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Cowboy Convoy

The man with the deep, deep voice that will make you wonder if Johnny Cash was ever friendly with the guy's mother would probably chortle if you called him "alternative country." That's because Austin-based singer/guitarist Dale Watson thinks his original material based on '50s and '60s Texas swing/honky-tonk and the Bakersfield sounds of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard is real country music. And with appearances on several compilations and two records already under his big belt buckle, Watson took a peculiar turn with his most recent, The Truckin' Sessions (Koch). Fourteen original tunes both celebrate and bemoan life driving a big rig in catchy songs such as "Good Luck 'N' Good Truckin' Tonite," the smooth "Big Wheels Keep Rollin'," "Exit 109" and the footstompin' "Everyday Knuckleclutchin' Gearjammin' Supertruckin' Loose Nut Behind the Wheel." Backed by his longtime band, the Lone Stars, Watson has made a disc for those who get misty-eyed over "Teddy Bear" or think that "Convoy" is the ultimate statement of personal freedom. But as appealing and genuine as Watson's songs and style are, much of the material tends to run together with similar-sounding licks, vocal tricks and rhythms. Watson needs to vary his sound to overcome potential novelty status. But I'll still take a rip-snortin' live Dale Watson show over a pop-sounding big-hat act any day.

-- Bob Ruggiero

Dale Watson plays Friday, May 14, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak Drive, at 9:15 p.m. Tickets are $10. Clay Farmer opens. Call (713)862-7580.

Hellacopters -- The members of the Hellacopters are ugly, loud and have been tapped by overzealous writers and fans as the saviors of grunge's Sub Pop records, maybe even rock and roll itself. Rock heroes usually come from unlikely places like Detroit, Minneapolis or Seattle, and the members of the Hellacopters hail from Sweden, a place known for death metal and the cute pop of the Cardigans, not the kind of kitschy swagger that the 'copters proffer. The Hellacopters is a band unafraid to show its roots: Its fourth record (in three years!), Grande Rock, set for a June 8 release, has a song titled "Paul Stanley," after the KISS lead singer of the same name. With wa-wa pedals pumping up and down, layers of guitars, some classic Fender Rhodes piano licks from Boba Fett (obviously not his real name) and singer/guitarist Nick Royale's howls, the Hellacopters shows it only cares about one thing: kicking ass. Grande Rock features dirty, garage-rock hooks, fuzzed-out, amped-up guitars and none of the pretension or arrogance of mainstream hardcore. Sure, there are guitar solos and songs about the joy of sex, but as part of the resurgence in underground "rawk" (see also: Nashville Pussy, REO Speedealer) the Hellacopters might just help save the genre from itself. The Hellacopters will perform Friday, May 14, at Emo's, 2700 Albany, with the Nomads and the Quadrajets. Call (713)523-8503. (David Simutis

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