HPMA Preview: Nobody Leaves Without Singing The Blues Edition

Little Joe Washington
Little Joe Washington
Photo by Brittanie Shey

In the movie Adventures in Babysitting, Houston native bluesman Albert Collins inadvertently assists the getaway of young Elizabeth Shue (meow) and her charges from a gang of thugs, but only after she sings. Collins blocks the attackers with the same retort he gave Shue's character before she sang an off-key tale of babysitting regret, "Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues."

All week, Craig Hlavaty and I are previewing the Houston Press Music Awards Showcase and today we honor the Ice Man with this list of six bands performing this Saturday that will do their damndest give you the blues.

But before you get to singing along with "I got a woman, she's a mean old woman," (that's how every blues song starts, right?), buy a ticket or 12. Just click this link and you'll soon be at the crossroads with Robert Johnson...or at Home Plate Bar and Grill with Little Joe Washington. Same diff'.

Diunna Greenleaf

(PETE'S DUELING PIANO BAR STAGE, 1201 Fannin, 5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Soul / Funk / R&B

When you hear Lady Diunna wrap her clear, gospel-steeped contralto around a blues or soul lyric, it's immediately obvious you're hearing the real deal. As leader of her own Blue Mercy band, Aldine native Greenleaf has taken her soul-stirring brand of downhome blues to audiences all over America and Switzerland, Italy, Canada and Asia. Her most recent album, Trying to Hold On, included guest shots from A-listers like Billy Branch, Smokin' Joe Kubek, Rich Del Grosso, "Steady Rollin'" Bob Margolin and Anson Funderburgh. As her nomination category indicates, her live show often finds her ranging as far beyond the style as Sly and the Stone's funky masterpiece "If You Want Me to Stay," but even so, Greenleaf remains steadfastly devoted to the blues, "especially from a woman's point of view." - John Nova Lomax

The Beans

(BEN'S BEANS, 1302 Dallas, 6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Bassist (Daniel Taylor), Best Drummer (Brendan Hall), Best New Act

The Beans' claim to fame seems to be a song about Houston, along with several hundred young, fresh-faced Facebook friends and followers on Twitter. The music is kinda bluesy, kinda psychedelic, kinda they-haven't-figured-out-what-they-are-yet. But the kids seem to like it, as a nice-size crowd showed up at their recent gigs at Rudz and the Continental. Daniel Taylor and Brendan Hall are nominated for Best Bassist and Drummer. - William Michael Smith

Texas Johnny Brown
Texas Johnny Brown
Photo by Jason Wolter

Texas Johnny Brown

(BEN'S BEANS, 1302 Dallas, 8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Blues

Immaculate. Tasteful. Classy as a bespoke suit with matching tie and handkerchief, and smooth as iced and aged Cuban rum. That's Texas Johnny Brown, a true hero of blues, vintage R&B and a pioneering early rock and roller. Brown's career spans the decades down from Spotify to 78s -- that's him on guitar with Amos Milburn's Chickenshackers way back in 1946, and that's him behind Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ruth Brown on many of her seminal Atlantic sessions. As a songwriter, Brown's best known for penning the title track to Bobby "Blue" Bland's canonical album Two Steps from the Blues. Despite that "Texas Johnny" handle, Brown is actually a Mississippi native, and his Choctaw County hometown of Ackerman recently claimed him forever as a native son, placing a plaque there on the Mississippi blues trail. Trivia: In 1941, the 12-year-old Brown, his blind musician father and their guitar-playing dog appeared in Virginia, a Hollywood film also starring Fred MacMurray, Sterling Hayden and Marie Wilson. - John Nova Lomax 

The Mighty Orq

(LUCKY'S PUB, 801 St. Emanuel, 7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Blues, Best Guitarist

One of Orq's better tunes is called "The Sweet In-Between," and that's a great description for his wheelhouse. He's neither rocker nor bluesman, but he's beyond adept at fusing the two, harnessing the steadfast emotion of the blues to rock's flights of fancy. A deep-voiced singer with a flavorsome guitar style, Orq can shift between power-trio rock band mode and a National Steel solo acoustic setting with a graceful aplomb rare in performers decades more seasoned. He's also a genius with a cover; you won't forget his seamless blend of "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" and Prince's "Kiss." There ain't no particular style he's more compatible with. Orq just wants your extra time and your...kiss. - John Nova Lomax

Steve Krase & the In Crowd

(HOUSE OF BLUES (FOUNDATION ROOM), 1204 Caroline, 4 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Blues

An oilfield salesman by day, Steve Krase works out his inner demons at night playing harp in front of a big, honking blues band, the In Crowd. A longtime member of the Houston Blues Society and supporter of all things blues in Houston, Krase played harp in Jerry Lightfoot's band for years before forming his own outfit. He's known for stepping up at benefits and for backing up legends like Big Walter "The Thunderbird" at his annual birthday soirees. Being a good old boy is nice, but you won't last in the Houston blues scene if you can't play, and it's Krase's ability and showmanship that keep him bubbling on the scene anywhere from Shakespeare's Pub or the Big Easy to any icehouse or biker bar that will open the doors and provide a stage. - William Michael Smith

Little Joe Washington


Nominated In: Best Blues

Out of a Third Ward blues guitar school that has now graduated to the great beyond Albert Collins, Johnny Clyde Copeland, Johnny Guitar Watson and Joe Guitar Hughes, Little Joe Washington is the last man standing. And he's hardly standing still: He's also pedaling his Schwinn from gig to gig, Fender strapped to his back, doing things with it you've never heard before and never will again, and then passing his hat around for tips. After opening with a cover of the Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime," Washington brought down the House (of Blues) at last year's showcase, prompting Press Music Editor Chris Gray to opine that the dreadlocked, pint-size master was a national treasure and "the funkiest person on the planet, although he may not actually be from this planet." Call him the Ornette Coleman of the blues guitar. - John Nova Lomax

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