There are those who would say that Secret Sunday lost much of whatever rock edge it had when guitarist Paul Lapuyade departed and was replaced by Robb Moore. But one man's half-empty is another's half-full. And no matter what your personal take on S.S.'s move from guitar pop to atmospheric "avant-rock," there can be little doubt that the band remains well ahead of the bulk of its Houston brethren.

Since the band's formation in October 1995, many aspiring young rock acts have emerged here, and almost all have disappeared. But it's more than longevity that has moved Secret Sunday to the top. It's songcraft and understanding that when people bother to show up to watch you play, you actually show them something on stage. A natural performance chemistry among the band's members doesn't hurt either. -- Les Mixer

Secret Sunday plays Saturday, September 25, at 805 Chartres for a free rooftop performance at 9 p.m., rain or shine.

Anointed -- Ever since Kirk Franklin found a way to mix gospel with the rest of black music and make a killing at it, a lot of black-music performers are getting their church on. After years of hearing singers and rappers talk about licking people up and down and smoking a blunt afterward, divine intervention seems like the next logical step. Hell, even R. Kelly, the master of musical mack daddies, attempted to redeem himself by producing a track for gospel girl-group Trin-I-Tee 5-7 on its debut last year.

One trio of gospel performers that also has some behind-the-scenes star power working in its favor is Anointed. The group -- Da'dra Crawford Greathouse, Steve Crawford and Denise "Nee-C" Walls -- has actually been around for six years with three gospel albums to its credit. The group has also picked up lots of Dove and Stellar trophies (gospel Grammys).

But on its self-titled fourth album, which was released last spring, Anointed got contemporary R&B cats Tony Rich and Keith Crouch to write and produce numbers that would appeal to the God-fearing crowd as well as the secular folk. And you know what? It works. The group manages to be faithful to its beliefs without watering down its sound or making it cloying. Many of the songs could actually play on mainstream black radio, if only mainstream black radio had the courage to play interesting stuff like this. Steve Crawford has said of the trio's finished product: "On our new record, it's all one big room, and everyone is invited." Anointed performs with Avalon and Nichole Nordeman on Friday, September 24, at Lakewood Church, 7317 East Houston Road. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 and $15. Call (281)446-5725 for information. (Craig D. Lindsey)

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