Just three years ago, Aaron Watson played the rodeo's barbecue cookoff weekend. Now, he's first out of the chute at NRG Stadium on March 7.
Just three years ago, Aaron Watson played the rodeo's barbecue cookoff weekend. Now, he's first out of the chute at NRG Stadium on March 7.
Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Your RodeoHouston 2017 Lineup, One Night at a Time

MARCH 7: AARON WATSON
Aaron Watson shocked country music when 2015’s The Underdog debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s country albums chart, making him the first independent solo male artist to do so. Actually, the surprise was limited to those who hadn’t followed the Abilene-based traditionalist’s long career on the Texas circuit. His latest, Vaquero, is out now. (RodeoHouston Debut)

MARCH 8: OLD DOMINION
Eighty percent Virginian by birth, Old Dominion is nonetheless a shining example that contemporary Nashville fare needn’t be reduced to pandering country-pop formulas. The group’s 2016 debut, Meat and Candy, features an abundance of songs that sparkle with hooks and lyrics that lodge in the brain. (Debut)

MARCH 9: CHRIS STAPLETON
Already an in-demand songwriter for the likes of Kenny Chesney and George Strait, Chris Stapleton became a genuine phenomenon with a record inspired by his father’s death, 2015’s Traveller. Its heavy outlaw/Southern-rock vibe made a potent antidote to pop-addicted mainstream country, and Stapleton a most unlikely crossover success. (Debut)

MARCH 10: ALICIA KEYS
An R&B leading lady from 2001 debut Songs In A Minor forward, Alicia Keys radiates integrity onstage and off, equal parts diva, feminist and mother. A stark contrast to 2012’s high-concept, operatic Girl On Fire, last year’s HERE stripped her sound and image down to the raw, earthy essentials. (Previous: 2005)

MARCH 11: ALAN JACKSON
Now pushing two dozen appearances, Alan Jackson trails only memorable “Murder On Music Row” duet partner George Strait as RodeoHouston’s signature entertainer, certainly in the modern era. Recent albums have ventured into bluegrass and gospel, further enhancing his down-home, good-guy image — white hat and all. (Previous: 1992-2002, 2004-13, ’15)

MARCH 12: THE CHAINSMOKERS
Artists who have played RodeoHouston before releasing their debut album are a rare breed indeed. But the NYC dance-pop duo’s string of runaway hits since 2014’s “#Selfie” — “Paris,” “Roses” and “Closer,” for starters — has revealed their near-identical overlap of EDM and Top 40 can pay off big. (Debut)

MARCH 13: SAM HUNT
Traditionalists scoff, but Sam Hunt blurs the lines between country, pop and R&B so completely he’s earned the (totally serious) nickname “Country Drake.” The former college quarterback’s 2014 LP Montevallo quickly became one of the most-copied sounds in Nashville, setting Hunt up for his chart-devouring latest single “Body Like a Back Road.” (Debut)

MARCH 14: DEMI LOVATO
Still just 24 years old, Dallas-bred Demi Lovato is nearly a decade removed from her Disney Channel star vehicle Sonny With a Chance. Led by coy single “Cool For the Summer,” 2015’s Confident is her strongest argument yet for initiation into the single-name pop firmament alongside Taylor, Katy and Ariana. (Previous: 2010, ’13)

MARCH 15: THOMAS RHETT
Son of ’90s singer Rhett Akins, Georgia-born Thomas Rhett wasn’t even 21 when Jason Aldean recorded a song of his on 2010’s My Kind of Party. His own breakthrough album, 2015’s Tangled Up, doesn’t skimp on party cuts, but the No. 1 hit was snuggly ballad “Die a Happy Man.” (Debut)

MARCH 16: LUKE BRYAN
Country music’s reigning Mr. Congeniality, Luke Bryan set out to prove he was more than just the King of Spring Break on 2015’s Kill the Lights, and largely succeeded. Onstage, though, he’ll always be the wholesome stud of Tailgates and Tan Lines, inviting the ladies to crash his party anytime. (Previous: 2012-16)

