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