My thoughts on H-Town Presents

A recent post in Houston Press’s Rocks Off blog mentions a recent project between the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau and Mark Austin, photographer and now music promoter who is perhaps best known to readers of my other blog, Quinn’s Big City as the creator of the Canned Acoustica concert series. The project is a promotional-use-only compilation album of local Houston musicians for use in promoting our local music scene called H-Town Presents.

While I like the concept, my original comment on this post expressed surprise at some of the omissions. It should say enough in and of itself that there’s not room enough for “the best” of our music scene in Houston to fit it all on a 74- or even 80-minute CD. One of the readers commenting on the original post, writing under the pen name/handle “WhiteLightning”, felt there was too much self-interest here since Mark is also a promoter under the company name The Convoy Group.

First, from the article, the H-Town Presents track list:

  1. The Tontons, “Golden”
  2. Buxton, “Boy of Nine”
  3. Wild Moccasins, “Gag Reflections”
  4. Young Girls, “Noches”
  5. Featherface, “I Saw You Dancing”
  6. Benjamin Wesley, “Gretch, You Just Wait!”
  7. Robert Ellis, “Friends Like These”
  8. Poor Pilate, “Sundowning”
  9. The Handshake, “I’ll Take Mine”
  10. The Manichean, “The Swan”
  11. Shellee Coley, “The Trees”
  12. Grandfather Child, “Can’t Seem to Forget”
  13. Folk Family Revival, “Unfolding”
  14. Come See My Dead Person, “Another Goodbye”
  15. Venomous Maximus, “Moonchild”
  16. Teddy Rose & Bun B feat. Bobby Lamar, “Here We Go (Texans Anthem)”
  17. Fat Tony, “Hood Party (Radio Edit)
  18. DJ Sun feat. Leah Alvarez, “Heart Seed”
  19. Tyagaraja, “We Will Meet Again”

My take: I will be honest, overall, I like Mark and what he has done for the Houston music scene, and I don’t really have anything against him. I’m willing to give Mark the benefit of the doubt; I don’t think he would intentionally stack this with his own clients (he did include Magnolia Red’s artists Shellee Coley and Folk Family Revival, as well as Buxton). I will concede the tracklist does seem a bit heavy with The Convoy Group’s client list, but the cause-and-effect relation is certainly a matter of debate (i.e. whether these are the musicians Mark thinks are best because they are his clients, or is his reputation such that the best musicians in and around Houston attracted to Mark as a promoter).

Now, back in January or so, I had begun putting together my own tracklist for a mix CD, what I would give to any interested out-of-town friends as my idea of the best of the Houston music scene. For lack of a better term, I’ll say this is a working draft of what I would have released as H-Town Presents were I doing the selection. Most of this list, with one important exception, came from recordings in my personal collection as of early January.

  1. The Tontons, “Kaleidoscope” (1)
  2. Low Man’s Joe, “I’m Alive”
  3. Buxton, “Wolves and Owls”
  4. The Snake Charmers, “(I Wanna Be a) Hoochie Mama”
  5. Tyagaraja, “Open Arms”
  6. Chase Hamblin, “A Fine Time” (2)
  7. Shellee Coley, “Uncomfortable” (3)
  8. Folk Family Revival, “Chasing A Rabbit”
  9. The Watermarks, “I Used to Be Your Rock ‘n’ Roll”
  10. Runaway Sun, “Headin’ Down South” (4)
  11. The Literary Greats, “Mercy Mercy” (5)
  12. Castle Lights, “Maze of Love”
  13. Summer Ashly, “Strange Light” (6)
  14. Winter Wallace, “Holiday” (7)
  15. Beautiful Contributors, “Sound of Stars”
  16. (8)

(1) This was judged strictly on The Tontons’ self-titled album, before I had copies of either the Golden or Sea and Stars EPs. There are a couple of other tracks I would consider here: “Leon” (also on the album), and “Atlas” (from the Sea and Stars EP).

(2) This band is now Chase Hamblin and the Roustabouts, but the debut EP was billed as just Chase Hamblin. I have not heard most of the new album VauDEville yet and this list was compiled before that album’s release, so this was judged solely from the EP A Fine Time.

(3) This was judged solely from Shellee’s EP The Girl the Stencil Drew as I don’t yet have a copy of the album Where It Began.

(4) This was judged from just the self-titled EP and the album The Bridge, as I don’t yet have a copy of Let’s Run, though I would also consider the title track of the latter (which I have as a free download) or possibly “Bad Bad Man” from The Bridge.

(5) This was judged from just the album Black Blizzard as I don’t yet have copies of their earlier albums. “Marigolds” or “NightOwl” are also great tracks from that album, and this was perhaps the toughest choice I had to make.

(6) Summer Ashly is a relative newcomer to at least my awareness if not the Houston music scene in general, and was not actually on this list as I originally made it in early January; this track came out near the end of the month, and I didn’t buy a copy until I found out about it in mid-February. This track is her sole release to date that I am aware of. It’s possible I might prefer one of her later songs once they are released.

(7) Winter Wallace is supposed to be coming out with a new album this year, from what I have heard. I also considered “Here’s To Everything” for this slot; it’s tough because six out of seven tracks on the album are not just good, but excellent. I would also consider something from the new album once it is released.

(8) There is still quite a bit of time left over here (the tracks listed barely total an hour, so another 20 minutes for an 80 minute CD) which leaves room for other tracks and bands I have yet to hear. I did not consider this list “done” when I set it aside in early January, just at a point where I didn’t feel like messing with it any further.

There is, of course, some overlap between at least the bands that I would pick and those that Mark picked. While musical tastes do vary (I really don’t consider rap to even be music, for example), there are certain bands with broader appeal than others.

Thoughts? Compliments? Insults? Rotten tomatoes? Or better yet, who would you pick, and why?