"Texas" Johnny Brown
Tuesday, February 21
After seeing "Texas" Johnny Brown invite Katie Webster on-stage to close out the night, I know Houston is a blues lover's Promised Land. Can I have an "amen" and another cold beer?
Brown's 67th birthday celebration was equal parts showcase and family reunion, with a veritable who's who in Houston blues swelling the audience. Brown -- arguably the most classically inclined of the city's veteran blues guitarists -- artfully led his Quality Blues Band through a retrospective of half a century's worth of songwriting and performing. Tenor saxman L.B. Davis sat in for most of a set to add an uptown flavor to bassist Don Owens' and drummer Joe Griffin's polished Texas shuffle, while Brown's romantic, expressive voice had its usual effect on the women in the audience during "Two Steps from the Blues."
The final set sampled the talents in attendance, with veteran shouter Jimmy "T-99" Nelson and teenage guitar phenom Chris Masterson proving that the jump-blues bond transcends generations. Balladeer Eugene Moody borrowed Brown's guitar and made "Wang Dang Doodle" an irresistible invitation to a thoroughly dangerous situation, as Brown seized a spare microphone to join in on the chorus. But in a night of memorable moments, the pinnacle appeared in a rare, rollicking piano attack by the legendary Katie Webster, who has returned to her hometown after decades in Chicago and on the road.
-- Jim Sherman
Urban Art Bar
Wednesday, February 22
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Before the show, Everclear promised a 20-minute drum solo followed by an exhibition of rhythmic dancing. Turns out they skipped the drum solo, not that anyone minded, and substituted interpretive dancing (Drummer: "I am a tree!" Guitarist: "And the cold wind blows... "). With all the Capitol Records and Z107 folks around, it was clear they are getting the Big Push, so it was good to see them having some fun.
Everclear is on its fifth national tour in support of World of Noise, released by the band as a demo in 1993 and picked up by Capitol last year. Their music is straight-ahead rock and roll, but might be better described as alternative/Northwest power pop -- if that's any more descriptive.
Art Alexakis -- Katy born bandleader, guitarist and lead vocalist -- careens between the low-register grinding riffs that are Black Sabbath's gift to post-punk and trebly, melodic leads. Bassist Craig Montoya pushes the beat, occasionally stretching out into funkier rhythms, and drummer Greg Eklund marks the time with authority. They played tight and fast on "Electra Made Me Blind," and indulged in a little more melody on "You Make Me Feel Like a Whore." "Fire Maple Song" (the band joked that you can see the video on MTV "every summer solstice") flaunted what the band does best -- fast rock and roll, not as hooky as Green Day, not as sloppy as the Offspring, on the verge of a singular sound.
-- Peter Kelly