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Houston Press 1996 Music Awards

Thirty-six categories. More than 100 nominated bands and performers. You want proof that there's a lot of music to be found in Houston? Well, there you have it: the musicians who make up the ballot entries for the Press Music Awards. Keeping up with that explosion of sound can be difficult, so to make your voting easier and better informed, we've put together a guide. What follows is a short course in Houston music, an introduction to all those who impressed our nominating committee arranged alphabetically by each band's first name or each performer's last. (And don't be so culturally ignorant as to look for La Mafia under the Ls; you wouldn't look for The Hollisters under the Ts, would you?)

What follows also tells you the when and where of who'll be playing at the Press Music Awards Showcase Sunday, July 28. Just look for the bold type at the end of 45 of the capsule profiles. Check out the bios, check out the showcase, check out the bands -- then check your selections for Houston's best on the Music Awards ballot. And watch for the announcement of the winners in our August 8 issue.

-- The Editors

Profiles written by Jim Sherman, Edith Sorenson, Hobart Rowland, Brad Tyer, Craig D. Lindsey and Greg Barr.

Artist: Aftershock
Nominated for: Best Rap/Hip-Hop
Sound of choice: Hip-hop a la hard rock
Time logged: One year

Etc.: This offshoot of last year's rap/hip-hop winner Planet Shock! touts itself as a virtual writing machine. That may be true, considering the group has spent a good nine months perfecting its vibe, leading up to the projected fall '96 release of a debut CD. Relying as much on true musicianship as on sampling, Aftershock claims to create magnificence out of raw, negative emotions.

Aftershock performs at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Ball Room.

Artist: Atticus Finch
Nominated for: Best New Act; Release of the Year (Bruised); Song of the Year ("FMTS")

Sound of choice: Post-grunge grunge
Time logged: More than a year
Etc.: You have to admire the guys in Atticus Finch. They've endured early blows from critics, and are gradually taking control of the fight. Currently, the band is leaving some of its grungier stuff behind in favor of a more crisp, pop-influenced sound. And the band is learning to stick to its guns while trying to make sense of the music business.

Atticus Finch performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at Instant Karma.

Artist: Bamboo Crisis
Nominated for: Best Industrial
Sound of choice: Svengali-driven Goth-glam
Time logged: Nine years

Etc.: Ken Gerhard is the Svengali doing the driving, and he's calling the band's music "modern rock" (because what's not?). Bamboo's "Aftermath" and "Shapeshifter" have been nudging elbows with the likes of White Zombie and Filter on alternative-dance charts, leading up to the recent release of 51 Pegasi.

Bamboo Crisis performs at 5 p.m. Sunday at Instant Karma.

Artist: Bayou Roux
Nominated for: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Sound of choice: Modern zydeco with a traditional twist
Time logged: Off and on for eight years

Etc.: With names such as Keith Dupuis on accordion, Ryan Delahousissaye on fiddle, Mike Bourgeis on the kit and Jimmie Cormier on piano and vocals, you can bet Bayou Roux learned their zydeco by growing up with it. Ted Lee plays bass and joins Cormier on vocals in both English and Cajun, while Ken Reynolds and Charlie Kincannon work lead and rhythm guitars. If you're a little weak on your zydeco history, here's a tip: a zydeco band with a fiddle and piano is definitely worth checking out.

Artist: Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds
Nominated for: Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category
Sound of choice: Rock and roll at its most wildly exhibitionistic
Time logged: Eleven years

Etc.: With the Bi-Peds, you get bizarre character studies, outlandish performance art, cabaret-style theater and costumes aplenty -- all to a potent rock and roll soundtrack. Welcome to Mr. Barton's twisted little experiment.

Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds perform at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Big Horn Saloon.

Artist: Beat Temple
Nominated for: Best Funk/R&B; Best Reggae/World Beat; Release of the Year (Hands of Mercy); Best Male Vocalist (Ralz Mathias); Best Bassist (Carl Jones); Best Pianist/ Keyboardist (Rick Thompson); Best Drummer (Chris Axlerad)

Sound of choice: Funk with an earthy flair
Time logged: Seven years
Etc.: Beat Temple has been kicking out the jams on the Houston live music circuit for what seems like forever. And guess what? They've only gotten better. They offer a Sly Stone-meets-Lenny Kravitz vibe loaded with hippie implications, but not at the cost of patronizing listeners with needless nostalgia.

Beat Temple performs at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Ball Room.

 

Artist: Big Holiday
Nominated for: Best Rock/Pop
Sound of choice: Thoughtful jangle pop
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: Bands don't get any more untrendy than Big Holiday, which is all the more reason to appreciate this personable outfit of aging musical misfits -- aging, as in everyone in the band is well over 30. Imagine that: playing shyly delivered, tasteful guitar pop and still managing to pull in a crowd at the Urban Art Bar. Big Holiday's members are so out-of-sorts on-stage that they're cool.

Big Holiday performs at 6 p.m. Sunday at 8.O.

Artist: Botany Boys
Nominated for: Best Rap/Hip-Hop
Sound of choice: Versatile, all-purpose rhymes
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: Hailing from the two-lane blacktops of Botany Street in the Cloverland hood, C-Note, Dez, Will Lean, Head and producer D-Red have been rapping since high school. But it wasn't until last year that things started happening for the group. They released an EP, Smokin' n' Leanin', last December on Big Shot Records, began hitting the club circuit and are now putting the finishing touches on their full-length debut CD, Thought of Many Ways.

Artist: Texas Johnny Brown
Nominated for: Best Blues
Sound of choice: Smooth, complex, uptown
Time logged: More than 50 years

Etc.: Texas Johnny Brown has been a key element of many pivotal moments in the history of Houston blues. He was a member of Amos Milburn's Chicken Shackers when that band defined and tested the limits of boogie-woogie, while his years as a session player with the Duke/Peacock labels honed his skills to a razor's edge and made Brown's "Two Steps from the Blues" one of the biggest hits of Bobby Bland's career. Look far, look wide; you'll have a hard time finding anyone in the blues who gives six strings such a workout while singing in such a sweet, smooth voice.

Artist: David Caceres
Nominated for: Best Jazz
Time logged: Two years
Sound of choice: Modern jazz saxophone with a traditionalist bent

Etc.: This Berklee-trained San Antonio native has had no shortage of work since moving to Houston. When not touring with other ensembles and leading his own quintet, Caceres is lending his alto sax work to local recordings by the likes of Paul English and Tod Vullo. And he's no slouch as a singer, either.

