By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Inspired by a live recording of Maceo Parker, saxophonist Kelly Dean co-founded TKoH! nearly six years ago. That's over half a decade ago. Still, by virtue of what Dean saw at the band's HPMA 2000 showcase, it seems there's more territory to be conquered. "I'd say a good third of the audience had never seen us before," he says. "I guess we're still a well-kept secret." Every Sunday night, TKoH! jams at Instant Karma, and the revolving cast of characters, ranging from seven to 13 people, draws the kind of diverse crowd interested in early funk classics or jazzy, improv-heavy soloing. The focus is on musicianship. Most of the members perform around town during the week, then use TKoH! as a way to cut loose and have some fun. Loaded with two trumpets, two saxes and two trombones, TKoH! regularly features a killer horn section along with a guitarist, a drummer, a percussionist and (as if the band weren't textured enough) a keyboardist. -- S.C.
Critic's choice: Vintage SKV
If it's sound quality that matters, then the Aerial, as it's affectionately known, is pretty much the best venue for anything that makes sound -- not just random rock and rollers. Even the Pretenders sound like a real band in this, the loudest venue in town. Clean and pristine, the Aerial makes going to and from events comfortable. In a wash of rowdy Powerman 5000 fans, that's quite an accomplishment. Endearing itself to HPMA voters is also some feat. Scenester-voters overlooked the fact that the Aerial's stock-in-trade is big concert business. They voted for the venue, anyway -- either because it's so far beyond the competition or because the Aerial is actually super-vital to the Houston scene. The venue co-sponsors music awards year after year. Talk about showing local love. -- A.M.
Critic's choice: Fitzgerald's
Hollisters front man Mike Barfield asked if he had won a new microwave oven when told his band had been selected as Houston's best musical cowpokes for the third time in the past four years. This was obviously no passing attempt at witty banter, because after the usual "it's nice to be recognized" stuff, Barfield revealed he is planning to tie the knot in September with longtime girlfriend Yvonne Shimek. Heck, no time like the present to drop hints about the gift list.
In the same breath, Barfield dropped an equally big bombshell. After getting married, the happy couple will pack up and move to Austin, meaning the next time the Hollisters appear on a music awards ballot, it will be in the Austin Chronicle. Barfield is the only member still living in Houston, so the move will clear up some logistical problems and put the band on more secure ground in one of the world's two alt-country meccas. It seems the honeymoon period won't be too long or leisurely, even though the band's Sweet Inspiration album shot up to No. 3 on the Americana chart this past year. The band is still working in new drummer Tom Lewis (ex-Junior Brown), who replaced Kevin "Snit" Fitzpatrick; once that transition is made, the Hollisters plan to record a live album in Shiner and keep riding the club scene while there are still some legs left on the studio album. "I've always wanted to keep moving forward," said Barfield. "And there's no secret to what this band has been able to do, other than plain ole hard work." -- G.B.
Critic's choice: The Hollisters
Mike Sinclair didn't create his style by imitating the usual monsters who have produced so many clones (Stanley Clarke, Ron Carter, Chris Squire, Jaco Pastorius, Larry Graham, et al.); he developed it by focusing on Delta blues and jug bands. "[My style] is based off of jug music where there was no bass," says Sinclair. "Where the bass was just a guy going, 'whomp, whomp, whomp' in a jug." For Sinclair, finding like-minded musicians in Jug O' Lightnin' has been liberating. He started taking lessons from his father in 1974 and began playing in public in 1996 in cover bands. But when he met up with vocalist Aaron Loesch and formed Jug, he was able to develop his Delta-ragtime-jug style. As for the band's future, Sinclair is optimistic. "We put this thing together, and it's worked out good. This is all original music, and we're very picky. It won't be long before we're touring." -- P.J.M.
Critic's choice: David Craig
Each year Sisters Morales takes this category, and each year they wonder why. After all, front woman Lisa Morales says, they rock. "It's not that we're ungrateful," she says. "It's just that I wish [the Press] had an 'Eclectic Music' category."
No matter what they're called (or what some music critic calls them), sisters Lisa and Roberta Morales manage to pound through barriers. They appeal to any race, any music buff. They blend rock with country with blues with Tejano. So it's only natural to be at a loss when trying to describe their sound. "We aren't one kind of music," Morales says. "I think our sound works in Houston because it's such a melting pot of different races. In fact, we hear that from our audience a lot, that they like our shows because we cross borders."