Hot CDs

Braver Newer World (Elektra) might well be the record that Jimmie Dale Gilmore has always wanted to make. A radical departure in both instrumentation (the sitar and fuzz guitars of the title track) and arrangements (the overhaul of Joe Ely’s “Because of the Wind”), it’s the closest the Austin-via-Lubbock folkie has come to fully integrating his Eastern thinking with his Western beat, and there are moments when—for the first time ever—he rocks as effortlessly as he rolls. JOHN MORTHLAND

Buddy Holly may be universally accepted as the greatest West Texas rocker of all time, but purists have never forgotten El Paso’s Bobby Fuller, who defined the sound on “I Fought the Law (and the Law Won).” Thanks to Del-Fi Records, you can hear the best of Fuller on The Bobby Fuller Four, a new compilation of two classic albums—I Fought the Law and KRLA King of the Wheels—plus seven bonus tracks, and on the three-CD set Rockin’ From El Paso to L.A., which will be released later this summer. Conspiracy theorists take note: The story of Fuller’s mysterious death at age 23 is being prepped for a cinematic treatment by Del-Fi mogul Bob Keane. JOE NICK PATOSKI

On Dead Spy Report (MCA), former Stickpeople/Storyville guitarist (and well-traveled ax-for-hire) Craig Ross puts on a hauntingly bittersweet one-man show that’s both fresh and familiar. T. Rex, John Lennon, and Alex Chilton all come to mind, but the Austinite has the songs, sound, and versatility to synthesize such lofty influences, nonchalantly delivering a dazzling swirl of anglophilic boogie, lysergic pop bliss, and harmony-laden anguish that’s entirely his own. JASON COHEN

Hot Books

Ah, romance—the genre, that is: so fluffy, so formulaic, so full of grit (from being read atop a beach towel in the sand). Submitted for this summer’s seaside sampling are new novels by Arlington’s Sandra Brown and Austin’s Susan Wade. A permanent fixture on the best-seller lists, Brown has just released Exclusive (Warner Books, $22.95), in which a ditsy broadcast journalist befriends the distraught first lady of the United States, whose son supposedly succumbed to sudden infant death syndrome, and determines to ferret out the real reason the baby died. Brown is no great literary shakes but has fun pushing the limits; only she could get away with a line like “She interviewed with as much ferocity as she screwed.” Wade, a first-timer, makes as much of an impression with Walking Rain (Bantam Books, $5.99). The protagonist is a young Houston woman tired of trying to outrun her past; she returns to her family’s deserted New Mexico ranch, where—of course—her past promptly tracks her down. Wade hews to the romance formula (the heroine has a deep, dark secret, the love interest is an aw-shucks guy), but the result is ambitious and surprisingly substantive. ANNE DINGUS

Hot Game

Arthur, Arthur! A new entry in the burgeoning market of card sets is Quest for the Grail, a medieval adventure devised by Austin’s Stone Ring Games. As with most such sets, each elaborate card is different, and some are harder to find than others; players plunk down $8.25 for a starter deck and $2.75 for booster packs in the hopes of acquiring a rarity. But in Quest, participants are fellow seekers, not foes, and they can play solo. Best of all, the cards feature excerpts from classical texts such as Paradise Lost and Morte d’Arthur and romantic art by the likes of Arthur Rackham and N. C. Wyeth. “We’re getting a good response,” notes co-creator David Nalle. “The story appeals to everyone.” ANNE DINGUS

Hot Eatery

Cafe Express, Houston’s classy self-serve minichain, has a serious case of manifest destiny. It has already expanded to Dallas; within months it will be in Austin and San Antonio and heading west. “First Phoenix and Las Vegas, then on to California,” says Lonnie Schiller, megachef Robert Del Grande’s partner in the Houston restaurant group that includes Cafe Annie. Two things set the cafe’s new central Dallas location apart from other quick-eats competitors. First is what Schiller calls the “zoomy” building, an airy, semi-minimalist structure in tones of khaki and purple with Holstein-patterned doors and a splashy aqueduct in the courtyard. The other is the food: superior Angus burgers for $5.25; shrimp salad with honey-mustard dressing for $6.75; and a fresh spinach and penne pasta salad in a lemon-olive dressing for $5.50. PATRICIA SHARPE

Hot Film

In a summer of big-budget blockbusters, entertaining audiences without resorting to special effects or not-so-special plot conventions sounds like a mission impossible. But not for the makers of Lone Star. Independent icon John Sayles—the master of the literate, character-driven narrative—has perfectly conjured a picture of life on the border today: Set in fictional Rio County (and shot in Eagle Pass), it interweaves seamless tales about a sheriff’s corruption and a town’s coming to grips with the changing politics of immigration, and throws in a murder mystery for good measure. The stellar cast includes native Texans Kris Kristofferson (left) and Matthew McConaughey, but the real star is Sayles: He has directed the first great movie about contemporary Texas. EVAN SMITH