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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: Mark May
Nomination: Best Blues
Sound of choice: Fierce electric blues
Time logged: Fifteen years

Etc.: With his virile blend of lacerating, Albert Collins-style licks, icy cool on-stage demeanor and muddled background in blues, R&B, rock and country, Mark May is the closest this city has to a modern-day blues hero with crossover potential. With 15 years of dedicated commitment to the style -- a crash course, by blues standards -- May nevertheless has a remarkable feel for the music's roots, and his reverence for the keepers of the old ways is nothing short of inspiring. Telephone Road, May's second CD for the Memphis-based Icehouse label, is due out next month.

Mark May performs at 9 p.m. at the Voodoo Lounge.

Artist: Kimberly M'Carver
Nomination: Best Folk/Acoustic
Sound of choice: Country- and bluegrass-tinged folk
Time logged: Eleven years

Etc.: Kimberly M'Carver's rootsy, good-natured approach to her craft has drawn rave reviews throughout the country, and yet despite the national attention, she has always remained fiercely loyal to her Houston home. Just three years after she began performing, M'Carver was signed by Rounder Records, where she remains today. In between working on demos for her third disc for the label, the busy singer/songwriter will head to Nashville, where the Kendalls (with help from Alison Krauss's Union Station) will record the M'Carver gem "Serious Doubt."

Artist: Liz Mendez
Nomination: Best Pianist/Keyboardist
Sound of choice: Latin jazz
Time logged: Twenty-five years

Etc.: Pianist/arranger Liz Mendez has consistently been a top-call keyboardist in this city, working with the likes of Kirk Whalum and Norma Zenteno. She's also served as musical director for the popular salsa group Angelucho's Copacabana for five years. Mendez is recognized locally as one of the few masters of tumbao, or salsa-style rhythm accompaniment.

Artist: Middlefinger
Nomination: Best Underground
Sound of choice: Overdriven ska
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: With a hyperkinetic frontman (vocalist Matt Kelly, best known from his days with Sprawl) and one of the tightest groups of musicians around, this punk/ska outfit is nothing short of amazing. The band is currently working on material for an EP due out before Christmas, and will soon appear on a few upcoming compilations, as well as at a club near you. Resistance is futile.

Middlefinger performs at 9 p.m. at the Rhino Room.

Artist: Necessary Tension
Nomination: Best Jazz
Sound of choice: Free-form improv
Time logged: Six years

Etc.: Necessary Tension's improvisational experiments have turned their Thursday night Rudyard's gig into something of a local jazz institution. The outfit is led by flautist Bob Chadwick, and you can usually find David Craig on bass and Keith Carnacky on drums, along with an array of various keyboardists, guitarists and horn players doing some of their most adventurous jamming.

Artist: Neural Nectar
Nomination: Best Metal/Hard Rock
Sound of choice: Grinding guitar virtuosity
Time logged: More than a year

Etc.: Mildly perturbed white-boy rapping, rubbery bass slapping and swirly, psychedelic guitar effects coalesce into the convulsive blob of funk/metal groove-stuff that is Neural Nectar. Confused? We'd suggest checking their new full-length CD, Ripe, for further clarification.

Artist: Oro y Plata
Nomination: Best Traditional Ethnic
Sound of choice: Merengue, salsa, cumbia
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: Oro y Plata (translation: Gold and Silver) has been wooing steadily increasing crowds at Elvia's Cantina Saturdays for the past five months. Priding themselves on their mastery of the tricky traditions of merengue, salsa and cumbia, this 12-piece ensemble pumps out sweaty, four-hour live marathons brimming with a uniquely Latin enthusiasm. The men behind the music mostly hail from the Dominican Republic, and their sound is as authentic as it is danceable.

Artist: Linus Pauling Quartet
Nomination: Best Underground
Sound of choice: Kitchen sink eclecticism
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: Starting this fall, the Linus Pauling Quartet plans on forgoing live appearances in favor of a studio-only strategy. So it's quite possible that the group's Music Awards showcase may be one of the last opportunities you'll have to see them perform in the flesh for quite some time. If you haven't yet experienced Linus Pauling's indescribable sound -- a bizarre mixture of its members' diverse tastes, which include jazz, rap, hard-core punk, bad college radio and classics from the '60s and '70s -- now is the time to broaden your horizons.

The Linus Pauling Quartet performs at 6 p.m. at the Ballroom.

Artist: Trey Pool (Celindine)
Nomination: Best Male Vocalist
Sound of choice: Inspired lo-fi racket
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: Trey Pool doesn't sing so much as he rawly emotes via his larynx. No matter. His self-analytical laments could not be more appropriate for the sonically spent guitar pop of Celindine -- which just recently changed its name to Trompedo. Whatever the moniker, fans are still waiting for that long-promised full-length debut. What gives, guys? It can't be a lack of material.

Celindine (a.k.a. Trompedo) performs at 5 p.m. at the Rhino Room.

Artist: Project Grimm
Nomination: Best Rock/Pop
Sound of choice: Zeppelified dirge rock
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: It appears that Project Grimm has finally outlived the legacy of its members' past glory in the defunct Houston bands the Mike Gunn, Bleachbath and Smile 69. With a drearily arresting debut CD, Lying Down, to its credit and scads of live appearances under its belt, the group is just now jelling as a weighty heavy rock band in the newer and older traditions of Led Zeppelin and Soundgarden. When it comes to Project Grimm, a term such as "uplifting bummer" is hardly an oxymoron.

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