Artist: Ceili's Muse
Nominated for: Best Traditional/Ethnic
Sound of choice: Irish, with female harmonies
Time logged: More than six years

Etc.: The harmonies of Maggie Drennon and Melanie O'Sullivan have captivated audiences from Houston to Dublin. Mixing a well-researched enthusiasm for Irish traditions with considerable talent and more than a little humor has proven a crowd-winning combination for the group. These lasses -- along with guitarist Anders Johansen and bass man Chuck Ivy -- craft 300-year-old ballads into moments as fresh and captivating as the future Celtic classics they've written.

Artist: Celindine
Nominated for: Best New Act; Best Bassist (Shane Ray)
Sound of Choice: Inspired lo-fi racket
Time logged: Less than a year

Etc.: Houston's somewhat more abrasive answer to Pavement, Celindine has sparked quite a flurry of talk among Montrose music aficionados. Spontaneously unified (if there is such a thing) in its creative approach to making noise, the quartet has landed a few select slots opening national touring acts. They've already done some recording, most notably for the new It Came from Nowhere compilation. Next month, it's back into the studio to record their first full-lengther.

Celindine performs at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Big Horn Saloon.

Artist: Ezra Charles
Nominated for: Best Pianist/Keyboardist
Sound of Choice: Rock and roll, Killer-style
Time logged: Since before Jerry Lee went gray

Etc.: After getting snubbed in the best keyboard player category last year (and expressing his frustration about it in a letter to the Press), the inimitable Ezra Charles is back in the running. And indeed, of all his various exploits over the years, Charles' piano playing has remained his most reliable asset.

Ezra Charles and the Works perform at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Ball Room.

Artist: Clandestine
Nominated for: Best Traditional/Ethnic
Sound of choice: Traditional Scottish with a rock twist
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: Fiddler Gregory McQueen, piper E.J. Jones and guitarist-vocalist Jennifer Hamel have churned a unique mix of influences that span several centuries into a highly original stage. Jones switches with ease from a highly traditional bagpipe technique to frenzied pipe-rock, while McQueen recalls the legends of seagoing fiddlers. Add to that mix a young singer who displays an impressive vocal range at every opportunity, stir in new addition Emily Dugas on acoustic percussion and you have a night's entertainment that makes as much sense in a rock club as it does at the Renaissance Festival.

 

Artist: Clouded
Nominated for: Best Rock/Pop; Song of the Year ("Sulking Days"); Songwriter(s) of the Year (Terry Costello and Mark Richardson)

Sound of Choice: Skewed, atmospheric alt-pop
Time logged: Two years
Etc.: Clouded's buzzy, somewhat confused wall of guitars seems more appropriate for the Best Alternative/Non-Commercial Category. But who's to question what qualifies as pop these days? Whatever you want to call it, the band's Song of the Year candidate, "Sulking Days," is just plain powerful, and so full of wide-eyed potential that you can't help but wonder what these relative newcomers could do with a little more time in the studio.

Clouded performs at 6 p.m. Sunday at Metroplex.

Artist: Commercial Art
Nominated for: Best Cover Band
Sound of choice: R&B classics
Time logged: Fifteen years

Etc.: Given all the time they've had to hone their cover skills, it's not surprising that this coed sextet (four guys, two girls) years ago graduated from smoky bars to the high-dollar private party circuit. Not the socialite type? Not to worry. Commercial Art still has a weekly gig at Maxie and Jake's.

Artist: P.J. Cooper
Nominated for: Best Female Vocalist
Sound of choice: Bar-band rock
Time logged: Four years (with Under the Sun)

Etc.: Some locally have placed P.J. Cooper in the hallowed company of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick. But Cooper has enough of a distinctive style to move out on her own. Building on the buzz created by the late '95 release of Everything, Under the Sun has developed a truckload of original material, everything from percussive, meat-and-potatoes rockers to soulful balladry. We think Janis would approve.

Under the Sun performs at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Rhino Room.

Artist: David Craig
Nominated for: Best Bassist
Sound of choice: The jazz, the whole jazz and nothing but the jazz
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: Craig's perhaps most frequently seen -- long straight hair swinging, cig dangling from lip -- with Necessary Tension. But he covers the local live jazz landscape like some one-man musical kudzu, playing alongside everyone who's anyone in Houston jazz, including a Tuesday night shift at Cody's with guitarist Tod Vullo, all of drummer Sebastian Whittaker's recordings and more weddings than Craig probably wants to talk about. If you need a stand-up bass man, get in line.

Artist: Mary Cutrufello
Nominated for: Best C&W; Local Musician of the Year
Sound of choice: Roadhouse country
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: A black woman singing country music may raise a few eyebrows, but a Yale grad setting her standards to John Hiatt's ''Memphis in the Meantime'' is something that deserves a good, long listen. Treat yourself to that listen; Cutrufello can handle the scrutiny. Though the New Jersey native was raised on Stephen Sondheim, her song writing is reminiscent of Harlan Howard's, and she's got a sound that's all high and lonesome and honky-tonking.

Artist: Dave Dove Paul Duo
Nominated for: Best Horn/Horn Section
Sound of choice: Free improv
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: The duo is Dave Dove on acoustic and amplified trombone and Paul Guilford on bass and synth, and the sound is such that only a fool would worry about categorization, despite recognizable roots in jazz. You can hear them on their own CD, A, released last fall, via a track contributed to the Drilling the Curve Houston compilation or at an increasingly rare live display.

Dave Dove Paul Duo plays at 4 p.m. Sunday at Instant Karma.

Artist: Little Willy Davis
Nominated for: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Sound of choice: Louisiana country accordion blues
Time logged: A lifetime

Etc.: The best way to see Little Willy Davis is to access the east-side network of Catholic churches who've been hosting weekly zydeco blowouts since Clifton Chenier's day. No, they don't have a Web page; it will take some detective work to find which churches have zydecos and which church the party is at this weekend. But these community celebrations are the essence of zydeco, and the best places to find traditional artists such as Davis.

