Big John and Little Joe

Space City's tallest and shortest musicians rule the 2002 Houston Press Music Awards

Critic's pick: Claudio Depujedas, Suspects

Best CD/Record Store
Cactus Music and Video

No matter how unpredictable these awards get (and judging from this year's ballot, they do get unpredictable), one thing's for certain: Cactus is gonna win Best CD/Record Store. Even after Tropical Storm Allison flooded the store last year, people still flocked to Cactus to take in the pop-culture bumrush of it. It's gotten to the point now where people go by just to hear the employees -- men and women who could easily win on Beat the Geeks any day of the week -- debate on such topics as who was the best Batman: Keaton or Kilmer? (Clooney was kind of the George Lazenby of the franchise, don't cha think?) "If you spend a minute around one of my employees, you'll learn that they love music and movies," says general manager Quinn Bishop. "We try to allow them to be who they are." The perseverance of Cactus proves that if you have an educated staff, a loyal following, plenty of free beer for in-store concerts and a bunch of '70s sexploitation movies on DVD, you can overcome any disaster. -- C.D.L.

Critic's pick: Cactus Music and Video

Female Vocalist of the Year
Carolyn Wonderland
This bluesy babe couldn't pick up her award this year, because the ceremony took place on the eve of her customary summer tour of the Great Plains and the Mountain West states. By the time you read this, she'll be rolling out of Iowa toward her ninth consecutive engagement at Sturgis Bike Week at the Buffalo Chip campground in South Dakota. She'll share the stage with Blues Traveler, Billy Idol, Patrice Pike and Steppenwolf, whose "Born to Be Wild" could have been written for the pint-sized blueswoman. She'll be there through August 10, so it's not too late to jump on your Harley and flug-lug on up the highway to where every biker worth his leather jacket will be. -- J.N.L.

Critic's pick: Trudy Lynn

Best Metal
Faceplant
If you didn't get the e-mail, the face of metal is changing, and the victory of this rap/ metal fusion ensemble from Pasadena proves it. Anguished tunes about death and hell, screeched vocals and guitar virtuosity are out; rapped lyrics about the good times are in. Tattoos, beer, weed, groupies, thudding beats and revved-up power chords remain the same. Less a band than a full-on spectacle, Faceplant puts on one of the best shows in town, as the 1,000-plus of you who took in their showcase at the Verizon will agree. These guys must have heeded their own advice and tapped a keg, because their phone number didn't work, their Web site was all but empty, and the Press's e-mails about their win went unanswered. But they'll be back on August 24 with a show at 2002's Best Rock Club, Fitzgerald's. -- J.N.L.

Critic's pick: Pure Rubbish

Song of the Year
"Magnolia," Davin James
Long ago, Houston was known as the Magnolia City, and there was a brewery on Buffalo Bayou that made Magnolia Beer. Since then, the nickname has been supplanted by two lackluster substitutes. Bayou City? Naah. Too many of our bayous stink, and they sure do turn on us when the rains come. And Space City? It seems odd to name your city after a governmental agency -- no matter how sexy -- with offices some 25 miles from town. We should have stuck with magnolias. Then we could have sung this epic anthem of bluesy honky-tonker Davin James with even more spirit. James really caught lightning in a bottle with this one. His lyrics personify the world's most fragrant tree as a woman, and the conceit works. Few trees can inspire a sense of physical love the way a magnolia can; nor can any tree better evoke James's beloved South. Musically, the tune starts out with the bare instrumentation of voice over a Piedmont-style blues riff. Then the full band kicks in, complete with several backing singers. From there the song canters along at a toe-tapping trot to a Dixie-fried crescendo, and James's slashing guitar drives the tune to its fade-out at just under the five-minute mark. If this one doesn't have you singing along, then you probably aren't from around here. -- J.N.L.

Critic's pick: "Magnolia"

Best Jazz Venue
Sambuca
Upon learning of his establishment's win, general manager David Forman is literally at a loss of words. In fact, all he can muster up is a "Wow, cool!" It's understandable that he would be shocked at the news; Sambuca hasn't won the jazz venue prize since 1999. But after he regains his composure, Forman remembers why his club/eatery deserved to win this time around. The downtown spot has been known to feature such well-known jazz hands as Joshua Redman, Steve Tyrell and Eddie Palmeri. "We're the only people that bring them in," says Forman, referring to the city's lack of out-of-town jazz visitors. Forman insists that getting national acts to perform can be a challenge at times, but once an act is booked and turns the jazz cafe out, it is oh so sweet. "It's hard for us to do it, but we're going to keep doing it," he says. Wow, cool! -- C.D.L.

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