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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!

At times, we must admit, putting together the ballot for the Press Music Awards engenders a touch of deja vu. Familiar names (can you say Carolyn Wonderland? Jesse Dayton? Joe "Guitar" Hughes?) keep popping up. Not that that's necessarily bad; this would be a poorer town musically if the reliables weren't so, well, reliable. Still, it was nice this time around to see a number of new names elbowing their way in and demanding a little recognition.

And so to reacquaint you with the old, and introduce you to the new, we offer this guide to just who's who on the Music Awards Ballot -- and just who's playing where at the Music Awards showcase. Performers are arranged as alphabetically as we could get them (would Lady D go under Lady or D? We chose D), with playtimes and locations under 55 of the more than 100 nominees. So give a read, then give a listen -- and keep an eye out for the announcement of the Music Awards winners in our July 10 issue.

-- The Editors

Artist: Aftershock
Nomination: Best Rap/Hip-Hop
Sound of choice: Metal-edged hip-hop
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: It was a long time coming, but Aftershock's self-titled debut release, recorded in

the Arizona desert with producer Jay Lean, was worth the wait. A cocky convergence of rap's street-level credibility and heavy metal's grind-it-out aesthetic that is equal parts instrumental prowess and inventive sampling, Aftershock rocks hard and grooves serious -- just like its namesake does in the flesh.

Aftershock performs at 7 p.m. at the Shepherd Plaza Outdoor Stage.

Artist: Alice's Tin Pony
Nomination: Best New Act
Sound of choice: Tasteful, mildly progressive folk-pop
Time logged: More than a year

Etc.: Alice's Tin Pony's debut CD, Hate Book, was one of the more refreshing CDs of the year. Guided by the silky pipes and introspective inclinations of acknowledged old soul Alana Waters, the disc works as a blueprint for what, given the right circumstances, ATP should become -- which is essentially a smart, arty, serious folk pop band that isn't afraid to wax soft and sensitive in a city full of young bands that would rather rock loud and silly.

Alice's Tin Pony performs at 8 p.m. at 8.0.

Artist: Ralf Armin (Truth Decay)
Nomination: Best Bassist
Sound of choice: Fiery hard rock
Time logged: Seven years (with Truth Decay)

Etc.: Featuring former members of the Pain Teens and Culturcide, Truth Decay and its co-founder, bassist Ralf Armin, are currently in the studio working on a debut release, Expressway to Spongecake. Uncom-promisingly heavy, the band has been featured on countless compilations over the years and recently released a single, "White Bunnies."

Artist: Aubrey Dunham and the Party Machine
Nomination: Best Cover Band
Sound of choice: Blues, soul, rock and roll
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: Saxophonist Aubrey Dunham's latest project, the Party Machine, boasts a wide array of amiable covers aimed at shaking an audience's butts and moving their feet. Blessed with another warhorse of the local scene, guitarist Charlie Chavira, the band's broad knowledge of both well-known and obscure blues, rock and soul tunes has made them one of the more appealing bands of their ilk. Never one to turn down a request for "Happy Birthday" or to refuse a dance with a stumbling group of drunk women at the foot of the stage, Dunham's eager-to-please good nature makes him unique.

Aubrey Dunham and the Party Machine perform at 5 p.m. at Metroplex.

Artist: Bamboo Crisis
Nomination: Best Industrial/Noise
Sound of choice: Gothic techno
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: For a band that keeps such a low-key local profile, Bamboo Crisis certainly gets around. Early Bamboo singles such as "Aftermath" and "Shapeshifter" have shared chart space with the likes of White Zombie, Tricky and Foetus on national alternative-dance charts over the last few years. And with the recent release of the full-length 51 Pegasi, the band proves that its life span is greater than the sum of a few bracing technological sound bites.

Bamboo Crisis performs at 9 p.m. at the Blue Iguana.

Artist: The Basics
Nomination: Best Tejano/Latin
Sound of choice: Bi-cultural Rock
Time logged: Nine years

Etc.: Though half their songs are sung in Spanish, the Basics are pure, guitar-driven rock and roll. In essence, they're Houston's version of Los Lobos, minus the overt acousti-folk indulgences.

The Basics perform at 6 p.m. at Metroplex.

