-town talent, firming up his artist base with the well-known names of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Billy Joe Shaver. He's also placed stock in the reputation of Austin singer/songwriter Kimmie Rhodes. Not to worry, though: Justice still owns Houston's most promising export, honky-tonk heartthrob Jesse Dayton, a big winner in last year's Music Awards. Also freeing up Justice for continued forward movement is a settlement reached July 7 between the label and two major industry players, Sony and Philips. Back in 1995, Jamail filed an antitrust suit against the two corporations, alleging that their plants were preventing the manufacture of Justice CDs endowed with Jamail's patented Soundboard technology. The feature makes use of the spare space on CDs, allowing the listener to access interviews and other extra goodies if they so desire. With this resolved, Jamail will be able to freely license and market his technology (can you smell the money?). Another obstacle dealt with, the wheels of Justice continue to roll over the local competition. (H.R.)

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