Help Wanted

I know it seems early in the season to be getting into this, but I got caught playing catch-up last time, so we'll go ahead and start thinking. What we're thinking about is the Sixth Annual Houston Press Music Awards, which, barring natural disaster, should be happening sometime around the end of summer. What I want to know in these pre-planning stages is what additions, subtractions or modifications might be made to the nomination process, the balloting process and/or the awards show to further the damned thing's legitimacy, fairness and overall pleasure quotient. We're considering, for instance, running a pure write-in ballot this year, listing categories but refraining from nomination. I know I'll regret this, but the lines are now open for suggestion.

New Labels: There's no shortage of bitching in this town about the dearth of simultaneously adventurous and competent record labels, and though it remains to be seen if either will fill the bill, at least two labels have popped into view recently with new releases and high hopes. Studiomuse is one such, launched by former Compaq engineering manager and Houston resident Jeff Keaton, who hopes to wed his dual loves of music and high-tech gadgetry in a viable outlet for local talent. How'd It Go Today, by advertising executive/songwriter Jon Franks, is Studiomuse's first CD shot, released last month. Considering the label's affinity for artists and label execs with legitimate day jobs, may I recommend that it take a listen to Miss Francis and the Rhythm Fish?

Entry number two is MidJet Records, an indie owned by one Steve Huston, also unknown as drummer and songwriter for A&M Records rockers Head East. MidJet's debut comes in the form of the Rode Hard and Put Up Wet CD by Houston-based band Dirty Cowboys.

Addendums and Corrections: Regarding my year-end roundup of picks and pans, I got a phone call from one Cary Baker, who apparently handles publicity chores for annoying pop phenom Sheryl Crow. Baker was calling to inform me that Santa Monica Boulevard does indeed run east to west, and so the sun does indeed come up over same, contrary to rumors perpetuated by me. Baker went so far as to invite me to California where, he said, we could set the alarm clock for 6:15 and settle the issue once and for all. Baker, however, offered no defense of the song itself, which still sucks butt out loud.

In the same article, the Nine Inch Nails song I named one of the year's best and simultaneously worst singles was misidentified by me as "Animal." The song, of course, is "Closer."

Switcheroo: Tom Potter, guitarist with local mainstays Pierre Blanchard and the Zydeco Dots, has moved his long-running Tuesday night Zydeco Showcase from Billy Blues to the Firehouse Saloon on Fountainview, and would like everyone to know that in addition to a steady lineup of regional zydeco talent, said showcase will feature the Beaudeaux Dancers showing the amateurs how it's done.

Locally Notable: Tone Zone band Sinister Sirens, described as a dancy sort of gothic outfit, celebrates the release of its eponymous six-song cassette debut with a synthfest at Laveau's, Friday, January 6. Opening for the Sirens is fellow Tone Zone act Bozo Porno Circus.

Art rockers Black Dresses haven't appeared to be terribly active since playing a one-off gig at the Orange Show and sending out a one-song demo late last year, but the latest missive tells me the band has shed guitarist/painter Jack Livingston (who's apparently consumed by his other band, Catbox...). Black Dresses, in case you didn't catch a prior mention in this space, comprises guitarist Kathy Johnson, percussionist Sarah Irwin, vocalist/percussionist Sally Dietrich, bassist Dianna Ray and vocalist Trish Herrera -- the last two formerly of semi-seminal Houston punk band The Mydolls. Black Dresses are slated to play another one of those arty venues, upstairs at Treebeard's restaurant on Old Market Square, Saturday, January 7, with HSPVA group Big Man Bristle opening.

Sax man Roger Eckstine's band has been slogging around the R&B market for a couple of years now, but he's got a new name for the group -- Roger Eckstine and Hideaway Bridges (it beats Dirty Cowboys, I guess), a new demo cassette out, a scheduled official recording due out on Valentine's Day '95 and a freshly inked deal to headline the Wah-Wah Blues Festival in Brussels, Belgium, come August. You can catch a preview this week at Billy Blues, Saturday, January 7.

Cassette of the Week: I've got a real fondness for the home-dubbed cassette release phenomenon. Some sorta band makes a cheapo recording then sits on the floor in front of a beat-to-shit borrowed dual cassette deck dubbing copies until four in the morning. Maybe a band member hands you a comp copy over the counter at Sound Exchange and you take it home and try your best to listen to it, but the tape's empty. You take it back and the guy says oh, sorry, that happened on some of them, and gives you another copy to try. The band's called Horshack, as in Arnold, and the tape's called Kicking Jim Morrison's Ass, which it does. Five songs on each side. Some of them sloppy electrified country. Some of them gritty-chorded space anthems. Lots of indulgence as far as arrangements go (only half of the endless guitar solos are brilliant), but riffs till the end of the world and a singer who can sound like Bob Mould -- when Mould still cared -- but usually chooses not to. Great coffee and pipe in the morning music, if you get the tape that got recorded.


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