Artist: Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds
Nomination: Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category
Sound of choice: Classic rock and roll performance art
Time logged: Eleven years

Etc.: The Bi-Peds are a little like a soap opera in that it's nearly impossible to comprehend everything that's happening on first look. Catch the show a few times, though, and you should be hooked. Sick, funny, surreal and warm, Beans Barton is a truly lovable and perplexing local legend, and his Bi-Peds sprinkle in just the right amount of technical expertise and Monty Pythonesque wackiness to complement him. The recent addition of guitar ace Jimmy Raycraft has only strengthened the group's qualifications -- and its case for clinical insanity.

Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds perform at 8 p.m. at the Rhino Room.

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.

Mary Cutrufello performs at 5 p.m. at the Voodoo Lounge.

Artist: Lady D
Nomination: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Sound of choice: Zydeco -- with the lady's touch
Time logged: One year

Etc: Vocalist/accordionist Lady D claims to be the first and only female accordionist in Texas, and we'll give her the benefit of the doubt -- as she definitely knows her zydeco. D and her band, the Zydeco Tornadoes, haven't been around long, but word's been spreading fast all over the Gulf Coast about this fierce outfit and its quick-fingered accordion diva.

Lady D and the Zydeco Tornadoes perform at 5 p.m. at 8.O.

Artist: Jesse Dayton
Nomination: Best Male Vocalist; Best C&W; Local Musician of the Year; Songwriter of the Year

Sound of choice: Roots country
Time logged: Seven years
Etc.: Since his early days with the Road Kings, Jesse Dayton has been steadily developing a

more perceptive, sensitive side to his trademark Baytown bravado. And as he continues to share stages nationally with a broad cross section of bigger artists (from Willie Nelson to redneck punkers the Supersuckers), Dayton grows into an ever more entertaining and seasoned performer. His second solo release on Justice Records, Hey, Nashvegas, is due this summer.

Jesse Dayton performs at 9 p.m. at the Big Horn Saloon.

Artist: dead horse
Nomination: Best Metal/Hard Rock Act
Sound of choice: The heaviest heavy metal (a.k.a. horsecore)
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: The now-defunct dead horse toyed with the big time, and it cost them. So for awhile they tried a different route, eschewing the industry's hype machine in favor of meat-and-potatoes touring. The result? Houston's once-powerful beasts of thrash finally fell prey to inner turmoil earlier this year and called it quits. But even if their idols are bruised and broken, horse fans refuse to let the band's memory die.

Artist: Damon DeLaPaz (30footFALL)
Nomination: Best Drummer
Sound of choice: Ludicrous hard-core punk
Time logged: Three years

Etc.: Not much is different around 30footFALL central these days, which has to be a first for a band so prone to roster shakeups. Yes, the group is still churning out its mixture of bone-mincing power chords and high-velocity rhythms, though now they're doing it with distribution help from West Coast punk label Fearless Records. And yes, sure-stroking stick man Damon DeLaPaz is still at the whirlwind's center -- actually, he is its center.

30footFALL performs at 6 p.m. at the Shepherd Plaza Outdoor Stage.

Artist: Dave Dove Duo
Nomination: Best Horn/Horn Section
Sound of choice: Improv is an understatement
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: His unflappable partner in noise, bassist/keyboardist Paul Guilford, is no longer in the band (or the country for that matter), but trombonist Dave Dove is still doing his crazy improvisational thing. These days, Dove is playing with bassist David Klingensmith and drummer Richard Cholakian -- and the music that results is just as undefinable.

Artist: Doppelganger
Nomination: Best Cover Band
Sound of choice: Top 40, big band, jazz and soul
Time logged: Twenty-eight years

Etc.: A professional cover band that you're more likely to see at an event than at a bar, Doppelganger has eight members and a repertoire that includes Top 40 hits from the '60s to the '90s, in addition to big band, jazz and soul favorites.

Artist: D.R.U.M.
Nomination: Best Reggae/World Music
Sound of choice: African, Latin and Caribbean styles
Time logged: Nine years

Etc.: D.R.U.M. stands for Divine Rhythm, United Motion; if you've ever experienced this passionately authentic ensemble, you know just what that means. Begun as a percussion outfit in 1988, the group has since morphed into something a good deal more musical than the sum of its intricate rhythmic components. Seemingly, D.R.U.M. has been sparring with Wazobia for top honors in this category since the dawn of time.

Artist: Paul English
Nomination: Best Pianist/Keyboardist
Sound of choice: Jazz and classical
Time logged: Thirty-one years

Etc.: While he may be best-known locally as a jazz pianist and trumpeter, Paul English is nevertheless a serious composer. Having recently penned an oratorio for mixed choir, chamber orchestra and organ, English is beginning to venture out more with his contemporary jazz quartet as well as his chamber music ensemble, PICO.

