¡Viva H-town!

Latinos come to the fore in this year's music awards

"We didn't think it would [succeed]," says Sewell, who hatched and nurtured the monthly affair with his DJ partner, Little Martin. "We dreamed it would and we hoped it would." And so it has. He had great praise for fellow promoters at Spundae, Danseparc and the like who are working to make dance music vibrant in Houston. In the coming year, he says, Rent will expand with CDs, merchandise and even other cities to be announced. Their goal in the beginning, he told the crowd, was to bring a little bit of Chicago, New York, London, Miami and Ibiza to Houston. Perhaps one day soon Houston will return the favor to a much-obliged world. -- Michael Serazio Critic's pick: Rent at Union

Best Folk/Acoustic

Lisa Novak and Melinda Mones

While both of these talented women have bands and albums of their own, their regular Friday-night duo gigs at the Harp on lower Richmond have become one of the city's choicest easy-listening evenings. Accompanied by bassist John Haddad and ace sideman Mark Zeus, Novak and Mones manage to inject a higher-than-usual amount of energy and passion into acoustic, adult-situation original songs that are smart enough to make both of these women strong candidates for songwriter of the year. Given their grueling workday schedules (Novak is a well-known hairdresser and Mones is a high school teacher and soccer coach), both admit that the music is something that just has to be squeezed into their lives. -- William Michael Smith

Critic's pick: Hayes Carll

Best C&W; Best Male Vocalist

John Evans Band

Although his two-year string as Local Musician of the Year was broken, it was still another year, another couple of wins for the singer and his slammin', rockin' honky-tonk band. (For those keeping score, these are his eighth and ninth wins.) Meanwhile, the lanky, bespectacled singer has another album in the works, one that should be in by the end of the year and available on Houston label Compadre. -- John Nova Lomax

Critic's pick: John Evans; Felipe Galvan

Best Keyboardist

Ezra Charles

He's been on the Houston scene longer than complaints about potholes and freeway construction, but this boogie-woogie piano man remains a steady draw and a regular crowd-pleaser at everywhere from holes-in-the-wall to fancy Super Bowl bashes. The dapper Charles is never at a loss when it comes to playing for an audience; at his red-hot HPMA Showcase gig, he deemed it both timely and appropriate to ignite his piano, as his smokin', jive-choreographed, four-horn big band vamped its way toward one last blazing crescendo. -- William Michael Smith

Critic's pick: Ezra Charles

Best Roots Rock/Rockabilly

Opie Hendrix

"I can't live in sin," Opie Hendrix said at the Music Awards, "but I can sin and live." The latter statement must be true, as the notoriously hard-living singer-guitarist bested all his competition for a second consecutive year. And he's had lots more to deal with than most bands: Since winning his first award in 2003, he's lost not one but two bass players, not to mere band attrition, but to that big band we'll all play in someday, the one beyond the grave. Still, the Opie Hendrix juggernaut goes on, older and wiser with each passing band member. Or at least one would hope. -- John Nova Lomax

Critic's pick: Greg Wood

Best Rock en Español; Best Bassist

Los Skarnales, Nick Gaitan

Yep, they've been around forever. Yep, they've won a bunch of these awards. Yep, a lot of y'all bitch about how Los Skarnales always winds up on our showcase and then later how they win our awards. (Answer: People vote them there.) And the reason people vote them on the ballot and then into the winner's circle is simple. They are fucking awesome. If there has ever been a Skarnales show that has been something less than seriously entertaining, I wasn't there, and I've seen them five or six times. If you've seen them, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't -- that's your loss. You're missing the chance to see the Specials in 1978, albeit a brown-and-white version of two-tone rather than a black-and-white one. -- John Nova Lomax

Critic's pick: Chango Jackson (Rock en Español); Rozz Zamorano (Best Bassist)

Best Conjunto (Four-Piece Group with Accordion)

Los Hermanos Cortez

The Hermanos Cortez conjunto is now on its third generation of hermanos. Tony Cortez (bajo sexto) started the group more than 25 years ago. After his death in 1983, sons Monico Cortez (vocals, bass) and Ray Cortez (drums) took over, and now Monico Jr. is also singing with the group.

Like most local groups playing traditional Mexican music, Los Hermanos Cortez isn't waiting for fame and fortune. Band members have day jobs, and gigs are weekend affairs. "We do this out of our hearts; we love to see a crowd. We love to play, to perform for the people," says Tony Cortez.

Cortez sent a message to everyone who voted for the group: "I do want to thank our fans and our family, all the people who voted for us. On behalf of Los Hermanos Cortez, we'd like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. My dad would be very proud." -- Olivia Flores Alvarez

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