I spent most of the my Houston Press Music Awards day circulating between five contiguous venues: Dirt Bar, Ben's Beans, Reserve 101, Pete's Dueling Piano Bar, and the House of Blues Foundation Room. Some random notes:
Drifting toward House of Blues on foot, we saw Little Joe Washington flash past in the passenger seat of an antique car; game face on, he looked like a man on the way to his 10,000th gig.
Texas Johnny Brown at Ben's Beans: He still has fire in his fingers and butter in the low end of a voice that can go from Bobby Bland to Barry White. We could've given all the awards to Brown and called a halt.
Caught the last number by supper club singer Kristine Mills, basically sung to an empty room. I've been to funerals that were livelier.
The Octanes had some tech issues, but also the best line all day: "I tried and tried to be true / Until I just got sick of you."
Recently publicists have been insisting Clory Martin is "the next Norah Jones," so I drifted into the middle of her set. Note to Martin: Don't teach your band the song during your awards showcase. This ain't amateur hour.
Rivers, a young power trio, aren't there yet but they've got a good direction and show much promise.
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Surprise treat of the day, soul shouter Diunna Greenleaf accompanied by Jonn Richardson. She left the microphone and walked to the middle of the empty dance floor, where she entranced the crowd with her vocal performance; goosebumps.
And then it all starts to run together: Finnegan: A, another very pleasant surprise we'll be seeing again. Lankford Folk Family Revival: B, nice but not great. D.R.U.M.: A, rocksteady year in, year out. Steve Krase and the In Crowd: A-, stout rocking blues, great players. Brant Lee Croucher: B-, by-the-numbers sorta country, sorta not, every song sounds the same. Steve Steele: C-, so many people hit the exits you had to wait in line to get the elevator by the third song. Kevin Taylor Kendrick: C-, Songwriter of the Year? Not even funny...
Two biggest surprises? The Beans: B+, I expected to hate this band based on YouTube, but they have a lot of promise and a great vibe. The Journey Agents: A-, lay down wicked funk and have fun doing it.
See you all at the awards ceremony.