Sub Oslo
Winner for: Reggae
OK, so Sub Oslo isn't technically a reggae band. There is no "Buffalo Soldier" in its set, nor does the group play anything that even remotely resembles something performed by Bob Marley or any of his many offspring. There are, however, plenty of sounds that might be mistaken for buffaloes and/or soldiers and/or who knows what lurking beneath the thick cloud of sweet-and-sour smoke that hangs over every song on its 2000 debut, Dubs in the Key of Life, the kind of disc that creeps you out and creeps up on you at the same time, until you get comfortable being uncomfortable. The group has been fairly quiet since, turning up for the infrequent live gig and, recently, adding one of its songs (a live version of "Prisoner of Dub") to Babylon is Ours: The USA in Dub, a collection of--what else?--American dub artists released by Select Cuts. The reggae purists might argue that Sub Oslo is something else. Which is exactly why we're praising them. --Z.C.

Tio
Winner for: Latin/Tejano
Dallas has apparently pardoned Tio for his appearance on TV's fascinating romance-reality show Elimidate--just one example of the many arenas into which the young guitarist has forayed. He's dazzled the diners at Terilli's with his expertise in all things flamenco and a few things rock star, and now Tio and his spiky hair have stepped up to the mike in a different way, with the Flamenco Rock Concept. If the first single ("Grueso") and the addition of word-slinging MC Spookie to his feisty plucking is any indication, Tio and the group are definitely onto something new: flamenco-hop, I guess you could call it. But, that said, the Concept isn't just a dressed-up rap outfit, and it's not a Latin funk band, either; the music has too much respect for old-school composition and guitar technique to be lumped into the loose style of funk. Whatever they're doing, it's working: The audience reaction at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival was positive, KNON-FM DJ Kool Kris keeps playing "Grueso" on Friday afternoons and flamenco-rock fans trail Tio like the opening scene of Austin Powers. --M.M.

Polyphonic Spree
Polyphonic Spree
Eisley
Mark Graham
Eisley

Gypsy Tea Room
Winner for: Live Music Venue
There's no fun, no poetry, in writing about a building; nice bricks, eh? During the day, it's an empty bar (two, actually) with wooden floors and a barren stage (two, again), a place not so different from any other anywhere. The Gypsy Tea Room has become the yardstick by which all other comers (should) measure themselves, which is why it wins by a mile each and every year. Still, though it's a two-headed beast--with its cozy side and family room (meaning, Willie Nelson and the Family, who packed the place not long ago)--it's still just a club, just a spot where people congregate most every night to pour down a drink, pull on a smoke, pick up a stranger, tune in a band.

But it will forever remain a constant winner as long as its doors stay open--and as long as it maintains a booking policy that lures in the big-top acts, the young comers and the 'tweeners tired of looking for love in all the wrong spaces. Whenever it's announced a band like Wilco or Gomez or the Flaming Lips or The New Year's gonna play around, you know it's going to be in the Tea Room's ballroom, where sight(lines) and sound are topped by no one else in town. And even those acts once relegated to the likes of Poor David's or, jeez, Billy Bob's are moving in: In coming weeks, bluesman John Hammond, folkie Dar Williams and honky-tonk diva Deana Carter are booked to play the intimate Tea Room, which feels like home. And the newcomers are never turned away; at this rate Eisley's going to get its own wing. --R.W.

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