Artist: Jesse Dayton
Nominated for: Best Male Vocalist; Best C&W
Sound of choice: Alt-country
Time logged: Three years

Etc.: The homeboy with a million side projects (movies, soundtracks, a Road Kings reunion) has gotten reams of exposure thanks to the championing of his label, Justice (see the Twisted Willie compilation and a slot on Nelson's July 4 blowout), and if he's yet to record his breakthrough release, that's just one more reason to keep an eye on him.

Jesse Dayton performs at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Big Horn Saloon.

Artist: dead horse
Nominated for: Best Metal/Hard Rock
Sound of choice: Punk/metal hybrid better known as "horsecore"
Time logged: Nine years

 

Etc.: A year ago, it seemed dead horse fans would have to subsist on memories alone. After flirting with the big time, the band, frustrated with record-label politics and the rigors of ill-funded excursions to various corners of the globe, dropped out of circulation. Then suddenly, bubbling up out of the asphalt of Farm Road 666 late last year came the BOIL (ing) CD, and the group, equipped with a new singer/guitarist, had re-staked its claim as Houston's reigning thrash tormentors.

Artist: Dethkultur BBQ
Nominated for: Best Industrial
Sound of choice: Atypical assembly-line noise
Time logged: Five years

Etc.: Begun as a side project for a pair of hyper-creative members of Violent Blue and Bamboo Crisis, Dethkultur BBQ is now a full-time venture for clatter gurus Rev. Tommy Sin and Mike BBQ. Spinning a discomfiting weave of propulsive guitar, deranged vocals, thumping bass and groove sampling, Dethkultur BBQ has been fittingly described by its creators as "industrial country death with a touch of hip-hop." That mouthful pretty much says it all.

Artist: Dinosaur Salad
Nominated for: Best Metal/Hard Rock
Sound of choice: Hard-core metallic with a fat groove
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: Visualize Ice Cube with an electric guitar and GWAR as his backup band, and you've come reasonably close to approximating where Dinosaur Salad is headed. Three guys, a dueling duo of vocalists and an equal proclivity toward rap and heavy metal. Full-length CD expected soon.

Artist: D.R.U.M.
Nominated for: Best Reggae/World Beat
Sound of choice: African with glimpses of Latin and Caribbean
Time logged: Eight years

Etc.: D.R.U.M. stands for Divine Rhythm, United Motion; if you've ever experienced this rousingly authentic ensemble, you know just what that means. Beginning as a percussion outfit in 1988, D.R.U.M. has grown into something much greater than the sum of its intricate tribal rhythms. And they snatched the Press' Best Reggae/World Beat award from longtime favorite Wazobia last year.

D.R.U.M. performs at 6 p.m. Sunday at Instant Karma.

Artist: Eardrum
Nominated for: Best Traditional/Ethnic; Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category
Sound of choice: Tradition-based ethnic that defies categorization
Time logged: More than six years

Etc.: This odd, loud collective, which sets its Celtic and Central European influences as often as not to rock beats, is becoming one of Houston's perennial cult bands, with a small but loyal following and a never-say-die attitude. Members leave to follow other interests, and then frequently show up at the gigs for old times' sake. Despite the changes, Eardrum keeps marching along to the beat of a decidedly different drummer.

Eardrum performs at 5 p.m. Sunday at McElroy's Pub.

Artist: Paul English
Nominated for: Best Jazz; Best Pianist/Keyboardist
Sound of choice: Original jazz keys
Time logged: Twenty years

Etc.: While English is as adept at classical as jazz -- in some circles he's best known as a classical piano composer -- he's living proof that musicians capable of any style tend to prefer jazz over all others. A young guitar player once described a lean period in his career with the observation, "Jazz players don't eat." English, by contrast, has established that an indomitable determination to be a jazz musician can create a career even in a city that's never been a hotbed of the form.

Artist: Flamin' Hellcats
Nominated for: Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category
Sound of choice: Texas Vato-billy
Time logged: More than two years

Etc.: This hard-driving trio had a CD in the can two years back, but label conflicts kept that work from ever seeing the light of day, which makes the upcoming Speed Freak the Hellcats' first available product. It's produced by former Road King Jason Burns and should be out any day now on My Way Records for European, and maybe domestic, release.

Flamin' Hellcats perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at Cydney's.

Artist: Flashback
Nominated for: Best Cover Band
Sound of choice: Standard cover fare
Time logged: Three years

Etc.: Struttin' its stuff on the Gulf Coast cover circuit since 1993, Flashback boasts a bulky set list that spans four decades and plenty of bells and whistles (light show, etc.). And you can bet that they take their duplication work seriously. Right now, the group is in the midst of recording its first CD, Party Hardy.

Artist: Grady Gaines and the Texas Upsetters
Nominated for: Best Blues; Best Horn/Horn Section
Sound of choice: Honking, wailing blues saxophone
Time logged: More than 40 years

Etc.: Grady Gaines has this trick of hitting a high, wailing note like a man stepping off the edge of a high dive and holding it all the way down to the water. He did it in the 1950s with Big Walter Price on "Pack Fair and Square," and he still does it every chance he gets, from his work with Gatemouth Brown to his numerous nightclub shows to his gigs at Funday in the Park stages all over town.

 

Grady Gaines and the Texas Upsetters perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at Metroplex.

Artist: Galactic Cowboys
Nominated for: Best Metal/Hard Rock
Sound of choice: Busy, tuneful smart rock
Time logged: Seven years

Etc.: No strangers to disappointment, Katy's Galactic Cowboys have had a hard time capitalizing on some ripe opportunities over the last few years. Frustrated after their first two major-label releases went nowhere, the group broke up for a short spell before reforming last summer and landing a deal with Metal Blade, Metallica's old label. Machine Fish is the new CD, and it's filled with the same relentlessly melodic heavy rock that's long been the band's trademark.

Artist: Bob Gallarza
Nominated for: Best Tejano/Latin
Sound of choice: Modern Tejano, impeccably arranged
Time logged: Twelve years

Etc.: An acclaimed guitarist and producer with a lengthy list of credits and superhuman quality standards, Bob Gallarza has been called the Quincy Jones of Tejano. It's a heady comparison, but the superlative isn't far off the mark.

Artist: Geto Boys
Nominated for: Best Rap/Hip-Hop
Sound of Choice: Gangsta rap; lean, mean, obscene
Time logged: Nine years

Etc.: After six releases, numerous fallouts and one lengthy breakup, the Geto Boys had every right to slap an overblown title such as The Resurrection onto their 1996 comeback. Willie D, Scarface and Bushwick Bill set aside their differences and returned to the game with a vengeance this year, and let's face it, if it weren't for these South Park trendsetters, gangsta rap would still be about gold rope chains, Raiders caps and lip-synching to "Straight Outta Compton."

