Where Ya Been, Ms. Lynn?
Get ready to file another early June weekend under "Only in Houston" when the Juneteenth Blues Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary. On Saturday, a vintage triple bill of Pete Mayes and the Texas House Rockers, Trudy Lynn and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown caps off the three-day lineup, which also includes Willie Jaye and Texas Johnny Brown and Mark May and the Agitators Thursday, and Hamilton Loomis, James Peterson and Billy Boy Arnold with Joe "Guitar" Hughes Friday.
Mayes, back home again after playing the Chicago Blues Festival and fronting the strongest band he's had in years, opens the Saturday show with the great boogie he learned as a child in Double Bayou. Brown, as anyone who was at his Rockefeller's show last month can attest, is always on a roll when he's in Houston.
But having the divine Ms. Lynn back in town is what really makes the '96 festival special. She will, no doubt, graciously acknowledge the honor of being crowned this year's Juneteenth Artist of the Year -- and then promptly burn the stage down. Lynn, for years a dominant voice around the local soul/R&B scene, has been making Atlanta her off-the-road home for the last year or so, though on-the-road is a more common condition for her these days. Like many Gulf Coast artists, Lynn's largest audience is "over there," so she's been racking up the frequent flier miles between Atlanta and Europe.
Lynn's most enthusiastic audience has always been her hometown crowd, though. For years, it was a given that if Lynn was in town, there was a good chance that she'd come sauntering into OST's Evening Shadows nightclub around midnight and take over the stage for as long as she wanted it. And she never needed to bring a band with her. Frankly, anybody in town who claims to be a blues artist but has never spent some time backing Lynn is new. Joe Hughes, I.J. Gosey, Wilbur McFarland, Larry Guy and Teddy Reynolds are just a few of those who have spent innumerable nights providing fuel for Lynn's blazing fire. In fact, her Juneteenth appearance is notable for being a rare Houston appearance of her touring group. It should be interesting for Lynn's fans to see how her road band stacks up against the local talent.
On disc and on-stage, Lynn is the best female blues singer to come out of Houston since Big Mama Thornton, and it's good to have her back. Welcome home, lady -- even if it is only for one night. -- Jim Sherman
The 20th Annual Juneteenth Blues Festival will be held at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 6, to Saturday, June 8, at Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park. Free. For info, call 626-8000.
Road Kings -- It was about three years ago that the Road Kings, perhaps Houston's all-time favorite rockabilly act, retired their pompadours and vintage shoes for what looked like the last time. The stylish trio had chops to match their pomade, and had proven a consistent draw at clubs such as the Fabulous Satellite Lounge. Drummer Eric Tucker, bassist Jason Burns and six-picking frontman Jesse Dayton had also made a regular, if humble, mockery of the competition with endless repeat wins in the Press Music Awards. But all things -- especially good things -- must end. Tucker moved to New York, Burns joined the touring band of swamp-rocker C.C. Adcock and Dayton briefly led the alt-country Alamo Jets before inking a solo deal with Justice Records and releasing Raisin' Cain. Then a funny thing happened -- a northern European thing, actually. The outrageously loyal fan base the band had secured in Finland and its neighboring rockabilly-mad countries demanded the Road Kings un-retire, and the Kings agreed. In late May, the Road Kings (with C.C. Adcock drummer Chris Hunter subbing for Tucker on the skins) were in Finland, gearing up for a June 2 performance at that country's Rock and Roll Jamboree and recording a four-song E.P. exclusively for Finnish distribution. Come June 8, they'll be back in Houston, recording a live set at the Satellite, which they'll follow up with studio time for a European-only release. So if the prospects of another Road Kings CD in Houston record stores remain slim, there is at least this one-off live spin down memory lane to look forward to. And rockabilly, of all musical mutations, has always been a rush best experienced live anyway. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Ave., Saturday, June 8. With the Fender Benders and Flamin' Hellcats. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. 869-COOL. (Brad Tyer)
Alice Cooper -- Of the throngs of retro acts slipping into their former '70s selves for yet another postmortem tour this summer, few have had any lasting influence on the present. One exception is Vince Furnier, the preacher's son better known as Alice Cooper. While you'd have a heck of a time figuring out what the likes of Chicago, Styx or America gave to the '90s, today's alterna-metal bands can easily trace at least a portion of their lineage to Cooper's hell-on-earth shtick. Not content to simply crank up the decibels, Cooper put on a show like no one else, hauling out severed dolls, straitjackets, buckets of fake blood and other garish props to bolster the theatrical feel of his road show. In the late '70s, though, Cooper drifted into soggy mediocrity; it wasn't until the late '80s that he came to his senses and dusted off the old guillotine for another go. Unlike some middle-aged rockers, who seem almost embarrassed to sing their rebellious songs of old, Cooper has no problem wallowing in a little mindless escapism on-stage. And there's enough dual meaning in the lyrics of Cooper classics such as "I'm Eighteen" and "Long Way to Go" to span several generations. At the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Sunday, June 9, at 7:30 p.m. With the Scorpions and My Head. Tickets are $15 to $40. 629-3700. (Greg Barr