Artist: Flamin' Hellcats
Nomination: Album of the Year (Speed Freak)
Sound of choice: Mexicolored rockabilly
Time logged: Five years

Etc.: As they grow older and decreasingly wise, the Flamin' Hellcats can always be counted on to opt for sheer lawless impulse, ditching all measures of good judgment in favor of rocking the house by any means necessary with their lethal "vatobilly" potion. Part grunge, part punk, part Tex-Mex roots, part chain saw buzz, the Hellcats' sound has never been known to skimp on volume or, for that matter, sloppiness. And with their repertoire of originals and covers, they've mustered a little out-of-town respect as well.

Flamin' Hellcats perform at 8 p.m. at Metroplex.

Artist: Global Village
Nomination: Best Funk/R&B; Best Horn/Horn Section
Sound of choice: Worldly funk
Time logged: Seven years

Etc.: Global Village have learned their lessons well from the funk masters, as even their newer originals have an eerily familiar funky feeling. A tight three-man horn section only strengthens the perception.

Artist: The Gypsies
Nomination: Best Traditional Ethnic; Best Reggae/World Music
Sound of choice: Trad-folk melange
Time logged: Twenty-three years

Etc.: Best known for their famous Julian New Year's parties, the Gypsies have been performing polyethnic music throughout Houston for more than two decades. Certainly, there are few balalaika- and bouzouki-wielding bands on the scene these days, and the Gypsies' dedication to expanding their repertoire -- which encompasses folk music in traditional French, Polish, Middle Eastern and Cajun styles, among others -- seems tireless.

Artist: Glenn Harper (Poor Dumb Bastards)
Nomination: Best Drummer
Sound of choice: Skins, man
Time logged: Sixteen years

Etc.: What separates Glenn Harper (better known as Glenbo) from the other nominees in the Best Drummer category is his longevity. The 36-year-old Harper has been drumming in punk rock bands since 1981, starting with the Party Owls and moving on to other bands such as Love Holster, Bad Samaritans and Can't Remember Shit before joining up with his current group, Poor Dumb Bastards, in 1992. Having worked in bars and booked bands for many years, Harper has played a major part in the Inner Loop music scene -- and still does, despite his recent migration into the day-job lifestyle.

Artist: The Hollisters
Nominated for: Best C&W; Local Musician of the Year (Mike Barfield)
Sound of choice: Honest honky-tonk with a '90s spirit
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: The Hollisters may well be the best damn country outfit in the state -- let alone

Houston. They're certainly one of the most uniquely Texan. Yet despite such statewide appeal, this rock-solid, tradition-minded quartet continues to work the local circuit like cowboys on a mission. Mission accomplished, fellas; this city digs you. Now it's on to the rest of the country.

Artist: Horseshoe
Nomination: Best C&W; Local Musician of the Year (Eddie Hawkins, Greg Wood); Best Male Vocalist (Greg Wood); Best Guitarist (Scott Daniels); Best Drummer (Eddie Hawkins); Songwriter of the Year (Greg Wood); Song of the Year ("Little Accidents of Grace"); Album of the Year (King of the World)

Sound of choice: All-inclusive roots rock
Time logged: Two years
Etc.: From the sound of Horseshoe's promising debut, King of the World, the group's fondness for the likes of Syd Barrett and Hank Williams serves as little more than a launching point for an even weirder set of excursions into the bowels of lead singer/songwriter Greg Wood's record collection. "Little Accidents of Grace" may be the easiest song to admire among the group's vast catalog of eccentricities. It's a hummable little ditty with a "sittin' around the front porch drunk" sort of offhandedness that only bolsters its warmth. Still, it hardly seems the proper indicator of the bigger and better things in store if Horseshoe keeps its saddle on straight. For that, simply refer to the rest of the CD.

Horseshoe performs at 9 p.m. at 8.0.

Artist: Joe "Guitar" Hughes
Nomination: Best Blues
Sound of choice: Tough but smooth Texas 12-bar
Time logged: Forty-three years

Etc.: Like many a Texas blues ambassador, veteran Third Ward guitarist Joe Hughes has had his share of success in far corners of the globe. But he's hardly cultivated an international reputation at the expense of his hometown profile. When he's not on the road, Hughes can typically be found ripping into his signature Fender guitar on local stages, or serving as inspiration -- and living proof of Houston's rich blues history -- to promising up-and-comers such as Mark May.

