Wednesdays are Honky-Tonk Heaven In Houston, and Thursdays are Hillbilly Hell
Robert Ellis & the Boys, under the blue neon
Photos by Chris Gray
It's no secret Rocks Off is a big fan of the country music, which is why we're starting to get a little excited about the inner-loop honky-tonk scene that's taking root. Over the weekend, we caught Sean Reefer & the Resin Valley Boys doing their hemped-up Hank Williams thang at the West Alabama Ice House, and Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers' Sunday-evening sets (6-9 p.m.) at the Continental Club, a fine way to wind down the weekend, have been drawing a steady crowd for the past couple of months. But it's Wednesday nights that are becoming the real boon to boot-scooters. We headed out to the railroad tracks last night to get a gander at Robert Ellis & the Boys at Blanco's; the ragtag group of Montrose ruffians - including Austin Sepulvado, Hilary Sloan, Ryan Chavez and Geoffrey Muller - was evidently on loan from Mango's (where they return Nov. 18), but they slid into the hardwood-floor and shuffleboard environs of the River Oaks lounge like clockwork.
Wednesday it seemed to us that if we closed our eyes, Ellis' high tenor could be a dead ringer for Gram Parsons, and his band is stellar across the board; kudos especially to steelsmith Wil van Horn. With a set list heavy on Willie Nelson ("I Gotta Get Drunk," "I'd Have to Be Crazy," "Crazy"), Merle Haggard ("Today I Started Loving You Again," "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down," "Think I'll Just Sit Here and Drink") and Bob Wills ("Stay All Night," "Roly Poly"), Ellis and the Boys (and girl) owned, even convincing a few folks - it was an interesting crowd of well-heeled River Oaks regulars, plus folks like recent mayoral candidate Ralph Ullrich, Miss Leslie and Cley Miller from Young Mammals - to take a twirl or two around the dance floor.
That still wasn't quite enough twang for us, though, so we headed down south of 59 and caught the last few songs of Mike Stinson (right) at Under the Volcano. It seems like every time we see Stinson, he's added another band member, and this time it was steel player Ricky Davis, who has been making his guitar not-so-gently weep for Dale Watson for what seems like ages. By the time we got there, Stinson and his band had already worked up a sizable head of steam, powering this new and extremely promising neo-honky-tonk scene to places unknown. We've got a little hitch in our giddy-up today, but we don't even mind (much). More please.
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