Houston Press 1997 Music Awards Preview

A guide to who's who in the Press Music Awards ballot. Plus, the where and when of the Press Music Awards Showcase!

Artist: Beat Temple
Nomination: Best Funk/R&B
Sound of choice: Rock and soul anchored by a muscular groove
Time logged: Eight years

Etc.: Many times, longevity in the face of audience indifference indicates only foolhardiness. But in the case of Beat Temple, it indicates a trends-be-damned dedication to the groove. At times, they tote around a bit too much serious spirituality and thoughtfulness to be considered a true party band, but their heartfelt blend of soul, rock and funk has been uplifting enough to see them through the various rocky periods of their existence.

Artist: David Caceres
Nomination: Best Jazz
Sound of choice: Jazz sax and vocal
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: Take one part Charlie Parker-like alto sax, add some swingin' Sinatra-like vocals, and you'd come pretty close to nailing David Caceres. Oh, and he's funky too.

Artist: Ceili's Muse
Nomination: Best Traditional Ethnic
Sound of choice: Celtic
Time logged: Seven years

Etc.: Despite a slew of personnel changes over the years, Ceili's Muse continues to stick doggedly to what works: traditional Celtic strains, harmonies, acoustic guitars and a pleasant sense of humor. In doing so, they've outlasted not only the bulk of their contemporaries, but many of the venues bold enough to bank on Irish and Scottish music. Regular gigs at McGonigel's Mucky Duck spotlight breezy singing, tricky arrangements and a heaping dose of personality.

Ceili's Muse performs at 5 p.m. at Q Cafe.

Artist: C.J. Chenier Jr.
Nomination: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Sound of choice: Spicy squeezebox
Time logged: More than 25 years

Etc.: Some might argue that putting C.J. Chenier Jr. on this ballot is like putting ZZ Top in the Best Local Rock Band category. C.J. is living here in Houston, however, and the occasional local club gig here and there qualifies him for a nomination. With numerous releases on Alligator Records, Chenier's R&B-flavored Red Hot Louisiana outfit is one of the tightest and most enjoyable bands in zydeco.

Artist: Danny Chirino and his Salsametro
Nomination: Best Tejano/Latin; Best Horn/Horn Section
Sound of choice: Salsa
Time logged: Six months

Etc.: Vocalist Danny Chirino, originally from Guanajay, Cuba, has been a one-man salsa machine since arriving in America 18 months ago. He recently won a Latin Star Search competition in New York City, and his 13-piece Salsametro orchestra has quickly become all the rage at local Latin music venues such as Elvia's Cantina.

Artist: Clandestine
Nomination: Best Traditional Ethnic
Sound of choice: Scottish folk
Time logged: Six years

Etc.: Clandestine's uncommon instrumentation (Highland bagpipe, fiddle, guitar and vocals) should be a strong enough clue that this band plays Celtic music of Scottish -- not Irish -- origin. Their appeal to both die-hard traditionalists and novice listeners has earned them a sizable fan base. Indeed, their crowded monthly outings at McGonigel's Mucky Duck are a testament to their popularity. Fun fact: Clandestine will be the only American group competing at the upcoming Festival Interceltique in France.

Artist: Clouded
Nomination: Best Rock/Pop Act; Album of the Year (Clouded)
Sound of choice: Dense, distortion-enhanced indie pop
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: The buzz that enveloped Clouded as recently as last year has eased significantly. But the band continues to tidy up their cluttered, guitar-driven lo-fi vision without polishing away the clumsy imperfections that made them so interesting in the first place. Clouded's hyper-sensitive full-length debut is a worthy enough candidate for album of the year, even if its honesty is often numbing. Trust us: Clouded feels your pain, and everyone else's, too.

Clouded performs at 7 p.m. at Q Cafe.

Artist: Commercial Art
Nomination: Best Cover Band
Sound of choice: Funk and soul
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: Commercial Art has carved out a respectable, if somewhat isolated, niche in the local scene. Their decade-long, Wednesday-to-Saturday slot at Maxie and Jake's has won them a tight and devoted following. This eight-member mini-orchestra plays old-school funk and soul numbers by the likes of Al Green and Aretha Franklin, spiced with the occasional Top 40 favorite.

Artist: Liviya Compean
Nomination: Best Female Vocalist
Sound of choice: Riot grrrl confessional
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: Following the musical heritage set down by her grandfather, Houston big band personality Jesse Compean Sr., 22-year-old Liviya Compean has her own sound altogether: tough, emotionally direct, hard-edged modern rock. It was at the encouragement of her mother that Liviya made public her considerable abilities as a songwriter, singer and guitarist soon after high school, and since then, she's been a regular sight on stages all over town. Father Jesse backs his daughter on flute, and Compean's 15-year old brother Josh is the band's drummer, making the enterprise truly a family affair.

Liviya Compean performs at 8 p.m. at the Voodoo Lounge.

Artist: Mary Cutrufello
Nomination: Best C&W
Sound of choice: Roadhouse country
Time logged: Five years

Etc.: A few years ago, a black woman making country music in Texas might have raised a few eyebrows. But Mary Cutrufello has fixed that -- and she's been able to stay in her preferred home base of Houston while doing so. Let's see, in the last year Cutrufello toured with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and released a debut CD recorded the way she saw fit (live), critics be damned. Meanwhile, she continued spreading her potent compound of honky-tonk swing and roots-rock bluster to points north, south and west. Heck, she was even schmoozed by record label executives at South by Southwest. Not a bad haul for an Ivy Leaguer from Connecticut.

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