Artist: The Hunger
Nomination: Best Industrial/Noise
Sound of choice: Technically streamlined pop
Time logged: Seven years

Etc.: Steered by brothers Jeff and Thomas Wilson, the Hunger's radio-friendly soundowes as much to Alice in Chains as it does to Nine Inch Nails. But at the same time, its vibe is so unflinching in its perkiness that you could argue it has little in common with either. After being picked up by a major label early last year, the Hunger's self-produced Devil Thumbs a Ride became a surprise breakthrough for the band. Expect to see a follow-up in stores sometime in early 1998.

Artist: I End Result
Nomination: Best Metal/Hard Rock; Best Guitarist (Arnett Vaughn)
Sound of choice: Funk-phat, power-chord rock
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: For simplicity's sake, think of I End Result as a rough-hewn Houston hybrid of Living Colour and Faith No More. Reflect on that fusion and all it implies, then go see the band live to get the full effect of the band's ferociousness. Granted, I End Result guitarist Arnett Vaughn may not be a Vernon Reid (but then again, aside from Vernon Reid himself, who is?), but Vaughn is a feisty player, and what he lacks in flash he more than makes up for in spirit.

I End Result performs at 8 p.m. at Instant Karma.

Artist: I-45
Nomination: Best Rap/Hip-Hop
Sound of choice: Slip-hop (a Southern brand of hip-hop)
Time logged: One year

Etc.: Seven years ago, school chums Tony Avitia (Tech Ron B) and Billy Kinnoman (Tripp Von Slipp), while serving time watering broccoli at a local Kroger, began toying with the idea of forming a hip-hop ensemble. But it wasn't until they hooked up with Jason Mienelt (DJ Rudy Martinez 2000) that this biracial trio decided it was time to unleash their playful, funk-heavy rap (think Beastie Boys with a dash of Outkast) on the public, busting rhymes that are, in their own words, "so phat, they're on Jenny Craig."

Artist: Jinkies
Nomination: Best Rock/Pop; Best Male Vocalist (Carlos DeLeon); Best Female Vocalist (Chris Nine); Song of the Year ("Baby Never Cries"); Songwriter of the Year (Carlos DeLeon); Album of the Year (Everest)

Sound of choice: Power pop periodically disguised as noise
Time logged: Two years
Etc.: Though the recent arrival of former Manholer Chris Nine has helped in the harmony department, the Jinkies continue their struggle to convincingly translate their tuneful and irreverent punk-pop formula to the stage. But on CD, specifically their strikingly mature debut Everest, the quartet is just about there, contrasting pristine Beatlesque numbers such as "Baby Never Cries" with enough lo-fi, slop-rock carelessness to lash Carlos DeLeon's well-crafted melodies and Lennony croon firmly to the present. Will somebody wise up and sign these guys already?

Jinkies perform at 7 p.m. at the Blue Iguana.

Artist: The Keenlies
Nomination: Best Funk/R&B
Sound of choice: Goofy groove ephemera
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: Despite the Keenlies' nomination in the Best Funk/R&B category, frontman Brad Moore insists that their sound is less like Parliament and more like Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- albeit with worse vocals and shorter songs. However one might categorize the Keenlies, it's hard to deny that their music is infectious. Despite a dearth of new material, the band still manages to attract respectable crowds to their shows. Playing less and practicing more these days, Moore admits that the group is becoming a bit more serious. But he would also like to assure everyone that the Keenlies will always remain "foolish scoundrels and bar clutter." Amen to that.

The Keenlies perform at 7 p.m. at 8.0.

Artist: LatchKey Kids
Nomination: Best Underground
Sound of choice: Revised old-school punk
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: It seems like only yesterday that the LatchKey Kids were indeed kids, sweating it out at Zelda's in front of a sparse weeknight crowd. But over the past few years they've matured into a feisty, full-tilt trad-punk outfit, creating an image for themselves outside Houston in the process. This summer, plans include trips to Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Canada, as well as the release of a new CD, Anytime, Anyplace.

LatchKey Kids perform at 4 p.m. at the Shepherd Plaza Outdoor Stage.

Artist: Liberation
Nomination: Best Reggae/World Music
Sound of choice: Pure reggae
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: Liberation, whose members hail from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and the Virgin Islands, spans the variety of reggae styles, from dance hall to rock-steady to dub -- even throwing in some American funk for good measure. Their new CD, Take Heed, is receiving airplay on radio throughout the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.

