It's not often the Wednesday-night act at Under the Volcano arrives with special guests in tow, but local songstress/honky-tonk goddess Leslie Sloan presented Californian Heather Myles to the Houston music crowd last night. If you call 25 totally mesmerized honky-tonk fanatics a crowd. Music usually doesn't start until 8 p.m. at the Bissonnet drinkery, but Leslie and her crew started at 7 and, except for a short break to allow Myles and guitarist Bob Gothar to set up, just muscled up and played their asses off all night. Leslie had received some bad news about a colleague during the day, and at one point felt compelled to explain why she wasn't her usual self. But we all know sorrow is one of the key elements in honky-tonk, and Leslie rode that wave to artistic highs as she leaned into every song, from her album title track "Between the Whiskey and the Wine" to classic-but-seldom-reprised rarities like Leroy Van Dyke's "Just Walk On By (Wait on the Corner)." She also previewed some tracks from her next album that she's been working on at Tommy Dettamore's Cedar Ridge Studio in Halletsville. Miss Leslie never fails to remind me of another young woman I first saw around Austin 35 years ago, Marcia Ball. Every time I see Leslie, she makes me recall the young Marcia - who, even at a young age, approached every song like it was dues-paying time and gave it everything she had. Leslie's at the top of her game right now; you don't want to follow her at a karaoke contest.
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Rounder Records artist Myles brought along a secret weapon in Tele-twanger Bob Gothar. Combining with the Juke-Jointers to form a powerful six-piece twangin' machine, Myles and Gothar amped up the proceedings considerably. The harmonies between Myles and Leslie were killer, and Gothar and steel man Ricky Davis put on a twang clinic as Myles moved through her top material like "Big Cars" and "Nashville's Gone Hollywood" as well as monster covers of classics like Buck and Dwight's "Streets of Bakersfield," Wanda Jackson's "Right or Wrong," Buck Owens' "Love's Gonna Live Here Again," and magnificent up-tempo shuffle version of Ray Price's "Crazy Arms." With Sloan and Myles bringing all they had, the only downer of the night was the disappointing crowd. Who knows, maybe H-Town just ain't country anymore. Whatever is going on, there's just no excuse for a no-cover charge show of this quality to be this sparsely attended. Myles is at Blanco's tonight. If you like top-flight, no-BS country, go check her out. Heather Myles plays 9 p.m. tonight at Blanco's, 3406 W. Alabama, 713-439-0072.