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Houston Band Cartography

The launch of our blog brings forth a quixotic attempt toward a local music atlas

Dig it: Virtually all of Houston's rock music today can be traced back to either Little Screamin' Kenny or Sprawl. We always suspected as much, but with a little scavenging of the annals of local music lore, the hypothesis came into ever clearer focus. Hell, it seems that most musicians in town are six or fewer degrees away from both Sprawl and LSK.

Here are a couple of examples: Sprawl principally consisted of Nick Cooper, Joey Salinas, Matt Kelly and Dan Robinson, who left the band early in its career.

Since then, Cooper started up Free Radicals. Drummer Ilya Kolozs has appeared on all three of those CDs, and Kolozs also has drummed with Arthur Yoria, who sometimes collaborates with drummer Paul "Falcon" Valdez, who also drums for Tody Castillo. Castillo worked at Cactus Music & Video for a time alongside guitarist Derek Dunivan, who once took guitar lessons from -- Little Screamin' Kenny.

Matt Kelly's post-Sprawl bands include Middlefinger, which also included guitarist-keyboardist Dave Cummings, who appears on Michael Haaga's The Plus and Minus Show with Chris King and Leesa Harrington-Squyres, both of whom were once members of Carolyn Wonderland's Imperial Monkeys. As wasÉLittle Screamin' Kenny.

As for Salinas, before his time in Sprawl, he was in the Joint Chiefs with Harrington-Squyres. You know the rest. Little Screamin' Kenny awaits, just a degree away.

And enough. We could come up with dozens of other cases here, but it got us thinking about the incestuous nature of the Houston music scene, a milieu as rife with inbreeding as any West Virginia family reunion. We even set out to come up with an ultimate Houston band family tree, but such a task, when attempted under a fast-approaching early deadline, threatened to send us to a psych ward.

But with the launch of our blog, we will have time enough to plug away more or less at leisure. Indeed, we have a chance to create something very much like Allmusic.com for Houston bands, an encyclopedia of the Houston music scene past, present and future, with thumbnail bios of every band that amounted to something here, complete with pictures, discographies and their relationship to other Houston bands. And we're not just talking rock -- we want it to encompass blues, jazz, Latin music in all its forms, hip-hop, country, zydeco, R&B -- everything, from all eras, from the 5th Ward Boyz to ZZ Top. And we'll have histories of clubs and other venues, too.

But we'll need your help. Send your band information -- lineups, history, etc., to john.lomax@houstonpress.com and send your MP3s to trax@houstonpress.com.

To get all of your creative juices flowing, I've compiled a crude map of a small portion of today's scene. Over time, I hope this will grow into something like an atlas of Houston music -- precise, correct, ever-changing along with the ebb and flow of time. Each of the names below will have its own entry, and each will be cross-referenced with its scenemates, and each of the entries will be loaded with info.

Grandiose? Yes. Doable? Maybe. And let it be known from the outset that the progress on this endeavor will be of the slow and steady variety rather than fast and furious. But hell, let's get started.

H-town Honky-tonk Confederacy

Bands: John Evans Band, Sean Reefer, Johnny Falstaff, Hilary Sloan, Miss Leslie, Mando Saenz, Hayes Carll, Opie Hendrix, Davin James, Greg Wood

Characteristics: H-town's twangmeisters run the gamut from hard-core traditionalists (Reefer, Sloan, Miss Leslie) to more modern honky-tonkers (James) to rock-edged stuff (Hendrix, Evans, Saenz) to Carll's rowdy folk. Carll has the most momentum on the national stage right now -- he just inked a deal with Universal imprint Lost Highway -- but this year keep an eye on Johnny Falstaff. This guy's like a cross between Chris Isaak and Dwight Yoakam, and Racket has a feeling that the lanky singer-guitarist -- on whom Greg Wood based the song "Tall Walkin' Texas Trash" -- could be in store for a very good year.

Principal clubs:Continental Club, West Alabama Ice House, Blanco's

Most overlap with: Continental Club Crew

Continental Club Crew

Bands: the El Orbits, Allen Oldies Band, Light Rock Express, Beetle, Banana Blender Surprise, the Aqua Velva, Los Skarnales (bassist Nick Gaitan lives above the Continental), Chango Jackson (bassist Tino Ortega sits in with Beetle), Drifter, the Small Sounds, Flying Fish Sailors, Little Joe Washington, Clouseaux, Molly and the Ringwalds, the El Toros, the Umbrella Man

Characteristics: Having a cover band for every conceivable occasion seems to be the goal of the people who work, play and, in some cases, live in the Continental Club. Going sailing on the bay? Get ahold of the Flying Fish Sailors and they'll turn your afternoon into a pirate adventure. Or maybe you'd rather tool around on your yacht -- book the Light Rock Express and revel in the "Summer Breeze." Beetle covers the Fab Four, Aqua Velva the B-52s, and the El Orbits and the Allen Oldies just about everything in between. (The former is the more suave of the two, the latter is positively manic.)

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