The Five Best Concerts In Houston This Week: Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers, Shinyribs, the Memphis Dawls, etc.
Under the Volcano, June 24
Even longtime Gourds fans are now finding themselves a little shocked at what a transformation Kevin Russell has done with Shinyribs. Certainly the seeds were there in the perennial Austin roots favorites' off-color jokes and melting-pot grooves, but since that band folded in late 2013 Russell has taken it to the proverbial next level. Released in April, Russell/Shinyribs' sophomore effort Okra Candy works his idiosyncratic lyrics in and around a variety of lively arrangements: country-funk showpieces “The Sacred & the Profane” and “Red Quasar”; San Antonio garage tribute “Donut Taco Palace”; straight-up rocker “Longer It Lingers,” and many more. So good it'll make you come back for seconds, making Okra Candy in some quarters the Texas album to beat in 2015.
Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers
Continental Club, June 25
Any band featuring an upright bassist named “Sneaky Pete” is already a winner, but Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers have a lot more going on than even that. Like, a drummer named “Sneaky Beat.” The rockin’ Austin combo piloted by singer Ruby Dee Phillipa and guitarist Jorge Harada have been tearing up the road for a decade or so with their tangy mix of rockabilly and honky-tonk, pausing periodically to lay down some wax like 2011’s Live From Austin, Texas and 2013’s kids-themed Rockabilly Playground. Somehow the Snakehandlers have managed to slither around nearly everywhere except Houston for the past eight years or so (including Europe), but all will be forgiven after Thursday’s Continental gig.
The Memphis Dawls
McGonigel's Mucky Duck, June 25
The Memphis Dawls, who have joked that the band is “post-Americana-alt-chamber-folk,” are just as soulful as a band bearing Memphis in its moniker should be. The trio of Holly Cole, Krista Wroten Combest and Jana Misener flesh out their sound with drummer Paul Gilliam; on tunes like "Liar," the results at once recall the great female soul singers. The haunting “Skin Like a Cage” pushes the definition of folk music, while “Shoot ’Em Down” sounds like a classic English folk tune reinvented for the 21st century. The women have played together since high school and finally formed a band in 2010, and last year's debut LP, Rooted in the Bone (MadJack Records), allows these music-degreed ladies to roam casually from genre to genre with ease, flair, class and a touch of humor. (WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH)
Scout Bar, June 25
A band since 2010, Metacrisis this year released their debut EP Halfway to Nowhere, a six-song sampler of full-blooded alt-rock reminiscent of near-forgotten '90s groups like Stabbing Westward and God Lives Underwater. Produced by veteran Sylvia Massy, whose other credits include Tool's Undertow and Love and Rockets' Sweet F.A., the EP's industrial cues and anguished choruses mark the Houston four-piece as unmistakable descendants of Nine Inch Nails, yes, but fresher and more light-footed than plenty of other post-grunge also-rans. Nowhere was even recorded on one of the mixing boards featured in Dave Grohl's Sound City documentary.
Cottonwood, June 25
No one who saw Austin pop rockers Wrenfro open for Shinyribs at Discovery Green last month will need further convincing that they're one of the most interesting newer bands out of Austin these days. Anchored by veteran rhythm section Chris Gebhard (bass) and “Special” Ed Jarusinsky (drummer), the band truly flies when writers, singers and guitar-whangers Kevin McKinney (Soulhat) and Tony Scalzo (Fastball) take center stage. While there are great players and bands all over Austin, Wrenfro separates themselves from the pack via their songs; Both Scalzo and McKinney have the ear for great pop-rock hooks that make tunes like “Regretfully” and “Can You Keep a Secret?” irresistible. McKinney’s take on all the trouble that can befall a backsliding musician in “Houston” should bring knowing smiles from everyone in the audience. “These things remind me of Houston/ And if we make it to the end/ Gonna be closer than a shave.” (WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH)
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