The Shutters play raucous rock that slips into trancelike experiments and brutal sound collages, abrasive stuff that makes "Revolution No. 9" seem tuneful. The band is at work on a new CD, which it hopes to release by year's end. So far, it has recorded more than 30 songs and can draw from a catalog of 150. For these guys, obviously, a new song isn't a big deal; Walsh often improvises a song on stage with lyrics inspired by the day's events and watches his bandmates try to follow. At the Press Music Awards performance at No tsu oH, the band performed a song that featured the refrain "Poor Resendez" as in Resendez-Ramirez, the serial killer. (B.R.)

CRITIC'S CHOICE:Walking Timebombs

The Suspects

The Suspects, a rock/ska/reggae band, has been performing and releasing albums for six and a half years, but until now, the only honor it had received was a Press Best Horn/Horn Section award a while back. Now this year the band has won not just another Best Horn/Horn Section, but also Best Reggae/World Music.

"Frankly, we're really happy and really surprised," says Bill Grady, guitarist and "stunt" vocalist for the group. "We were up against real serious reggae bands that have been playing longer than we have in reggae clubs, specifically with reggae audiences. We're real happy, but it's a huge surprise."

With all the various band-member departures, welcomes and reinstatements this nine-member outfit has had to deal with recently, it has kept a stiff upper bassline about the whole thing. The fruits of its labor, the five-song EP The Suspects... are GO!, is scheduled to be released in a few months. (C.D.L.)

CRITIC'S CHOICE: Best Reggae, D.R.U.M.; Best Horn/Horn Section, Tkoh!

Zydeco Dots

Zydeco has been red-hot in Houston since the late, great king of the genre, Clifton Chenier, lived and recorded here. And the extremely popular Zydeco Dots carry on that legacy even as they experiment with progressive musical ideas.

The most recent incarnation of the band founded by Tee Potter and Mike Vee definitely understands zydeco's requisite funky syncopation, and it's skillfully provided by bassist Thurman Hurst and drummer Joe Rossyion. But it's front man Leon Sam, on accordion and vocals, who provides the most obvious link to authentic black Creole dance music. As guitarist Potter says, "Leon can do some Clifton Chenier-style that, if you close your eyes and know Clifton's stuff, you cannot tell the difference."

But Dots music is more than a nostalgia act, and they spice their sonic gumbo with complementary sounds ranging from Hank Williams to the Rolling Stones. "Our strength is we can do traditional zydeco very well," says Potter, "and we can also get away from that." Whatever the explanation, this high-energy quintet prompts people to let les bons temps rouler. (R.W.)

CRITIC'S CHOICE: Wilfred Chevis and the Texas Zydeco Band

Mark May

Gotta love a guy who isn't afraid to tell everyone where he's from. Even if he's really from someplace up north. Someplace in Ohio. But since Mark May has lived in Houston these past 18 years, he's gotten used to telling everyone that this is his home. He has just finished gigging with the Allman Brothers, wrapping up last weekend at a show here in his hometown. Along the way, May says, he picked up some tips. As if Houston's premier music man needed any. "Well, playing with [Allman Brothers guitarist] Dickey Betts," May says, "you know, he's all melody. Lots of blues guys just piddle around on the pentatonic scale and that's it." A bluesman May is. But he's also a rocker, which sometimes presents a problem when he and his Agitators, Kirk McKim on guitar, Dan Cooper on bass and Greg Grubbs on drums, try nabbing a performance. "Some guys say we're too bluesy for their rock club," says May, "and some guys tell us we're too rock-and-rollish for their blues club. So I guess we kinda, unfortunately, fall in between." Defying categories, however, is what good bands and musicians do. Intentionally or un-. A listen to "Sweet Spot" off May's 1997 record, Telephone Road, is the perfect marriage of down-home blues and rock. The repetition of the lyrics "Found a little sweet spot / on my baby last night" is typical of authentic blues song construction. But the snappy drums, knife-sharp rhythm guitar lines, dual lead guitar melodies and talk-box indicate nothing but a modern, popular sensibility. It's a nice mix and something only an individual songwriter like May can pull off. (A.M.)


Texas Johnny Brown

After gaining recognition as lead singer fronting a band on his 1997 debut, Nothin' But the Truth, Texas Johnny Brown has fulfilled the promise first suggested in 1949 when he initially recorded under his own name for Atlantic Records. Understandably, his reputation as an outstanding guitarist kept him busy from the '40s through the '60s, backing other featured vocalists in the studio and on tour. "But I've always wanted to sing, especially during all those years I played behind others," Brown says. "Your voice is your first instrument."

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