Always Darkest Before the Dawn

Trotting out the clichťs for a year-ender piece

5. Fatal Flying Guilloteens, Get Knifed, Estrus. A half-hour-long, Tim Kerr- produced paroxysm of serrated-steak-knife guitars (courtesy of Press contributor Brian McGuilloteen, né McManus) and the snide and snotty vocals of Shawn McGuilloteen, Get Knifed sounds like a chain saw in need of a lube job ripping through a giant redwood. And that's a good thing.

6. Panic in Detroit, Panic in Detroit, Silverthree Recordings. Those who think the guitar solo dead and buried in modern rock ought to check out this top-notch little EP for proof positive of the contrary. Catchy as the flu, Panic in Detroit is the best power-pop record to come out of here since, well, what was the last great power-pop record out of Houston? While you debate the answer to that question, we'll be sitting here waiting for the Panic in Detroit full-length.

7. Jimmy T-99 Nelson, Cry Hard Luck: The Kent and RPM Recordings, Ace. At last, a lengthy, well-constructed set of local blues shouter Nelson's early work. Though Nelson's songwriting genius -- and today it is that -- had yet to develop back in 1952-54, when the bulk of these recordings were made in L.A., his voice was in fine form, as were his sidemen. If you're a fan of the double-entendre lyrics and swingin' blues/R&B sound of Wynonie Harris, Big Joe Turner and Roy Brown, Nelson's Cry Hard Luck is a must-have.

8. Chingo Bling, The Air Chingo Mextape, Big Chile. "Ask Rick Perry who runs the border," Chingo demands on his biggest and best CD to date. "Welcome to Big Chile -- may I take your order?" Elsewhere, Chingo reveals the Ja Rule-50 Cent-style feud that simmers between him and his rooster Cleto and tears apart tracks by Scarface's "Guess Who's Back," Lil' O's "Back, Back -- Gimme 50 Feet" and G-Unit, whose "Stunt 101" becomes Chingo's "Lonche 101." Baby Bash, Lucky Luciano, Rasheed, Fade Dogg and Twin Beradaz guest.

9. Various artists, Songs from the Meat/BAR. This soundtrack to an Infernal Bridegroom Productions play is a sweet epitaph for the gone-but-not-forgotten early-1990s local rock and bar scene. Crack a cold one or two with this one in the changer. You'll fuckin' love it, man.

10. Opie Hendrix, San Jacinto, Def-Texan. A sprawling mess of a "maximum" C&W record for a sprawling mess of a city, Hendrix's San Jacinto is a monument to nocturnal bad behavior, love and Hustler-level raunch, highlighted by the keening steel guitar of Susan Alcorn, the wailing fiddle of Marty Starns and Hendrix's world-weary singing and old-school lyrics. Sounding by turns like a record from Appalachia, Bakersfield and Texas, not to mention one visited by the spirits of Tom Petty and Billy Idol, this collection of hard-living anthems for the Jack-'n'-blow set could have come from nowhere but here and from no one but Opie.

Honorable mention: Clouseaux, Clouseaux; Mark Towns with Hubert Laws, Passion; various artists, Texas Soul Sisters; Arthur Yoria, I'll Be Here Awake.

A few other images in the rearview mirror:

In memoriam: Locally, blues/jazz guitarist Kinney Abair, former KPFT host Liselotte Babin, folk singer Colleen Cade, heavy-metal singer Anthony "Twisted Tony" Harless, blues guitarist Joe Guitar Hughes, blues saxophonist A.J. Murphy, jazz drummer Rick Porter, rock and country bass player Pat Sullivan (Opie Hendrix and the Texas Tallboys).

Also, the 66-year-old scandal that was record producer/child pornographer Roy Ames breathed his last in August. In my harsh obit on the man, space didn't permit me the luxury of detailing the scope of his evil. So here it is: In addition to ripping off virtually every member of the Houston blues community, he also slimed a bunch of country and rock and roll musicians as well.

On the national scene, we also lost Maurice Gibb, Johnny Cash, Warren Zevon, Barry White, June Carter Cash, Celia Cruz, Elliott Smith and 86 Great White fans.

Scandal sheet: There were quite a few of the "Imagine that!" variety. Who could ever have conceived that Michael Jackson's predilection for little boys would land him in the soup -- again? Or that R. Kelly's alleged cavortings with underage girls would land him in the docket -- again? Who'da thunk that unsullied angels like Scott Weiland and Courtney Love would be accused of dabbling with drugs -- again, or that delicate genius Ryan Adams would have a very public meltdown -- again, or that Bobby Brown would exercise his prerogative to get into trouble -- again and again and again? Locally, who would ever have expected an Alex Lozano-promoted rock fest to end badly?

Thanks for the memories: While thousands rent their garments, mortified their flesh and ripped clumpfuls of hair from their scalps over the death of the Summit (just kidding -- has there ever been a music venue that passed with less lamenting than that shed?), Racket did the same over the much more obscure Montrose studio/performance space/Net radio station/perpetual party Well, we didn't actually bloody ourselves over its death, but we did pour some of a Busch tallboy on the ground in its honor. Where else could you watch a live sports talk show, a Dubtex set, a poetry slam and Los Skarnales in one night, all while munching on a communal brisket and knocking back communal brews?

So that was 2003. It was the best of years, it was the worst of years. We took the good with the bad and rolled with the punches. But tomorrow's another day, and next week's another column. And we promise that one won't be a year-ender.

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