One to Grow On
Only in Houston
Bun B, Trill O.G.: The Epilogue: At this point, Bun B's influence stretches far beyond music, but that doesn't mean he can't still churn out a great album. Trill O.G. The Epilogue, the finale in his Trill album series, has everything we've come to both expect and love from a Bun album. It begins with the Dirty South-dripping "The Best Is Back" and before the end includes guests 2 Chainz and Big K.R.I.T; a DJ Screw homage; and, of course, a few samples from the late, great Pimp C. MATTHEW KEEVER
Children of Pop, Fiesta/Drift: Something about the "chillwave" movement has a polarizing effect, but Children of Pop have that special something that could sway even the most hesitant listener. Equal parts psych-rock and pop, Fiesta/Drift mixes in that ethereal, experimental "chill" sound that defines bands like Animal Collective. Whatever it is, Children of Pop have managed to release something that stands well apart from what most Houston acts are doing. ALYSSA DUPREE
Fat Tony, Smart Ass Black Boy: Fat Tony continued his streak of putting out some of Houston's most interesting and challenging rap this year with another twisting collaboration with partner/producer Tom Cruz. Easygoing, responsibility-free anthems "BKNY" and "Hood Party" are fun and breezy enough to get listeners hooked, but "I Shine" begs for driving while sparking up something hand-rolled as the rapper relates his concerns about politics, identity and parenting. Street bangers these are not. NATHAN SMITH
Football, Etc., Audible: This isn't a loud record, but not all emotion has to be loud and ugly. In fact, these songs seem to have more power by being understated. They rarely crack the 3:30 mark, the guitar work is functionally beautiful instead of hollow flash, and the vocals are straightforward rather than histrionic. They don't necessarily command your attention, but when you pay attention you realize, "Hey, this is pretty amazing." CORY GARCIA
Nick Greer & the G's, Nick Greer & the G's: Nick Greer has got to be the funkiest man in town. A self-described "powerhouse of funk, blues, soul and hip-hop," his group's debut eponymous album is a pleasure to the ears and will make you want to dance, with lyrics that will have you singing along after just a few listens. MATTHEW KEEVER
Steve Krase, Some Day: From the first stomp-and-shake of Bobby Charles's "Why People Like That," Steve Krase lets it all hang out on this blistering party album. An integral part of the local blues scene since his days in Jerry Lightfoot's band, Krase takes his game to a new level here with a huge dose of muscle from local stalwarts like guitarist James Henry, bass master "Spare Time" Murray and Eric Demmer's honking sax. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Legion, State of Decay: This debut album by the Sugar Land thrashers positively drips with youthful enthusiasm for the hyperactive brand of speed-metal once thought to be dead and buried along with James Hetfield's handlebar mustache. The machine-gun drum licks; wailing guitar solos; and syncopated, harmonized riffing are a delight for fans of old-school headbanging. NATHAN SMITH
Linus Pauling Quartet, Find What You Love and Let It Kill You: This EP by Ramon Medina and his Linus Pauling Quartet (named after a misattributed Charles Bukowski quote) says what it needs to in just three short songs. Closer "La Jetee" is one of the most pleasantly sad songs Houston has ever produced, and as far as small bits of magic go, Find What You Love... was hard to beat in 2013. JEF WITH ONE F
Pasadena Napalm Division, Pasadena Napalm Division: The galloping guitars and drums of deadhorse join forces with the ear-piercing voice of D.R.I. front man Kurt Brecht (his first time on record in 18 years) to produce this whipping throwback album of the very best kind. The fast 'n' furious tracks sound exactly like what fans of both groups hoped they would: outrageously aggressive, with lyrical tongue planted firmly in cheek. NATHAN SMITH
The Suffers, "Slow It Down" b/w "Step Aside": This summer the Suffers released their much-anticipated first single, this vinyl 7-inch loaded with choice ingredients of seductive vocals, brilliant horns and groovy rhythms, a sonic gumbo of soul, reggae and rocksteady. It wins you over from the first note. MARCO TORRES
Brett Taylor (sIngs), Document of Hate: Once just Brett Taylor's solo act, then a band and now a solo project again (kind of), sIngs has tried on as many styles. Free EP Document of Hate lands somewhere between Angelo Badalamenti and Jandek, with challenging noises and broken chords. It's probably not where the unacquainted should start delving into Taylor's music, but it is one of 2013's most deeply layered releases. COREY DEITERMAN
For the Good Times
Country music loses legend Ray Price at age 87.
William Michael Smith
Ray Price, one of the singular voices of country music for 60 years, passed away on the afternoon of December 16 at his northeast Texas farm outside Mount Pleasant. Legendary DJ Bill Mack made the official announcement via Facebook, posting, "Ray Price left for heaven about 4:43 p.m. Central time." Price was 87 and had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year ago.
"He went in perfect peace," Mack wrote.
On October 8, Price was rushed to a Houston hospital, where he was diagnosed with sepsis in his blood, but responded to noted Houston physician Dr. Red Duke's treatment and returned home in November. After he spent Thanksgiving at home with his family, Price's condition worsened and he was admitted to Tyler's East Texas Medical Center on December 2. His wife, Janie, said on Facebook that Price returned home December 12 to enter hospice care; he had declined any experimental treatment. The day before Price passed, several news outlets, including Rolling Stone, CMT and USA Today, prematurely reported his death.
A consummate showman and song-picker, Price was born on January 12, 1926, in the northeast Texas hamlet of Perryville; he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. He set the standard for country dance bands for decades with the revolutionary 4/4 shuffle beat first heard on his iconic 1956 recording "Crazy Arms." That beat became known as the "Ray Price Shuffle," and he and his band filled dance floors to capacity from coast to coast with his classic buckle-polishers.
A member of the Glee Club at the former North Texas State in Denton, Price became one of country music's most recognizable vocal stylists as he evolved through several stages as a performer. He served a hitch in the Marines during World War II and began his singing career on the radio in Abilene; by 1949 he was appearing regularly on Dallas's Big D Jamboree, at the time the top country-music radio program in Texas.
By 1951, Price had moved to Nashville, where he roomed for a while with Hank Williams. Price and Williams toured together, and when Williams was too ill or drunk to perform, Price would fill in for him. When Williams died, his Drifting Cowboys became Price's band for a while. But Price sensed that he would never get out from under Williams's shadow unless he changed his sound, so he formed a new band, the Cherokee Cowboys, in 1953.
Between 1953 and the release of "Crazy Arms," Price had a handful of charting tunes, including another of his signature songs, "I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)," which hit No. 2 in 1954. After "Crazy Arms," Price almost never left the charts for an eight-year stretch that included "My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You," "City Lights," "Heartaches by the Number" and "I've Just Destroyed the World (I'm Living In)," one of the earliest recordings of a Willie Nelson song.
Overall, Price released 52 albums and scored nine No. 1 singles; arguably his biggest was 1970's "For the Good Times," which was released long after he had successfully crossed over to the easy-listening market. His voice had remained in good shape, and only this past January, Price performed at the Stafford Centre. By all accounts, he still had one of the greatest voices in the land.
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