Critic's Choice, The Road to Storyville

Austin's Storyville hits Washington Avenue so frequently that there may seem to be no particular reason for this weekend's show to be spotlighted. It's not unlike the early 1980s, when Stevie Ray Vaughan and two current members of Storyville were playing at Fitzgerald's so often that it was no big deal -- except to a large and loyal core audience that showed up at every gig. If you've caught Storyville before, Friday is likely already marked on your calendar. And if your weekend needs include a sweaty dose of soul-saturated Texas blues-rock, this might be the weekend for you to get initiated.

There's a lot more to Storyville than the two-guys-that-used-to-play-with-Stevie hook. Storyville is the latest -- not to mention perhaps the greatest -- incarnation of Austin's "Midnight Creepers" musical family. The guys in Storyville go back years, in band lineups and recording sessions and jams, with the likes of Uncle John Turner, Rocky Hill, Kim Wilson, Johnny Winter and Doyle Bramhall. This loose-knit, tightly bonded cultural conspiracy has carved an armadillo tattoo on the arm of American music -- but aside from Winter and the Vaughan brothers, most of the family seems to prefer the good life in Texas to chasing hither and yon after fame and fortune. It's to the Houston audience's advantage -- the history of Storyville is set in a scene where playing a lot means playing more for fun than for money.

The sum of that history is a fun five-piece Texas band made up of musicians who've simmered blues, rock and soul over a couple of decades of pickup gigs and, joined together, wound up with a sound that's made them favorites with R&B scenesters who've been dancing up a storm on Washington since the Club Hey Hey days.

It's vocalist Malford Milligan's lifelong devotion to soul standard-bearers such as the Isley Brothers and Otis Redding that sets Storyville apart from generic Austin blues-rock guitar bands. There's been a noticeable trend recently toward the rehabilitation of the Motown sound; one of the strongest examples of that trend was Storyville's debut CD, Bluest Eyes. If you stumble across a copy, buy it; it's a release that's destined to become a rare collectible. Milligan's range and precise passion, both at live shows and on Bluest Eyes, led to a slew of awards for the Austin native and the veterans who make up Storyville.

Backing Milligan is the seasoned guitar team of David Grissom and David Holt, who honed their complementary interchange behind Joe Ely for six years in the 1980s. Grissom then spent a couple of years with John Mellencamp while Holt toured with the Mavericks and Carlene Carter, before the two found that both their roads led to Austin and -- along with an introduction to soul singer Milligan and ex-Vaughan bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton -- a reunited collaboration.

Shannon had done Woodstock with Johnny Winter before he hooked up with drummer Layton in the late '70s behind Jimmie Vaughan's little brother, Stevie Ray. Double Trouble, the resulting band, quite possibly set a record for long-term stability among Texas power trios, with a lineup that remained unchanged until Vaughan's death in 1990. Shannon and Layton next worked with Doyle Bramhall and Charlie Sexton on 1992's Arc Angels project before recording Bluest Eyes with Milligan and deciding that the singer had what it took to be the next Texas frontman success story. Indeed, Storyville has generated major-label interest aplenty, and a deal appears to be more a case of "who and when" rather than "if." But for the moment, Storyville is still one of the bands that, someday, you'll boast that you used to go see all the time at a bar over on Washington.

-- Jim Sherman

Storyville plays at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 13 at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Johnny Goode opens. Tickets are $8. For info, call 869-COOL.

Dave Hole -- Hole is the Australian slide-guitar wizard who, with the frantic, molten tone of his three previous albums and overdrive live shows, has gained favorable comparison to bottleneck manglers Johnny Winter and Duane Allman. Hole mines the slide blues, but he plays with the unmistakable drive of a rocker with something to prove, and the result can be astonishing. I'm still not sure precisely what it sounds like when doves cry, but Hole's latest album, Steel on Steel, must be awfully close to what it sounds like when doves get chewed up by the bigger birds. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, Tuesday, July 18. 869-COOL. (Brad Tyer)

Billy White Trio -- A three-piece prog rock unit from Austin might well conjure barf-inspiring images of some unfortunate cross between Eric Johnson's sappy instrumental lyricism and Rush (can you smell the bile?). That's what I expected, anyhow, when the trio made their first Houston appearance at Rockefeller's last month, but the fact of the matter is that vocalist/guitarist Billy White, bassist Steve Bernal and drummer J.J. Johnson are such extraordinary musicians that their funky, jazzy set didn't much suffer (though it did suffer a bit) from the prog-rock curse: too much noodling, not enough songwriting. Sistershootingstar is the debut release on Austin's DMZ Records, and there's some propulsive material there. At Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, Wednesday, July 19. 862-3838 (

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Jim Sherman
Brad Tyer