Artist: Global Village
Nominated for: Best Funk/R&B; Best Horn/Horn Section
Sound of choice: A lot of the above, with some reggae
Time logged: Six years

Etc.: Airtight and somewhat methodical in their approach to working a room, Press Music Awards regulars Global Village pride themselves on their eclecticism and professionalism. Now, with a new CD of original material, they're out to dispel the rumor that great party bands have nothing significant of their own to offer.

Global Village performs at 8 p.m. Sunday at 8.0.

Artist: Graham Guest
Nominated for: Best Guitarist
Sound of choice: A heavy Southern hippie-groove thang
Time logged: One year (with Moses Guest)

Etc.: After all the confusion that's arisen over the name of his trio, Graham Guest has finally gone ahead and changed its name from Guest to Moses Guest -- and not a moment too soon. You can almost hear the massive sigh of relief coming from club owners fed up with the persistent inquiries about the mystery "Guest" artist they saw listed in the newspaper. As for Graham, he smokes a mean guitar, with animated licks that are as accurate as they are expansive. Think Kim Thayil by way of Jerry Garcia.

Moses Guest performs at 4 p.m. Sunday at McElroy's Pub.

Artist: The Gypsies
Nominated for: Best Traditional/Ethnic
Sound of choice: Wide ranging Euro-folk
Time logged: In one form or another, since the dawn of time

Etc.: The Gypsies are seldom seen around the club scene these days. Their sophisticated mastery of a range of folk styles, from klezmer to Celtic to whatever, and their ability to blend styles as easily as they shift from one to another, has made them the society party band of choice. At times, there are three Gypsies; at other times, there will be as many as 30. But inevitably, folk-guru Greg Harbour is the king of the Gypsies, and his wife Mary Ann is their queen.

The Gypsies perform at 5 p.m. Sunday at Q Cafe.

Artist: Harry Fish String Band
Nominated for: Best Traditional/Ethnic
Sound of choice: Country-folk with a bluegrass attitude
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: The ethnic tradition defended here is an American one; Mike Straub fronts an acoustic lineup that splashes Texas hot sauce on the banjos and mandolins of Appalachia. In keeping with the Norfolk Street singer/songwriter genre, the key elements are originality combined with respect for tradition; the sense of humor that goes with the playing has a tendency to draw the audience in until they become a part of the show.

Harry Fish String Band performs at 6 p.m. Sunday at McElroy's Pub.

Artist: Clarence Hollimon
Nominated for: Best Guitarist
Sound of choice: Sophisticated, jazz-influenced blues
Time logged: More than 40 years

Etc.: Hollimon learned his craft in the '50s at legendary Fifth Ward nightspots such as the Whispering Pines and the Club Matinee; from early on, he established a reputation as a smooth, sophisticated crowd pleaser. His nightly gigs with his brother, pianist Sweets Hollimon, at downtown's 401 Club introduced him to high society, which is why Hollimon and his wife, pianist/singer Carol Fran, seldom play club dates anymore. They're much more likely to be found at private parties in River Oaks, where, contrary to popular opinion, there are plenty of fans who know a world-class guitarist when they hear one.

 

Artist: The Hollisters
Nominated for: Best New Act; Best C&W; Best Male Vocalist (Mike Barfield); Best Guitarist (Eric Danheim)

Sound of choice: Honky-tonk with a '90s spirit
Time logged: More than a year
Etc.: If you're out and about on weekends and haven't seen the Hollisters by now, you've either been frequenting the wrong joints or hanging out in the street. This well-oiled, omnipresent quartet defines the essence of the so-called New Country movement -- a true-blue tribute to its heroes (Johnny Cash, Buck Owens) with plenty of fresh ideas and personality to spare.

Artist: Horseshoe
Nominated for: Best C&W; Local Musician of the Year (Eddie Hawkins); Best Male Vocalist (Greg Wood)

Sound of choice: C&W for the nipple-ring set
Time logged: More than a year
Etc.: Singer/lyricist Eddie Hawkins is a burly catalyst for Horseshoe the same way John Popper is for Blues Traveler, though that's where the similarities between the two bands end. Horseshoe messes with a little of everything, from punk to classic rock to folk to C&W, without hardly ever sounding pieced together, rehashed or retro. No peace and love lost on these guys.

Horseshoe performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Big Horn Saloon.

Artist: Houston Symphony
Nominated for: Best Classical Performer/Ensemble
Sound of choice: Classical
Time logged: Eighty-three years

Etc.: The nominating committee didn't tell us why, specifically, they put the Symphony on the ballot. They might be enthusiastic about Sounds Like Fun! kiddie concerts, or of Steven Stein in spangles conducting the Fourth of July sing-along. Maybe it's the chamber concerts of conductor Christoph Eschenbach. Or the Symphony's classical repertoire. Or the innovative contemporary performances. The Houston Symphony performs 200 times a year; it does a lot of things marvelously. What exactly it does best is difficult to say.

Artist: H.S.P.V.A. Orchestra
Nominated for: Best Classical Performer/Ensemble
Sound of choice: Classical
Time logged: Twenty-five years

Etc.: Ever since the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts -- the first performing arts public school in the Southwest -- opened its doors, the students have been cultivating a certain tradition. It's that band-nerd tradition, as well as the playing, that has earned this junior orchestra its fans.

Artist: Joe "Guitar" Hughes
Nominated for: Best Blues; Best Guitarist
Sound of choice: Ringing, gritty Texas guitar
Time logged: Forty-two years

Etc.: Veteran Third Ward guitarist and bandleader Joe Hughes has managed to gain a measure of worldwide fame while remaining close to his Houston roots. When he's not touring Europe, Hughes and his ever-present Fender guitar keep the Gulf Coast blues alive and growing by entertaining crowds around town and playing mentor to the next generation of Houston bluesmen (and blueswomen).

Joe "Guitar" Hughes performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at McElroy's Pub.

