So many good shows and so little time.
I feel like I’m not doing Texas music lovers a service if I didn’t at least mention a few of the more Lone Star-centric live shows landing in Houston this Saturday.
At the House of Blues, bluesy folk-singer Ruthie Foster plugs in to test drive music from new album, "The Truth According To Ruthie Foster." While not a household name, Foster has a voice strong and clear enough to win over the tough crowds at the Apollo Theater in Harlem or growl soul and funk in any juke joint along the Gulf Coast.
Also on Saturday, Austin guitar virtuoso Ian Moore headlines the Continental Club stage, playing riff-heavy blues-rock from his most recent album, "To Be Loved."
About the only thing that has kept Ian Moore from becoming a nationally known icon is geography. Were he not trying to become a six-string legend and and lyrical poet on the same streets that Stevie Ray Vaughan already walked, he might already be playing much bigger halls across the country.
As it stands, he is one Texas’ many little musical secrets and we are better for it.
Now, for those looking for tunes originated beyond the state border…
Dwight Yoakam at H Town’s Arena Theatre
Forget for a moment that Kentucky cowboy Dwight Yoakam has won two Grammy’s, earned oodles of top 10 singles and is one of the most entertaining country music stars to ever painted-on his stone-washed jeans. For fans this show is about one thing only: location, location, location.
Usually when Yoakam comes through the Houston area in support of his latest top 10 country album, he plays the largest venues in town like the Toyota Center or the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. But this tour has no album to sell.
The only product in the display case will be Yoakam himself and that can best be seen in the relatively cozy confines (only 2,800 seat) of H Town’s Arena Theatre.
Don’t expect a lot of glitzy production and pyrotechnics for this theater-in-the-round event. That’s what’s given up to have seats close enough to see the seams on Yoakam’s shirt.
But with no material to push, he is free to play anything from big hits like "Guitars, Cadillac’s" and "Streets of Bakersfield," to some covers of songs by the late-great Buck Owens, the inventor of the more off-kilter Bakersfield Sound country that Yoakam has revered throughout his 25 years of recording.
Neko Case at Warehouse Live
I have always been a fool for a girl with a guitar in her hands.
The ability to play it hasn’t always been mandatory for me to fall head over heels, but the fact that Neko Case can strum both power-pop or alt-country with equal force and femininity makes her January Jones-hot.
For much of the last decade Case has performed double-duty as the lone strong-voiced female in the otherwise all-guy band rock band, The New Pornographers, as well as writing and touring as a country-leaning singer-songwriter on her own.
With any luck Case will give her Houston audience a taste of her work with The New Pornographers (my vote is something from indie-darling album, "Twin Cinemas"), but she is at her best when searching her musical heart for what ails her slightly twisted soul.
New album "Middle Cyclone" picks up the pseudo-autobiography of her life where last album, "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" left off. And while Case would never shamelessly flirt with stardom, the dirty doo-wop kick of new song "This Tornado Loves You" and the acoustic charge of most recent single “People Got A Lotta Nerve" may find her celebrity expanding soon. Bonus: Opening band Deer Tick is a future new rock radio favorite-in-training.
Train at House of Blues
As a San Francisco Bay Area native, it’s nice to see homeboys Train back on the tour bus after a successful stint in the recording studio. Train comes from the same guitar jangling, free-spirited, brooding front man school of Bay Area rockers that also gave birth to the Counting Crows and Third Eye Blind in the '90's. All these bands have had strong early singles followed by a decade of critical fire for not matching that success. Train is no different.
Early bouncy hits "Meet Virginia" and "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)" stormed the Billboard charts and made lead singer Patrick Monahan a matinee idol at rock festivals.
Recent radio success hasn’t been as frequent and in 2006 Train decided to take a hiatus and regroup. The just released new album, "Save Me San Francisco," is the group’s grand return.
Stripped back to a trio, Monahan and Co. have embraced a more adult folk-rock arc to new songs like first single "Hey, Soul Sister." Still, expect the early big rock n’ roll sound that was the soundtrack to dorm halls across the country to make an appearance during the set.