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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!

Don Sanders performs at 5 p.m. at Centanni.

Artist: Jack Saunders
Nomination: Best Folk/Acoustic; Best Guitarist; Songwriter of the Year; Best Male Vocalist; Song of the Year ("I Thought You'd Never Ask")

Sound of choice: Gentle, melodic folk rock
Time logged: More than 25 years
Etc: Just in case anyone who likes Gulf Coast singer/songwriters has been living under a rock, 1997 marks the first full year since 1983 that Jack Saunders and Shake Russell haven't worked as a duo. But anyone who expected to see less of Saunders after the split was wrong; a strong solo CD and a heavy touring load have kept him not only visible but prominent on the regional neo-folk circuit.

Jack Saunders performs at 7 p.m. at Cent'Anni.

Artist: Scarface
Nomination: Best Rap/Hip-Hop
Sound of choice: Gangsta rap
Time logged: Six years (as a solo artist)

Etc.: It's not easy being the lone figure in a musical empire that's crumbling before your eyes. Just ask Brad Jordan -- a.k.a. Mr. Scarface. The sometime Geto Boy had bestowed upon him the honor of being the most influential gangsta-style hip-hopper to see a recent effort (The Untouchable) go platinum and still be alive to simmer in its success. (Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. were dead before the listening parties for their latests.) Rap can be a dangerous business, but Scarface is living proof that success and death needn't run hand in hand.

Artist: Seeds of Soul
Nomination: Best Rap/Hip-Hop
Sound of choice: Late-'80s style grooves
Time logged: More than five years

Etc.: When we last checked in with Seeds of Soul, they were getting set to record their long-awaited debut release for Austin's Sector II label. But Sector II has since folded, and the Seeds were among the last to find out. Still, they've managed to take the bitterness left over from that career low point and fashion it into something resembling stubborn perseverance. Aside from keeping things moving on the soul front, members Kwam and DJ Space Ghost have been busy with a side project, Freedom Sold, an experiment in improvisational "noise-hop."

Seeds of Soul perform at 7 p.m. at the Ballroom.

Artist: She Demons
Nomination: Best Underground
Sound of choice: Ghoul lullabies
Time logged: Forever, in spirit years

Etc.: True to their spooky name, She Demons are an elusive and mysterious shock-rock species. One local writer pegs their curious racket as Halloween music. Guess we'll have to take his word for it, since they were mysteriously unavailable to us. Heaven only knows what had to be sacrificed to get this bunch to show themselves aboveground and in broad daylight -- maybe a young virgin?

She Demons perform at 5 p.m. at the Shepherd Plaza Outdoor Stage.

Artist: Harry Sheppard
Nomination: Best Jazz
Sound of choice: Jazz vibes
Time logged: Fifty-one years

Etc.: A veteran vibraphonist who performed with Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman, Harry Sheppard recently returned to his jazz roots after a period of dabbling in jazz fusion. Currently, he's laying down jazz standards in solo, duo and trio formats, and while he's no longer moving in fusion circles, he's not above working his distortion box and whammy pedal into his sets on occasion.

Artist: Sisters Morales
Nomination: Best C&W; Best Female Vocalist (Lisa Morales); Best Guitarist (David Spencer)

Sound of choice: Harmony-laden country rock
Time logged: Eight years
Etc.: Sisters Morales were supposed to have rung in the release of their major-label debut months ago. But events beyond their control have conspired to keep loyal fans waiting. In the meantime, sisters Lisa and Roberta still have one of the tightest backup bands in town, a well-polished cache of countrified, bilingual originals and seamless harmonies. One of the band's extra strengths is guitarist David Spencer, who's no slouch on electric and steel versions of his instrument. In fact, he's generally considered one of the top three players in town.

Sisters Morales perform at 6 p.m. at 8.0.

Artist: Los Skarnales
Nomination: Best Tejano/Latin
Sound of choice: Beady-eyed Latino skank
Time logged: More than two years

Etc.: Los Skarnales' successful cross-pollination of ska, rockabilly and punk superimposed with haughty Spanish lyrics is the sort of genre bending that used to be a lot more common among Texans. As one of the few groups singing predominantly in their native tongue on the local Anglo club circuit (the Abyss, Fitzgerald's, Urban Art Bar), Los Skarnales are fast making their name as a vigorous nine-piece ensemble known for backbreaking live shows. The group's new 14-song CD, Vatos Rudos, should be in stores any time now.

Artist: Sonnier Brothers Band
Nomination: Best New Act
Sound of choice: Earnest, harmony-laden hard rock
Time logged: More than a year

Etc.: When brothers Dane and Len Sonnier quit their posts in a pair of well-respected, if commercially unrealized, big-label acts (Dane left Galactic Cowboys and Len Atomic Opera), their aspirations were small, to say the least. But in abandoning the often stifling spiritual ambitions and musical intricacies of their previous bands, the Sonniers have targeted a sound that's eminently more marketable than possibly even they imagined: funky, metallic grooves leavened by hooky pop choruses and simple melodies, all of it propelled by hearty gusts of soaring harmonies. Modest intent never sounded so grandiose.

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