Artist: The Hunger
Nominated for: Best Industrial
Sound of choice: Dancey industrial
Time logged: Six years

Etc.: Formed in 1990 by brothers Jeff and Thomas Wilson, the Hunger's sound addresses the spectrum of programmed keyboard-friendly rock, from lighter '80s techno to hard-driving, Nine Inch Nails-influenced rage. With this year's release of its third CD, Devil Thumbs a Ride, the Hunger's hard work is beginning to pay off, with sold-out shows and regional radio support. And they've snagged the Press Music Award's Best Industrial prize three years in a row, so deal with it.

Artist: Jinkies
Nominated for: Best Rock/Pop; Best Alternative/Non-Commercial; Local Musician of the Year (Carlos DeLeon); Best Male Vocalist (Carlos DeLeon); Song of the Year ("Hey Kids! Let's Go Buy Some Crack Today"); Songwriter(s) of the Year (Carlos DeLeon)

Sound of choice: Big, dumb rock and roll
Time logged: Two years
Etc.: Forget the Beatles comparisons; these days, the Jinkies are ripping off the Knack. And with the now-established introduction of fourth man Matthew Thurman on guitar and effects, they sound leaner, meaner and louder than ever. Expect management shakeups and -- lo and behold -- a self-produced CD in early fall.

Jinkies perform at 8 p.m. Sunday at Instant Karma.

Artist: Robert Juarez
Nominated for: Best Tejano/Latin
Sound of Choice: Tejano, we guess
Time logged: Too little to be famous

Etc.: It happens. Someone gets on the Music Awards ballot, and then when we start asking around about them, nobody seems to know much about the performer. Worse, he fails to return phone calls to clear up the mystery. Still, at least one member of our nominating committee thought Juarez was one hot Tejano act. And we trust our nomating committee implicitly. Really, we do.

 

Artist: Little Brian Terry and the Zydeco Travelers
Nominated for: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Sound of choice: Still looking for a reason to take jitterbug lessons?
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: The Terry brothers, prolific collaborative songwriters, have penned an extensive repertoire of original songs in both English and Creole, and their first national CD, Fresh, is being distributed by Rounder Records. So it appears the Zydeco Travelers have broken free of their local orbit.

Artist: Liviya
Nominated for: Best Folk/Acoustic
Sound of choice: Angry and sad
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: You've probably seen the print ads -- a Dear Gabby look-alike licking the neck of her guitar -- and wondered about Liviya Compean, age 22, who can "only write when I feel bad." She's been performing at venues such as the Urban Art Bar with just herself, her guitar and her dad (who plays a stable of horns). By the time you read this, she'll have just finished opening for Jose Feliciano at Rockefeller's. She's also in the process of putting a band together, and a debut CD, Feel This, is due out in a few months.

Liviya performs at 6 p.m. Sunday at Q Cafe.

Artist: Joe LoCascio
Nominated for: Best Pianist/Keyboardist
Sound of choice: Jazzy ivories
Time logged: More than a decade

Etc.: Joe LoCascio is truly a case where the resume speaks for itself. Nine solo releases, including the most recent, appropriately titled A Charmed Life; an active trio project with drummer Ed Soph and bassist John Adams; a Mass-in-progress for the Houston Chorale Society; assorted production credits; a current spot in sax man David Caceres' group. The proof, as they say, is in the product.

Artist: Susan McDonald
Nominated for: Best Classical
Sound of choice: Classical guitar
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: Susan McDonald, who's been glued to the guitar since the age of seven, has spent most of her time lately away from Houston, touring the U.S., South America, Europe and Canada. It's the price one pays for having such a varied and busy career. The thrice-Grammy nominated guitarist has premiered works by an array of contemporary composers, including Edgar Cortes, Rodrigo Rodriguez and John King, and she is just as comfortable playing for thousands at Carnegie Hall as she is taking intimate performances to libraries, schools and nursing homes.

Artist: Madd Oxe
Nominated for: Best Cover Band
Sound of Choice: Classic rock covers with a slant toward the atypical
Time logged: Less than a year

Etc.: A party band with a reverence for '70s rock's lost gems, the members of Madd Oxe act more like fans than musicians when they're on-stage -- which isn't to downplay their ample chops. Perhaps most important, they know how to have a good laugh at their own expense, a plus for any group with no designs on an evening other than tearing up the joint.

Madd Oxe performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Rhino Room.

Artist: La Mafia
Nominated for: Best Tejano/Latin
Sound of choice: Modern Tejano
Time logged: Sixteen years

Etc.: Things started happening for this Houston band when they began touring Mexico, and some self-styled purists insist their music is too country/Mexican/pop to be Tejano. But fans on both sides of the border buy their CDs in chart-making numbers. Case in point: ticket sales for La Mafia's Go Tejano Day performance at the rodeo were second only to the George Strait show.

Artist: Man or God
Nominated for: Metal/Hard Rock
Sound of Choice: Mean metal/punk meld
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: Former Skrew and Skatenigs members rock loud, hard, tight and smart. Of all the long list of bands in Houston vying for the title of baddest band around, Man or God, most insiders say, is at the top of the hard-core heap.

Artist: Mercy Cafe
Nominated for: Best Funk/R&B
Sound of Choice: More soul and R&B than funk
Time logged: One year

Etc.: Though the rest of the band does a strong job of distilling a wide variety of influences into a smooth, easy-listening lager, Mercy Cafe's real standout is lead singer Mignon Murrell. The group could well be just another bar-band fixture if it weren't for her powerful lungs.

Artist: Miss Molly
Nominated for: Best Female Vocalist
Sound of choice: Bayou Queen blues
Time logged: Eleven years

Etc.: Molly may have moved her bad self to Lake Conroe for the bass fishing, but she remains busy, touring everywhere and writing new songs with manager Dickie Malone, some of which should find a home on an upcoming CD, tentatively titled Roswell. Upcoming: Molly's Seventh Annual Birthday Bash, with a slew of slated special guests, at the Garden in the Heights August 3.

 

Artist: Renee Montgomery
Nominated for: Best Female Vocalist
Sound of choice: The belter's belter
Time logged: Five years

Etc.: The Montgomery-fronted Skillit split up in May, and as of a few weeks ago, Montgomery had moved to Austin. Now, she's trying to maintain a bi-local presence by writing songs with former Skillit-mate Cris Rogers in Houston and easing into Austin's open-mike scene. She also started playing guitar last year. Don't be surprised to see a demo tape before long. And don't be surprised if the Austin exposure lands her a slot on next year's Austin Music Awards ballot. The woman can sing.