Artist: Li'l Brian Terry
Nomination: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Sound of choice: Postmodern zydeco
Time logged: Eleven years

Etc.: Earlier this year, Li'l Brian Terry laid down his blueprint for the future of zydeco with the Rounder Records release Z-Funk. His strategy for ushering a tradition-seeped genre into the next millennium is fairly simple -- dress it up with the more contemporary traits of hip-hop, funk and reggae while keeping the emphasis where it belongs: on the accordion, which Terry works like it's just another appendage to his sturdy, well-toned frame.

Artist: Lima Sugar
Nomination: Best New Act
Sound of choice: Groovish, appealing indie pop
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: Lima Sugar's Liz Sowers is the most appealing female voice to emerge from the Houston scene this year. Though she may not be as impressive a full-throated wailer as, say, Carolyn Wonderland or Under the Sun's P.J. Cooper, Sowers nevertheless shades her somewhat girlish delivery with a world-weary intonation that exudes serious personality. As for the music, Lima Sugar is steadily negotiating its way into a more original sound, mixing it up enough musically so that no one would ever doubt their artistic intentions -- just, perhaps, their experience.

Lima Sugar performs at 5 p.m. at the Blue Iguana.

Artist: Linoleum Experiment
Nomination: Best New Act
Sound of choice: Slightly skewed pure-pop hooks
Time logged: One year

Etc.: Linoleum Experiment began as a vehicle for gifted guitarist/vocalist Thane Matcek -- with a little help from his friends in Celindine (now Trompedo). Since then, the project has evolved into a full-fledged indie pop band with tons of promise. Perhaps most heartening about Matcek is that he isn't afraid of a pretty hook, and his fresh, emotionally direct vocals are an equal treat. The band goes into the studio in late summer to record its full-length debut.

Linoleum Experiment performs at 6 p.m. at Instant Karma.

Artist: Manhole
Nomination: Best Metal/Hard Rock
Sound of choice: Coed metal alternative
Time logged: Six years

Etc.: Over the past 12 months, the leaden leading ladies of Manhole have retooled their lineup, replacing a drummer and a bassist and adding a second guitarist. They have not, however, compromised one shred of their trademark heaviness, as the added weight of new personnel has just made them, well, heavier. Manhole's aversion to touring makes them an almost exclusively Houston act; the band is most likely to be spotted loosening the floorboards at the likes of Fitzgerald's, the Blue Iguana and Instant Karma. Recording for their second full-length CD begins later this summer.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Artist: TKoh!
Nomination: Best Horn/Horn Section; Best Jazz; Best Funk/R&B
Sound of choice: Funk and soul with a jazzy sophistication
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: With its overpowering sense of fun and its breathtaking displays of tightness and execution, TKoh! is both a lightweight party band and a heavyweight talent pool rolled into one. Its founding inspired by the great Maceo Parker work Life on Planet Groove, this bulky brass-led ensemble of local all-stars boasts an ever-shifting lineup and often enough members to clutter two nightclub stages. With the level of talent that this outfit employs, a high-quality performance is as much a given at a TKoh! show as a crowded dance floor.

TKoh! performs at 7 p.m. at the Rhino Room.

Artist: Toy Subs
Nomination: Best Cover Band
Sound of choice: The sounds of others, expertly duplicated
Time logged: Seven years

Etc.: Without question, Toy Subs is among Houston's most accomplished live bands. The group's harmonies, showmanship and instrumentation are all topnotch, and frequent gigs around town make them a hard act to ignore. Still, they are a cover band. Maybe not for long, though: Steady radio play on the Buzz indicates that the band's original material may hold more promise than once believed. Seven years on, Toy Subs could be staring at a future above and beyond the human jukebox circuit.

Artist: Little Joe Washington
Nomination: Best Blues
Sound of choice: Smokin' blues guitar
Time logged: Fifty years

Etc.: Thursday nights at the Blue Iguana, one of Houston's most peculiar treasures takes the stage. Though no one can be sure about Little Joe's precise origins (including Joe himself), Texas legends from Joe "Guitar" Hughes to Johnny Copeland will vouch for his presence on the Houston scene for decades. Famous for soloing ad infinitum with his tongue, Washington's playing is as unrefined and engaging as he is.

Artist: Wazobia
Nomination: Best Reggae/World Music
Sound of choice: See above
Time logged: Twelve years

Etc.: Wazobia boasts a truly multicultural membership that hails from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and the U.S., which means its exotic implications are well-founded. The quintet makes its presence known annually in the Reggae/World Music category, and has snatched the top honor three times in the last five years. World beat doesn't get any more global than this.

