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!

Project Grimm performs at 7 p.m. at Instant Karma.

Artist: Richard Ramirez
Nomination: Best Industrial/Noise
Sound of choice: Shrill, manufactured noise
Time logged: Seven years

Etc.: Mostly a basement-dwelling entity, Richard Ramirez rarely plays on-stage show-and-tell with his audio collages of bracing, avant-garde experimentalism. It seems he relishes solitude. As onetime Houston Press writer Brad Tyer has pointed out, Ramirez has made "quite a name for himself in circles drawn by lines 99.9 percent of you will never, ever cross." Ramirez's latest full-length concoction, I Keep My Stuff Inside, is out now on the German Tesco label. Cross at your own risk.

Artist: Rat Ranch
Nomination: Best Cover Band
Sound of choice: Intricate, note-perfect covers
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: If playing cover music were a diving competition, Rat Ranch would have a lock on degree of difficulty. Though their repertoire includes plenty of the more obvious modern-rock hits, the band is perhaps best known for interpreting supposedly uninterpretable epics by the likes of Rush, Kansas and other complicated "progressive" rock artists.

Artist: Alaina Richardson
Nomination: Best Folk/Acoustic
Sound of choice: Rock-edged folk
Time logged: More than 20 years

Etc.: A live staple at Anderson Fair and McGonigel's Mucky Duck for years, Alaina Richardson is the queen of the lovelorn ballad, and her rock-tinged, somewhat countrified sound has kept her in modest demand locally since the 1970s. But in case you were wondering where she makes her real living, she's also a contract writer for Harlequin and Silhouette, cranking out three romance novels per year. Frequently seen on-stage with her sister, Anne Lockhart, Richardson is currently working on a 12-song release (produced by Jack Saunders) due in December.

Alaina Richardson performs at 6 p.m. at Cent'Anni.

Artist: Rogelio Rodriguez Flamenco Show
Nomination: Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category
Sound of choice: Flamenco, Spanish classical
Time logged: Eight years

Etc.: Rogelio Rodriguez, a former member of the prestigious Jose Greco dance troupe, has been a Tuesday-night mainstay at Elvia's Cantina going on five years now. When not performing at Elvia's, the group dances in a variety of venues, even performing at Jones Hall with the Houston Symphony Orchestra backing them. The dancers deal in popular flamenco styles such as bulerias, alegrias, tangos (the Spanish, not the Argentinean, tango) and sevillanas.

Artist: Rotten Piece
Nomination: Best Industrial/Noise; Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category
Sound of choice: Clamorous sonic sound bites and ambient noise
Time logged: Seven years

Etc.: For the most part, Rotten Piece's shrill sonic expressionism is the brainchild of Carol and Sean (a.k.a. C-Dog) Kelly, who are also the matrimonial core of the comparatively more standard punk-rock outfit Sad Pygmy. But Piece projects have been known to draw on the talents of fellow Houston-area experimentalists Richard Ramirez and Austin Caustic, among others. Rotten Piece's latest CD, Caged Meat, a suitably indescribable joint release with Sad Pygmy on the independent Fleece label, came out late last year and is available locally to those who are daring enough to listen to it. Another Piece effort, Incarcerated Dwarf Heiress, is due out later this summer.

Rotten Piece performs at 5 p.m. at Instant Karma.

Artist: Rusted Shut
Nomination: Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category; Best Underground; Best Industrial/Noise

Sound of choice: Your guess is as good as ours
Time logged: Ten years
Etc.: Rusted Shut is one of those bands you either love or hate. Most people hate 'em, but Inner Loop musicians seem to love 'em. The group has been around for about a decade now, but only last year did they release an honest-to-goodness eponymous CD on Fleece Records. Rusted Shut's experimental noise incorporates a lot of distortion and delay effects. It's also largely improvisational, since the band hasn't practiced once -- and they don't plan to ... ever.

Artist: Sad Pygmy
Nomination: Song of the Year ("Urethra Franklin"); Songwriters of the Year
Sound of choice: Punk with a warped sense of humor
Time logged: Six years

Etc.: As its ludicrous title implies, the intentions behind "Urethra Franklin" are about as serious as Sad Pygmy is subtle, and thank goodness. For the day that this tongue-wagging, loud, fast and dizzy Houston institution turns serious will be the day punk as a genre surrenders its right to offend.

Sad Pygmy performs at 7 p.m. at the Ballroom.

Artist: Sam Brothers
Nomination: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Sound of choice: Cajun and zydeco, what else?
Time logged: More than 20 years

Etc.: As long-time staples of a well-worn Houston circuit that features stops at clubs, churches and festivals, the Sam Brothers keep chugging along with an honest and stern devotion to the tradition of Gulf Coast zydeco. No strangers over the years to the trying realities of rotating membership and limited demand, the Sam Brothers remain a resilient and durable hometown band.

Artist: Don Sanders
Nomination: Best Folk/Acoustic
Sound of Choice: Modestly poetic singer/ songwriter fare
Time Logged: Thirty years

Etc.: Don Sanders has been performing around town for the past three decades, though it's only during the last five years that he's flourished as a kind of teacher/troubadour, wandering between Houston's libraries, schools and historical societies performing shows using his "Sourdough Cowboy" character and entertaining kids and grownups alike. His club appearances are ever more rare (he shows up in one a few times a year, tops), but regardless, Sanders's poetic, mystical, multiculturally driven sentiments set him and his songwriting apart from the less vast musings of most of his contemporaries.

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