Artist: Trish Murphy
Nominated for: Best Folk/Acoustic; Best Female Vocalist; Song of the Year ("Wrong Side of Town"); Songwriter(s) of the Year

Sound of choice: Contemporary, melody-rich folk
Time logged: One year
Etc.: It's hard to believe that Trish Murphy has been working solo now for only some 12 months. In that relatively short period of time, she's accomplished a lot. Perhaps most significantly, she's succeeded in putting her toothy, collegiate pop past with Trish and Darin to rest for good.

Artist: Necessary Tension
Nominated for: Best Jazz
Sound of choice: Pub improv
Time logged: Five years

Etc.: The past year saw the release of an eponymous CD, recorded live at Rudyard's, but that's just a souvenir of the rotating lineup's (flautist Bob Chadwick, bassist David Craig, drummer Keith Karnaky, et. al.) raison d'etre: an endless stream of low-key Thursday-night jam session entertainment that's become (along with Horseshoe's Wednesday nights at Mary Jane's) the most reliable off-night pleasure in Houston's local constellation.

Necessary Tension performs at 8 p.m. Sunday at Q Cafe.

Artist: The Orphans
Nominated for: Best Rock/Pop
Sound of choice: Rock and roll
Time logged: Almost two years

Etc.: A product of Houston's far western reaches, the Orphans are steered by a trio of childhood buddies with a common love for straightforward, emotionally direct songs that have bold melodies and tons of heart. So far, these simple pleasures have translated into an uncommonly good local debut, Homecoming, numerous club appearances and, of course, a nomination in this year's Music Awards.

The Orphans perform at 4 p.m. Sunday at Cydney's.

Artist: Mondo Perez
Nominated for: Best Drummer
Sound of choice: Whatever's required
Time logged: Four years (with Under the Sun and the Surrealtors)

Etc.: Mondo Perez has two jobs: one behind the set with Under the Sun, the other keeping the drum stool warm for the Surrealtors. While the two bands are quite different -- Under the Sun more blues-rock; the Surrealtors more acoustic pop -- his considerable skills are just as obvious with both.

Mondo Perez performs with the Surrealtors at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Ball Room, and with P.J. Cooper and Under the Sun at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Rhino Room.

Artist: Pierre and the Zydeco Dots
Nominated for: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Time logged: Nine years (with varying Pierres)

Etc.: There were some shakeups about a year ago that resulted in a couple of different bands both fronted by guys named Pierre, and it got kinda confusing for a while. The Pierre now fronting the Zydeco Dots is Pierre Stoot, while longtime Dot-leader Pierre Blanchard today pumps the windjammer in front of the Bayou Stompers. The Zydeco Dots, if memory serves, have won this category every Music Awards year so far. Their inclusion this year must be either a reflex or a reflection that -- whoever's the frontman -- the band is made up of seasoned, talented zydeco veterans.

Pierre and the Zydeco Dots perform at 8 p.m. Sunday at Cydney's.

Artist: Project Grimm
Nominated for: Best New Act
Sound of choice: Hook-savvy indie rock
Time logged: One year

Etc.: Assembled from the remains of once-promising Houston acts the Mike Gunn, Bleachbath and Smile 69, Project Grimm contains a bit of all those bands, and more. This potent power trio is having little problem making its way inside the Loop with a sound that matches the familiar sounds of the past with a dynamic, melody-driven approach that's something new altogether.

Project Grimm performs at 4 p.m. Sunday at Metroplex.

Artist: Richard Ramirez
Nominated for: Best Industrial
Sound of choice: Electronically manufactured, sonically unbound noise
Time logged: Six years

Etc.: Largely a studio dweller, but occasionally venturing into the live light of night, Ramirez churns out homemade tapes of avant-experimentalism at an assembly line rate, pausing at times to collaborate with sympathetic noise savants such as Japan's Merzbow (with whom Ramirez will be playing several New York shows this fall, when he's also got LPs -- yes, LPs -- scheduled for release on German and Greek labels). Ramirez is making quite a name for himself in circles described by lines that 99.9 percent of music listeners will never, ever cross.

 

Artist: Rat Ranch
Nominated for: Best Cover Band
Sound of choice: Classic rock, emphasis on "classic"
Time logged: Five years

Etc.: The addition of flamboyant vocalist Mark Russell last year helped Rat Ranch become more than just a technically competent cover act; all of a sudden, they were entertainers. The Ranchers spend about 80 percent of their time performing outside of Houston, but apparently that 20 percent in town must be quality time -- it earned them a nomination.

Artist: Tony Rorai
Nominated for: Best Pianist/Keyboardist
Sound of choice: A Deep Purple keyboard grind
Time logged: More than three years (with the Keenlies)

Etc.: Rorai is the man behind the Hammond B-3, or the Fender Rhodes, or the no-name synth at Keenlies gigs. He's the one who puts the bounce in the band's pop-step; the man who gives credibility to the band's Rush rip-offs; the man who fleshes out the guitar-pop skeletons in that band's repertoire. Buy him a beer, his equipment is heavy.

Artist: Rotten Piece
Nominated for: Best Industrial
Sound of choice: Clangorous sonic cutups and ambient noise
Time logged: Six years

Etc.: Rotten Piece is mostly Carol and C-Dog (perhaps better known as the core of the slightly more punk-rock-traditional Sad Pygmy), though Piece projects have been known to draw on the talents of fellow experimentalists Richard Ramirez, Austin Caustic and others. The group's new CD, Caged Meat, scheduled for a September release, comes just in time for a Rotten Piece/Sad Pygmy tour of the West Coast in October.

Artist: Rubbur
Nominated for: Best New Act
Sound of choice: Spacey punk-pop
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: Proud owner of the coolest song on Fuzzgun Records' Nothing Is Cool compilation (a nominee for Release of the Year), Rubbur's playfully cosmic lunar rock has landed the group a deal with the Seattle-based C/Z label. Personnel changes have been a sore spot for the band in recent months, but it appears signing on the dotted line has brought everyone to their senses. Plan on seeing Rubbur around town more often in the next year.

Rubbur performs at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Big Horn Saloon.

