Dwight Yoakam, Mike Stinson Arena Theatre, December 21
Hard to believe it's been more than a quarter-century since Dwight Yoakam turned Nashville on its ear with the hard-charging Hillbilly Deluxe. You have to hand it to him: He's not one to rush things. It had been seven years since 2005's Blame the Vain, but he took the time to do it right on new album 3 Pears.
Here Yoakam balances his hard-won honky-tonk maturity ("Waterfall," "Nothing But Love") with songs that retain a youthful spring in their step, and gives the year one of its most brilliant/awful puns in the title track. Yoakam's old L.A. buddy, adopted Houstonian Mike Stinson, opens with what we hope will be some new tunes from the album he's finished but has yet to release. CHRIS GRAY
Pallbearer, etc. Fitzgerald's, December 21
If this week is really our last gasp before the Apocalypse (dumb Mayans), then you can at least bid adieu to normalcy with this giant metal show upstairs and downstairs at Fitzgerald's. Headliners Pallbearer hail from Little Rock, Arkansas, and play slow, glacial metal, and this year's five-track Sorrow and Extinction melds big guitars and acoustics for maximum drama. Be sure to check out locals Omotai, who are launching a new LP, Terrestrial Grief, next week at their Walters release show.
Needless to say, you shouldn't be bored at this show, and neither should your ears. A horde of like-minded doomsayers fills out the ranks: Power Trip, Venomous Maximus, Mammoth Grinder, Warmaster, Eagle Claw, Omotai, Oceans of Slumber, Transmaniacon MC and Peasent Bring earplugs, so you can still hear that wailing and gnashing of teeth once the Apocalypse does hit. CRAIG HLAVATY
Trans Siberian Orchestra Toyota Center, December 22
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You know, it's not really the holidays in Houston until the Trans-Siberian Orchestra comes around to play some bombastic, prog-rocking Christmas music. TSO have been annual regulars around these parts for a while now, playing once (or even twice) each December at the Toyota Center. Get your fill of metal guitars, lasers, pyro and swelling strings all while bathing in the holiday spirit, because nothing screams the birth of Jesus Christ like lasers and fire. At least at my house. CRAIG HLAVATY
Los Lonely Boys, Alejandro Escovedo House of Blues, December 22
Los Lonely Boys became the latest group to learn it's good to take care of your voice when doctors sidelined bassist/vocalist JoJo Garza this past spring after finding some lesions on his vocal cords. They probably could have used the rest, because ever since 2004 debut Los Lonely Boys, Texas has seen few harder-working bands than the San Angelo-based Garza brothers.
Saturday, look for songs from the album the boys had been working on when JoJo took a break, as well as last year's Rockpango!, which adds a touch of Cream-like psychedelia to the Boys' trademark Texican rock and roll. Opening is sage and soulful Texas legend Alejandro Escovedo, back on the shelves this year with another winner in Big Station. CHRIS GRAY
Charlie Robison Firehouse Saloon, Saturday 22
It's the perfect time of year for Charlie Robison's "New Year's Day," the Bandera native's 2004 tune about a man who finds himself down Mexico way with nothing to lose but $50 and the remnants of his innocence: "Went down Camino Espinoza, gonna get me a divorce/ Gonna split with all my money, see that girl who loves a horse." Few Texas songwriters have a better grasp of both wit and pathos, with moments of sheer brilliance like "Bar Light, Bar Bright," and fewer still can bake both into songs that are as tough as boot leather.
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Once Robison's talents might have made him a major Nashville star, but in 1999 he told a group of country radio programmers they were "fucking stupid," to their face, and has instead been an outlaw hero ever since. Now, in an ironic twist that might happen in a Charlie Robison song, he's been seeing a little Music City mailbox money lately because "El Cerrito Place," also from 2004's Good Times, has become a hit from Kenny Chesney's Welcome to the Fishbowl album. CHRIS GRAY