Fall is the meteorological opposite of rodeo season, so it’s perfectly logical that so many of Houston’s country fans begin feeling disoriented and showing assorted symptoms of withdrawal around this time of year. But never mind all the county fairs and assorted bucolic festivals in the surrounding area (because that’s a different article altogether); those of you looking to take those Stetsons out for a spin will find plenty to your liking right here in Houston proper.
JASON BOLAND & THE STRAGGLERS
Warehouse Live, September 9
Rough, raw-boned honky-tonkers Jason Boland & the Stragglers have taken a left turn since relatively innocuous early hits like “Pearl Snaps” and “Comal County Blue.” The Stillwater-formed quintet took plenty of Red Dirt down to the Hill Country, sprinkled it all over 2011’s introspective Dark & Dirty Mile and used a bootheel to grind it into a hardwood dance floor on last year’s Squelch. The Stragglers make music that bites back.
Stafford Centre, September 15
One of the few artists in ‘90s Nashville who could out-sing even Faith Hill, Martina McBride has never been shy about making use of her voice’s glass-shattering properties, notably on 1995 breakthrough “Independence Day.” Unlike many of her peers, McBride is as comfortable singing traditional country as more pop-oriented material, taking her version of Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden” to No. 1 in 2005. This spring she endeavored something of a reboot with Reckless, her debut for Nash Icon, Nashville alpha dog Big Machine’s boutique label for more mature artists.
Cottonwood, September 27
Every so often you look up and realize it’s been awhile since an album of Jesse Dayton’s tall-walkin’ roadhouse rockabilly has come down the pike, full of dark humor and all-too-Texan truisms. Luckily, that ends a week from Friday with the arrival of The Revealer (Blue Elan Records), which is loaded like a 30-06 with future Dayton classics like “Daddy Was a Badass,” “Eatin’ Crow & Drinkin’ Sand,” “3 Peckered Goat” (don’t ask) and good friend Mike Stinson’s “Take Out the Trash,” just to name a few. Dayton will also be at Fitzgerald’s November 5 with his good friends the Supersuckers.
Warehouse Live, October 8
Only in today’s topsy-turvy world will you find a guy who often sounds like Otis Redding tapped as one of country music’s hottest newcomers. But that’s what we’re dealing with in Anderson East, a 28-year-old singer and songwriter from Alabama who a couple of years back found himself in the orbit of Nashville producer du jour Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell). East eventually signed with Cobb’s label, Low Country Sounds, and last year released Delilah, one of the most convincing collections of latter-day Southern soul this side of Muscle Shoals. Don’t be late for this one — Cobb himself will be opening.
Redneck Country Club, October 9
Kris Kristofferson is now three years past his most recent album, the cheerily titled Feeling Mortal. He turned 80 in June, not long after he recovered from a bout of Lyme disease; around that time, he told Rolling Stone, “I really have no anxiety about controlling my own life. Somehow I’ve just slipped into it and it’s worked.” His best songs, of which there are many, are eloquent arguments that even the most wayward lost souls deserve some simple human kindness every now and then. Case in point: “Me and Bobby McGee.” Or "Sunday Morning Comin' Down." Or "The Taker." Or...
Sam Houston Race Park, October 14
Approaching its 14th edition, the Ziegenbock Festival brings nearly 12 hours of the biggest and baddest Texas Country artists south of the Red River (and a few from up north) for a whole bunch of carryin’ on. This year’s headliners include the Josh Abbott Band, Cody Johnson (pushing his fantastic new album Gotta Be Me), Aaron Lewis, Roger Creager, Kevin Fowler, Casey Donahew Band and William Clark Green; look a little further down the bill and you’ll find Houston’s own Rosehill, the New Offenders, Buck Yeager Band and Josh Fuller Band, among others. The smart way to go is just shell out $125 for the RV parking package; Lord knows you won’t be wanting to drive home after all that.
Continental Club, October 19
Nowadays Lydia Loveless has what you might call a loose relationship with honky-tonk aesthetics, but not with the music’s maverick spirit; that’s been there from the beginning. The Columbus, Ohio, native just turned 26 on Sunday, and over the course of four albums and assorted EPs and one-offs has traded in attitude-heavy early tracks like “Can’t Change Me” and “Always Lose” for the haunted, sometimes uncomfortably frank songs on her most recent LP, last month’s Real (Bloodshot). A Kickstarter-funded documentary about the album’s genesis, Who Is Lydia Loveless?, may be coming soon to a film festival near you.
House of Blues, October 21
Kelsea Ballerini is yet another example that a nod for Best New Artist — hers was among the CMA nominations announced last week — can still be a long time coming. In her case, the 23-year-old Knoxville, Tennessee, native has been writing songs since age 13 and had a Top 5 hit, “Love Me Like You Mean It,” by 20. Her two nominations (the other is for Best Female Vocalist) came just as her biggest single to date, “Peter Pan,” reached No. 2 on Billboard’s latest Hot Country Songs chart.
BRUCE ROBISON & KELLY WILLIS
McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, December 8 & 9
Known as “the first couple of Texas Country” the rest of the year, Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis spend most of December starring in the most popular Lone Star holiday production this side of A Tuna Christmas. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, the show includes plenty of songs from their albums together (the latest being 2014’s Our Year) and copious solo catalogs, but fans line up for the warm glow that appears whenever they unwrap “Santa Baby” or “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” The 7 p.m. December 8 and both December 9 shows are all already standing-room only…better act fast.
Dosey Doe, December 8
Brand-new mom Amanda Shires has been one of Americana's most in-demand fiddle players for many years; her long résumé includes the Texas Playboys, Thrift Store Cowboys, Rod Picott, John Prine and ex-Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell, whom she married in 2013. Due later this month: the Lubbock native’s fifth solo LP, My Piece of Land (another Dave Cobb production), a tasteful and charming reflection on the gentle surrender to domesticity and “Pale Fire” that persists long after you have.
10 MORE THAT ALMOST MADE THE CUT
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder: Dosey Doe, September 10
Clint Black: Stafford Centre, September 22
Rodney Crowell: McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, October 13 & 14 (sold out)
Cody Canada & the Departed, Libby Koch: Fitzgerald’s, October 14
Dean Dillon: Firehouse Saloon, October 15
Luke Bryan, Little Big Town: Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, October 20
Kenny Rogers: Stafford Centre, October 28
Bri Bagwell: Dosey Doe Music Cafe, November 11
Billy Joe Shaver: Redneck Country Club, November 18
Dwight Yoakam: Arena Theatre, December 29