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!

Sonnier Brothers Band performs at 9 p.m. at Instant Karma.

Artist: Buck Stonebroke (Harry Fish String Band)
Nomination: Best Bassist
Sound of choice: Texas folk with a bluegrass twist
Time logged: Three years

Etc.: It's likely that the first thing most people notice about the Harry Fish String Band's Texas-by-way-of-Appalachia sound is not Buck Stonebroke's bass plucking, but

rather the guitars and mandolin of Joe Kirkpatrick, Mike Straub and Kelly Lancaster, respectively -- which is as it should be. Oftentimes, the best bassists are the ones who make themselves the least conspicuous. And if Stonebroke weren't holding down the bottom end with such skill and panache, all would be chaos.

Artist: Sugar Shack
Nomination: Best Rock/Pop
Sound of choice: Raw power
Time logged: More than ten years

Etc.: Yep, Sugar Shack is still alive and squirming. And nope, nothing much has come of the fact that this loud, fast, heavy-rock behemoth was, at one time, the best thing going in this town. The group still incorporates a hefty dose of Motor City deviance into its attack -- i.e. MC-5, the Stooges -- only venturing onto a stage when the urge strikes them (which isn't that often). Even so, they remain among the most underrated bands in Houston -- with extra credit for stamina, of course.

Sugar Shack performs at 9 p.m. at the Ballroom.

Artist: Walter Suhr and Mango Punch!
Nomination: Best Tejano/Latin; Best Drummer (Brian Torres)
Sound of choice: Latin pop
Time logged: Six years

Etc.: Mango Punch! dispenses Latin music with a slick, polished feel. Sequenced keyboards and electric guitar -- items not commonly found in your typical salsa band -- play a big part in the band's unique sound. Their repertoire consists of originals and covers.

Artist: Mike Sumler
Nomination: Best Folk/Acoustic; Best Pianist/Keyboardist
Sound of choice: A bit of everything
Time logged: More than 20 years

Etc.: This year's Rain signals Mike Sumler's re-emergence on the Houston singer/ songwriter landscape after years of hovering in the shadows. On the CD, Sumler proves that he's still in firm command of all his faculties, displaying a startling breadth of styles -- from country to rock to folk to blues -- and moods. And as always, his imagery is as vivid as the horizon at sunrise. Could it be that Sumler was actually saving his best for later?

Artist: The Suspects
Nomination: Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category; Song of the Year ("Caffeine"); Best Horn/Horn Section

Sound of choice: Ska
Time logged: Three years
Etc.: So what if "Caffeine" is well over a year old? It's full-on, timeless ska through and through (not to mention a top vote-getter on the '97 nomination ballot), so we let its dubious inclusion slide. As for the tune's authors, the Suspects, they may not be the hippest Two-Tone bunch on the planet, but their near-flawless execution and boundless affection for their genre is as invigorating as it is indisputable. Oh, by the way, their new CD is called How I Learned to Stop Worrying ... and Love the Ska, and it's a doozy.

The Suspects perform at 8 p.m. at the Shepherd Plaza Outdoor Stage.

Artist: Taste of Garlic
Nomination: Best Rap/Hip-Hop; Best Funk/R&B
Sound of choice: Metal guitars, fat grooves
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: Mydixiewrecked (say out loud for desired effect), Taste of Garlic's full-length debut CD, finally saw the light of day late last year. And while the hemp-happy foursome does take some cues from rap and funk, their overall sound is more along the lines of Deep Purple, rhythmically and attitudinally modified for the mosh pit.

Taste of Garlic performs at 6 p.m. at the Rhino Room.

Artist: Texas Guinness Lovers
Nomination: Best New Act
Sound of choice: Ballads for boozers
Time logged: One year

Etc.: Texas Guinness Lovers is swiftly staggering to the forefront as one of Houston's most inspired, original bands. Wielding tubas, violins, guitars and drums, the band negotiates the loopy musical landscape of the hybrid Irish/Texan drinker's lament. Filling a local club on a weeknight is no easy task, and the Guinness Lovers' Tuesday night shows at Rudyard's are consistently stuffed -- which could be seen as both a testament to the band's success and an indication of its fans' drinking habits.

Artist: Rick Thompson (Moses Guest/Beat Temple/Calvin Owens Orchestra)
Nomination: Best Pianist/Keyboardist
Sound of choice: Rock keys with a little jazz and soul
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: The past year has been a breakout period for local keyboard wizard Rick Thompson, who has not only continued his usual duties in Beat Temple, but was recently drafted by two other bands on a full-time basis. As keyboard player for Moses Guest, Thompson has beefed up the Southern-fried originals of band leader Graham Guest, and his latest gig as organist/pianist for the Calvin Owens Orchestra has allowed him to fine-tune his jazz chops. On top of that, he's also trying his hand at production. A Rick of all trades, indeed.

Rick Thompson performs with Moses Guest at 6 p.m. at the Voodoo Lounge.

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