Artist: Shake Russell and Jack Saunders
Nominated for: Best Folk/Acoustic
Sound of choice: Singer/songwriter strumming
Time logged: More than 15 years

Etc.: There's little that can captivate a thoughtful audience more than two musicians trading songs and stories. Shake and Jack's shows draw so many longtime regulars that the performances often take on the air of a family reunion. Stories that the audience can relate to -- underlined and fleshed out with long-practiced guitar interplay -- make for music whose basic purity proves a draw year after year.

Artist: Rusted Shut
Nominated for: Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category; Local Musician of the Year (Don Walsh); Best Bassist (Sybil Chance)

Sound of choice: Noise rock with a bad attitude
Time logged: Nine years
Etc.: Matt Sargent on drums; founders Don Walsh and Sybil Chance on guitar and bass, respectively. We can't describe them, and neither can Walsh: "I guess you could call it music, but it was just ... on. What is it? And what do they [the audience] like about it? We do not know what's gonna come out, and it just ... starts." See you there.

Rusted Shut performs at 5 p.m. Sunday at Metroplex.

Artist: Saddlebag
Nominated for: Best Metal/Hard Rock
Sound of choice: Big and heavy rock
Time logged: Three years

Etc.: Ex-members of Poor Dumb Bastards and Hoss ride bareback over the thrash-rock competition with a sound that's one part Slayer, two parts Melvins and all parts invincible. A nine-song, self-titled E.P. came out earlier this year; a full-length CD is in the works.

Saddlebag performs at 5 p.m. Sunday at Cydney's.

Artist: Sad Pygmy
Nominated for: Best Alternative/Non-Commercial
Sound of choice: Purely pathological punk
Time logged: Five years

Etc.: Though they've assured us otherwise, Sad Pygmy's "beer-fueled quest for world domination" looks doubtful right now. But at least this raucous, clinically offbeat quartet has supplied Houston with enough tongue-in-cheek, punk-adelic memories old and new to make up for breaking its promise.

Sad Pygmy performs at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Rhino Room.

Artist: Sam Brothers
Nominated for: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Sound of choice: Red beans and boogie
Time logged: More than 20 years

Etc.: A surprising number of the longtime zydeco bands in Houston are family-based, ranging from teenage drummers playing behind their dads to siblings who have played together since childhood. The Sam Brothers fit that latter model to come up with good-time music with just the right regional seasonings.

 

Artist: Don Sanders
Nominated for: Best Folk/Acoustic
Sound of choice: Witty storytelling with a guitar

Time logged: Played Anderson Fair when Lyle Lovett was still looking for influences

Etc.: Don Sanders is at the top of many local folkies' "Best Person to Take on a Campout" list; there are times when nothing entertains like a guy with a guitar and a story he wants to tell. Although Sanders has never quite managed to capture his on-stage magic on tape -- at least not since the early-70's Anderson Fair Through the Night Darkly compilation -- his is a genre whose strength has always been cozy, intimate performances. The kind that Sanders invariably produces.

Don Sanders performs at 4 p.m. Sunday at 8.0.

Artist: Hadden Sayers
Nominated for: Best Rock/Pop; Songwriter(s) of the Year
Sound of choice: Blues-edged rock
Time logged: More than two years (with his own band)

Etc.: Hadden Sayers seems poised for a breakthrough year. His powerful new CD, Retrofutura, spills over with evidence that his song writing has moved up a couple of notches. And pared down to a tight three-piece outfit, the Hadden Sayers Band easily aces the "But can they cut it live?" test.

Artist: Seeds of Soul
Nominated for: Best Rap/Hip-Hop
Sound of choice: Rap, hip-hop (surprised?)
Time logged: Seven years

Etc.: "You guys don't look like rappers" is a comment that's regularly besieged this bunch. It's true: the guys in Seeds of Soul look like regular fellows. It's not their fault the business they happen to be in favors style over substance. But this quartet has been known to show its sense of style through its substance, and people are starting to take notice. Currently, they're working on an album set for release on Austin's Sector II label.

Artist: Harry Sheppard
Nominated for: Best Jazz
Sound of choice: Good vibes
Time logged: Fifty years (11 in Houston)

Etc.: At 69, this man's got some badass batteries. His regular gigs are with Necessary Tension at Rudyard's on Thursdays, with Erin Wright at the River Cafe on Tuesday nights and with bassist Bill Miller at that same venue's Sunday brunch. Points of View came out on Justice last year and received zero local press. Despite which, it's apparently selling well and generating airplay in Holland and Germany.

Harry Sheppard performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at Q Cafe.

Artist: Sentir
Nominated for: Best Tejano/Latin
Sound of choice: Venezuelan folk music with island rhythms
Time logged: Eight years

Etc.: A weekly attraction at Elvia's Cantina, Sentir is a ten-member Cuban/Venezuelan folk outfit that fits the Latin/Tejano category only by necessity. Incorporating Caribbean rhythms into a traditional Venezuelan format, the group has more on its mind than any one label can justify.

Artist: Sisters Morales
Nominated for: Best C&W
Sound of choice: Harmony-driven country rock
Time logged: Seven years

Etc.: Lisa Morales' image as a folkie songwriter started to change direction when she and sister Roberta began pushing country harmonies to angelic levels. As they assembled one of the tightest backup bands in town, the sisters wrote and polished original songs -- in both Spanish and English -- that brought them to the attention of RCA Records. While Lisa and Roberta's words and the way they sing them are responsible for the bulk of their audience, David Spencer's blazing skills on electric and steel guitar are also a big part of what makes this band work so well.

Artist: The Suspects
Nominated for: Best Alternative/Non-Commercial; Best Reggae/World Beat; Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category; Best Horn/Horn Section

Sound of choice: Ska
Time logged: Two years
Etc.: Without question, the Suspects do the Two-Tone/rock-steady thing better than any other act in Houston. With three nominations this year, the only thing this band of fierce ska purists could possibly protest is their inclusion in the Reggae/World Beat category. But what can we say? Musical definitions are a malleable, and unpredictable, thing.

The Suspects perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Ball Room.

Artist: Tallis String Quartet
Time logged: Two years
Sound: Classical
Nominated for: Best Classical Performer/Ensemble

Etc.: This young group hasn't developed a particularly high profile yet; in fact, some who should know better insisted that they weren't even a Houston group. But they are, and they play a selection of romantic classical chamber works, and are also proud of their contemporary arrangements.