MARCH 17: FIFTH HARMONY
Shrugging off the side-eyes often thrown toward artists who incubate in the made-for-TV factory, Fifth Harmony — the R&B four-piece originally assembled by Simon Cowell on Fox’s The X-Factor (and recently pared down to a quartet) — prove compelling chemistry and choreography can trump even songwriting by committee. This St. Patrick’s Day, girl power runs roughshod over NRG. (Debut)

MARCH 18: WILLIE NELSON
Demand for the pigtailed Texas legend’s tenth rodeo appearance has been off the charts, despite the whispers surrounding recent cancellations. As ever, his response is perfectly Willie: a new song called “Still Not Dead.” Its parent album, God’s Problem Child, is due on his 84th birthday in April. (Previous: 1985-86, ’88, 1990 and ’92 w/The Highwaymen, ’94, 2000, ’02, ’04)

MARCH 19: BANDA EL RECODO/SIGGNO
Both first-timers, this year’s Go Tejano Day acts aren’t necessarily new: Sinaloa-based norteño outfit Banda el Recodo is 80 years old, with more than 200 albums to its credit; founded in 2000, San Antonio Tejano revivalists Siggno hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Latin Albums chart with last year’s Yo Te Esperare. (Both debuts)

MARCH 20: FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE
With 2012’s world-conquering, hip-hop-enabled “Cruise,” Florida Georgia Line realized their wildest dreams — and painted a giant target on their backs. Ever since, the duo has been trying to keep the party going while urging fans to take them more seriously, the impetus for last year’s third LP Dig Your Roots. (2014-16)

MARCH 21: ZZ TOP
Fast approaching a half-century of soundtracking Texans’ good times, ZZ Top keeps chugging along like one of their iconic riffs. Last seen thrilling a jubilant Super Bowl LIVE crowd, the trio stands as proof that few problems in this world can resist their stiff dose of beards and boogie. (Previous: 2002-03, ’07, ’09, ’12)

MARCH 22: CHRIS YOUNG
Every decade has a singer or two whose nondescript image conceals a voice whose songs are playing every other time the radio is on. Once it was Don Williams; nowadays it’s Chris Young, the 31-year-old Tennesseean behind hits like “I’m Comin’ Over,” “Voices” and “You.” (Previous: 2012, ’14, ’16)

MARCH 23: BLINK-182
Fall Out Boy’s successful 2016 appearance confirmed mall-punk’s viability with 21st-century rodeo audiences, so here come the virtual founders of the genre. Blink themselves are on the upswing, recharged by the 2015 installation of ex-Alkaline Trio front man Matt Skiba and last year’s comeback album, California, whose songs include “Cynical” and “Sober.” (Debut)

MARCH 24: DIERKS BENTLEY
Arizona-raised Bentley has a real knack for crystallizing common country themes into idiosyncratic material, be that “Every Mile a Memory” or “Drunk On a Plane.” As such, he’s become a rodeo standby, recently returning to the upper reaches of the charts with Elle King duet “It’s Different For Girls.” (Previous: 2004, ’07-08, ’10, ’13, ’15)

MARCH 25: BRAD PAISLEY
Like Vince Gill before him, Brad Paisley will collaborate with anyone and out-pick nearly everyone, qualities that make him indispensable to the Music City establishment and RodeoHouston alike. Mick Jagger, John Fogerty and Timbaland number among the guests on his forthcoming 11th studio album, Love and War. (Previous: 2001, ’05, ’08-12, ’14-16)

MARCH 26: ZAC BROWN BAND
A country-music jam band with the Jimmy Buffett jones to match, this hyper-eclectic Atlanta group has jumped to the stadium circuit even as it continues confounding radio programmers. Forthcoming sixth studio LP Welcome Home suggests an embrace of the group’s chicken-fried roots, but don’t be too sure. (Previous: 2011-15)

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