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Change of Beat

Just like the rest of Houston, the local music scene saw plenty of ups and downs

These are a couple of the stories to watch for next year. Other prognostications: Expect several chain record store outlets to go under as CD burning continues to separate the wheat from the chaff in the retail market. Look for more shake-ups -- soon -- on the Washington Avenue club scene. And keep an ear out for guerrilla promoters HandsUpHouston and Tapir Productions, as they continue to bring their favorite indie rock and jam bands to a venue near you.

Finally, the safest bets in town: There will still be fear and loathing every time the KPFT board meets its public. Ezra Charles will reinvent himself -- again. And you -- that's right, you -- will vote Norma Zenteno, DJ Sun, the Zydeco Dots, Cactus Music and Video, Blanco's, the Big Easy and Bozo Porno Circus the winners in their respective categories at the Press Music Awards. As for the rest, stay tuned.

T Is for Texas,

T Is for Tedious

The best indication of just how lame it was in the Lone Star State this year is the fact that Texas's biggest musical story was Kelly Clarkson. Yep, that's right. The bubbly blond from Burleson earned the (dubious) honor of winning American Idol and then shot to the top spot on the Billboard charts with her debut single, "A Moment Like This." What that has to do with Texas music is debatable at best.

However, our state can also claim one of the most gratifying artistic success stories of 2002 in Norah Jones. While the Dallas native was discovered in New York City, her education at Dallas's Washington High School (also alma mater to Erykah Badu, Roy Hargrove and Patrice Pike) gives us some bragging rights. In a year like this one, we need all the triumphs we can get.

Not just by default, the year in Texas music all but belongs to the Dixie Chicks. After a protracted legal battle with Sony Music over royalty payments, the threesome finally settled their differences with the record company. Meanwhile, they had made Home, a stripped-down record that took the group back toward its acoustic bluegrass roots, and even though it won't be quite the blockbuster that Wide Open Spaces and Fly were, sales are already into the millions, and it shows that the Chicks can call their own tune and the fans will follow. And it is the finest and most artistic country album released all year, if not one of the best in any category.

The Flatlanders finally released another album some 30 years after their debut. Now Again is a pleasant enough affair, and has far outsold any solo efforts by Messrs. Ely, Gilmore and Hancock. But its whole is not greater than the sum of its parts, nor is it as cosmic and visionary as their long-ago debut. Nonetheless, the higher profile it has afforded these veteran talents will no doubt serve the cause of good Texas music well in the long run.

Pat Green failed to break out nationally, despite appearing on Late Night with David Letterman and the cover of Texas Monthly. The Texas Music (Bowel) Movement he spearheads continues to run its course, which means more dumb songs about Texas and not much else, despite the local popularity of many of the acts under the rubric. Yes, more of them crop up like weeds, and no, not one of them is worth a damn. Okay, Kevin Fowler, who is only loosely affiliated with the ball cap frat country crowd, is to be admired for his resolutely redneck country, but that's about it. -- Rob Patterson

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