Artist: Taste of Garlic
Nominated for: Best Alternative/Non-Commercial; Best Rap/Hip-Hop
Sound of choice: George Clinton takes the metal train
Time logged: Four years

 

Etc.: Best Rap/Hip-Hop is a categorization more than a hair inappropriate for a quartet that can trace a majority of its gummed-up grooves back to '70s funk and can locate the source of its stadium-metal inclinations somewhere in the neighborhood of Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad. As for the never-ending saga of Mydixiewrecked, the band's ever forthcoming CD, there's still no definite release date.

Taste of Garlic performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at 8.0.

Artist: 30footFALL
Nominated for: Best Alternative/Non-Commercial; Best Drummer (Damon Delapaz); Release of the Year (Divided We Stand)

Sound of choice: Fast, funny and furious hard-core
Time logged: Three years
Etc.: "Boogers for Brains," "Tons O Guns," a ludicrous cover of Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself": need we say more?

30footFALL performs at 5 p.m. Sunday at 8.0.

Artist: TKoh!
Nominated for: Best Funk/R&B; Best Horn/Horn Section
Sound of choice: Funk and soul from the mouths of jazz players
Time logged: More than a year

Etc.: If there was ever an all-star horn band in Houston, it's TKoh! Inspired by the great Maceo Parker work Life on Planet Groove, this bulky, 13-member ensemble pulls out all the stops on-stage, right down to the sitting/standing moves employed by its horn brigade. And with local heavyweights such as David Caceres in on the action, the quality of the brass is virtually guaranteed.

TKoh! performs at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Rhino Room.

Artist: Toy Subs
Nominated for: Best Cover Band
Sound of choice: Other bands
Time logged: Six years

Etc.: Toy Subs plays cover songs with more competence than anyone's got a right to expect, but what singer Jamie Jahan, guitarist Alex Tittel, bassist Greg Mayfield and drummer John Simmons really want you to know about is Shed, the same lineup playing originals for the last two years, during which time the band (Shed) has released two CDs.

Toy Subs perform at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Rhino Room.

Artist: Ken Valentino
Nominated for: Best Folk/Acoustic
Sound of choice: Raw, confessional singer/ songwriter
Time logged: Two months solo

Etc.: This veteran local guitarist began working up a solo act based on his own songs after his last project, Twenty Mondays, disbanded. Although he initially viewed the change in direction as an exercise in strengthening his vocal skills, Valentino soon found the acoustic format more rewarding than his previous genres and is putting together an act that includes standup bass and drums.

Ken Valentino performs at 4 p.m. Sunday at Q Cafe.

Artist: Wazobia
Nominated for: Best Reggae/World Beat
Sound of choice: Reggae and world beat, of course
Time logged: Eleven years

Etc.: With members born in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and the U.S., Wazobia is a legitimate African-American experience with global implications. Annually, the quintet has made its well-deserved presence known in the Reggae/World Beat category, taking home the honor three times in the last four years. Enjoyment is their calling card; hard work is what keeps them around. It's tough to doubt such pure intentions.

Wazobia performs at 6 p.m. Sunday at Cydney's.

Artist: Sebastian Whittaker
Nominated for: Best Jazz; Best Drummer
Sound of choice: Cool, but not too cool to hit a blues shuffle
Time logged: More than a decade

Etc.: Whittaker, who recently released a 1990 session as Justice Records' The Valley of the Kings, is a band leader who leads from the drum kit and shares the spotlight with sax and keyboards. There's a raw, essential feeling to his music that recalls the classic days of small-combo jazz. Jazz has become less accessible over the decades as artists have pushed the envelope until it tore; Whittaker repairs the damage and makes music that appeals to both neophyte and aficionado.

Artist: Bert Wills
Nominated for: Best Blues
Sound of choice: Trans-generational guitar blues
Time logged: Thirty-four years

Etc.: Last year's Mr. Politician Man grabbed two Grammy nominations -- for Best Contemporary Blues and Best New Artist -- which is a nice pair of nods to a Seabrook-based fortysomething old-timer who tries to book his everlasting tours (250 road dates last year, including Europe) to coincide with sweet surfing spots. A follow-up, Special Session, has been out since mid-summer, and yet another CD is scheduled for an early 1997 release.

Artist: Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys
Nominated for: Best Blues; Local Musician of the Year; Best Female Vocalist; Best Guitarist (Eric Dane); Best Bassist (Chris King); Best Drummer (Leesa Harrington); Song of the Year ("No Really, I Can Drive"); Songwriter(s) of the Year; Release of the Year (Play with Matches)

Sound of choice: Bluesy roadhouse rock
Time logged: Four years
Etc.: Last year's Play with Matches was a commercial flop, and a rotation of booking agencies has confused things (the band now books its own tours), but the Monkeys still live on the road, where they continue to build a solid reputation touring the West and Midwest with high-profile gigs such as the annual biker rally at Sturgis. The Monkeys are planning a second disc for Big Mo Records come November.

 

Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys perform at 8 p.m. Sunday at McElroy's.

Artist: Tony Xpress
Nominated for: Best Reggae/World Beat
Sound of choice: All of the above and more
Time logged: Three years

Etc.: The Tony Xpress sound relies on a well-traveled mixture of rock, reggae, calypso and Afro strains. This native Nigerian and his four-member ensemble spend most of their time out of town, performing in exotic locals such as Spain and Cancun, Mexico, so shows in Houston are increasingly rare these days. Given that, it's surprising that Xpress can maintain a strong enough buzz around town to land a Music Awards nomination. Evidently, his reputation is more firmly rooted than he is.

Artist: Norma Zenteno
Nominated for: Best Tejano/Latin
Sound of choice: Afro-Cuban jazz
Time logged: More than 40 years

Etc.: It's the annual Press Music Awards curse of the language barrier: Norma Zenteno is actually a jazz singer who sings in Spanish, and does it amazingly well in front of a hot, accomplished band that's well-versed in salsa and many other Latin variants that lend themselves to a freewheeling format.

Norma Zenteno performs at 8 p.m. Sunday at Metroplex.

Artist: Zwee & the Graveberries
Nominated for: Best Funk/R&B
Sound of choice: Grooves for neo-hippies
Time logged: Two years (recently defunct)

Etc.: Since Zwee & the Graveberries always felt neglected in their hometown when they were around, this nomination has to mean something to them. Sadly, that something came a few months too late. Now disbanded, Franklin Zwee and the others will have to swallow this honor posthumously and, alas, long for what could have been.


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