Wazobia performs at 7 p.m. at Metroplex.

Artist: Bert Wills
Nomination: Best Blues
Sound of choice: Texas blues
Time logged: More than 35 years

Etc.: Bert Wills's last support gig was in the early '90s as lead guitarist for Miss Molly's Whips. Since then, his solo career has proven him as capable a bandleader as anyone he ever backed. His bluesy originals blend familiar themes such as lost love with simple, bold proclamations of honor and integrity. The rough-hewn, jailbird image that precedes Wills wherever he goes belies guitar playing that is thoughtful, intricate, subtle and rousingly tuneful.

Artist: Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys
Nomination: Best Rock/Pop; Best Blues; Local Musician of the Year (Carolyn Wonderland); Best Female Vocalist (Carolyn Wonderland); Best Guitarist (Eric Dane); Best Bassist (Chris King); Best Drummer (Leesa Harrington Squyres); Album of the Year (Bursting with Flavor)

Sound of choice: Roadhouse rock
Time logged: Five years
Etc.: Racking up her annual slew of nominations, Carolyn Wonderland has

already proven her gritty journeywoman mettle in her home state. Now, it seems, the only thing left for her is the oft-dreaded national push. How Wonderland found time in a busy touring schedule to grace us with Bursting with Flavor, her debut release on Justice Records and the first hint on disc that she is coming into her own as a songwriter, is anyone's guess. And with all that time on the road, the Imperial Monkeys have matured from a capable backing unit into a, well, more-than-capable backing unit -- although their chemistry may be altered somewhat with the recent departure of cement-solid drummer Leesa Harrington Squyres.

Artist: Wyndnwyre
Nomination: Best Traditional Ethnic
Sound of choice: Renaissance/Celtic folk
Time logged: Fifteen years

Etc.: In addition to more typical folk-style instruments such as guitar and mandolin, folk ensemble Wyndnwyre incorporates the hammered dulcimer, Irish flute, low whistle, bodhran, tin whistle and dumbek for a unique sound firmly rooted in the history books. The group's repertoire focuses on the instrumental music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance eras, as well as vocal-based tunes in the Celtic tradition. A medieval time warp in the best sense.

Artist: Tony Xpress
Nomination: Best Reggae/World Music
Sound of choice: As above, emphasis "world"
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: Forever on the road, Tony Xpress nevertheless has the local clout to snag a regular Reggae/World Music nomination. This native Nigerian and his well-polished backup quartet whip up an exotic stew that's more than just the sum of its soul, reggae, calypso and Afro-beat parts. Xpress's multi-genre crash-course is well-traveled and tighter than a steel drum.

Artist: Rozz Zamorano (Fondue Monks)
Nomination: Best Bassist
Sound of choice: Rock, jazz
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: Bassist Rozz Zamorano's style is somewhat akin to that of Jack Bruce, best known for his time with Cream. It's free-flowing and mildly funky, with a sharp focus on technique. In addition to holding down the bass chair in the Fondue Monks, Zamorano heads up a jazz fusion trio that plays Mondays at Rudyard's. He also indulges in the occasional Spanish rock gig with Templo de Sueno. Busy guy.

Artist: Norma Zenteno Band
Nomination: Best Tejano/Latin; Best Jazz; Best Female Vocalist (Norma Zenteno); Best Pianist/Keyboardist (Gilbert Sedeno)

Sound of choice: Cuban jazz
Time logged: Forty-two years
Etc: She's a salsa queen; she's a classic rocker; she's a feisty aIt-rock diva; she's a jazzy torch singer. In fact, there's little Norma Zenteno isn't into these days -- and into with wildly entertaining vengeance. And the various members of her fine band are almost always up to the challenge.

The Norma Zenteno Band performs at 9 p.m. at Q Cafe.

Artist: The Zydeco Dots
Nomination: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Sound of choice: The name says it all
Time logged: Nine years

Etc.: Despite sundry personnel changes (including the departure of more than one frontman by the name of Pierre) and a decade of toiling on the Texas/Louisiana nightclub circuit to mixed returns, the Zydeco Dots continue to maintain their reputation as the most popular zydeco act in town simply by hanging in there. Year after year, the band is a favorite in the Best Cajun/Zydeco category, its nomination virtually assured. And once their washboards and accordions get rolling on-stage, the Dots leave little room for argument.

The Zydeco Dots perform at 8 p.m. at the Big Horn Saloon.

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