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Once More With Feeling

Lyle Lovett -- He's the favorite country musician for people who don't like country music and a Nashville iconoclast who consistently makes intriguing records boldly mixing gospel, jazz and blues with his steel-guitar twang. And he is assuredly the most famous graduate of Klein High School. But the latest role of Lyle Lovett (not counting his dalliances in film) is perhaps closest to his heart because it's one he started out in during the late '70s as an Aggie student concert booker, music journalist and fledgling performer: the part of enthusiastic music fan.

On his recent double CD Step Inside This House, Lovett plays cover artist by interpreting his favorite works from mostly '70s-era Texas singer/songwriters like Steve Fromholz ("Bears," "Texas Trilogy"), Townes Van Zandt ("Flyin' Shoes," "If I Needed You"), Guy Clark (the title track), Eric Taylor, Walter Hyatt, Michael Martin Murphey and others. Though largely forgotten today or relegated to footnotes in Lone Star State musical history and the fading remembrances of an aging cosmic cowboy audience, their words and performances undoubtedly made a huge impact -- and continue to do so -- on Lovett's own more commercially successful career. And on this elegantly understated and warmly rewarding release, he pays his idols back two-fold: by exposing their music to his already large fan base, and providing what is assuredly much-needed royalty income to their pockets (and in the case of the late Van Zandt and Hyatt, to their estates).

But make no mistake. Step Inside This House is no "Redneck Rock Aid" release -- Lovett puts his own indelible twist on each and every number. But like the most attentive and respectful student in music theory class, he never squashes the voice of the original composer. It is, frankly, a ballsy move for a performer whose own original records, including Pontiac, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band and the epochal Joshua Judges Ruth, regularly receive critical hosannas. And it also exposes as dreck and drivel most of what passes for "country music" today. Look for a mixture of Lovett's own tunes and these covers at the show -- and connect the dots for yourself.

-- Bob Ruggiero

Lyle Lovett performs Friday, November 27 and Saturday, November 28 at 8 p.m. at the Aerial Theatre, 520 Texas Ave. Tickets are $29.50 and $39.50. For more information, call 629-3700 or 230-1600.

Long John Hunter -- For more than four decades now the mythos of Long John Hunter has invigorated Texas blues. After migrating from Beaumont to Houston with his original band, the Hollywood Bear Cats, in 1955, Hunter ended up across the Rio Grande in Juarez, Mexico two years later. His wild shows there at the delightfully decadent Lobby Bar -- seven nights a week for 13 years -- established him as a genuine "Border Town Legend." That moniker rightfully served as the title of his excellent 1995 debut CD on Alligator Records.

Touring extensively in recent years, Hunter (though now in his late sixties) has wowed audiences with scorching fretwork, smoky vocals and raucous on-stage antics inspired as much by rock and roll as by the blues tradition. Now with a third major Alligator release, 1998's Ride with Me, to his credit, Hunter seems intent on keeping the party going, full-tilt. On Friday, November 27, at Billy Blues, 6025 Richmond. Showtime 9 p.m. Cover charge $8. 266-9294. (Roger Wood)

The Queers -- Once you know they're a bunch of straight guys, The Queers are pretty much self-evident. But that seems to be the point. With the new album called Punk Rock Confidential and songs like "I Didn't Puke" and "The Sun Always Shines Around You," it's clear these guys aren't much for subtlety. What they're for is a party, and on the new record they've thrown a little pop into their punk so that almost anyone can show up, even covering Manfred Mann and the Banana Splits classic "I Enjoy Being A Boy." The Queers celebrate the suburbs with a kind of twisted nostalgia. In the song "Mrs. Brown, You've Got An Ugly Daughter," Joe Queer sings, "I used to think she was so groovy / Trading kisses at the movies / Now I don't wanna walk around with her no more." So while The Queers may not rise to the same level of wit and incendiary observation as the best punk (and their name is just plain stupid), the band manages an album full of silly rhymes and hooky pleasures for those who like their music fast and fun and their poetry scratched onto school desks and bathroom stalls. On Friday, November 27 at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. Showtime 8 p.m. Tickets $8. 862-7580. (Seth Hurwitz)

 
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