For Real Country at the Rodeo, Seek the Hideout

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The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo is unique, in terms of both size and the way it becomes the epicenter of the city's social calendar during the month of March. It's so big that one of the dozens of amusements is even a tent stuffed with the kind of music you'll find at most of the other rodeos in the state of Texas. It's called the Hideout, and here you'll find lots of drinkin' and dancin', singers in cowboy hats instead of ballcaps or fedoras, and even an actual steel guitar almost every night.

The folks in the Hideout get a fraction of the attention that the superstars over in NRG Stadium do -- to be fair, there's a lot of other stuff going on too -- but this is also where the beer is. So with apologies to Tuesday's Hideout kickoff artist Justin Van Zandt (shown above holding a newborn lamb at the rodeo's Birthing Center), we highly recommend making your way over to the Hideout to catch these ten acts during your rodeo adventures this year. And don't worry about finding the tent; it should be easy enough to spot from the giant Ferris wheel. Just look next to the Astrodome.

SCOOTER BROWN BAND (March 4) From: Montgomery Style: Texas country meets plenty of '90s pop-rock - think the Gin Blossoms jamming with Randy Rogers Band, fronted by a retired U.S. Marine. Semper fi. Listen: The SBB boys show off their Irish streak on "Drink Fight Stomp," from 2013's Valor.

ABBI WALKER (March 5) From: Dallas Style: Sassy singer in the Miranda Lambert mold leans heavily on Southern soul and gospel, as well she should...Walker is a fourth-generation Baptist preachers' kid. Listen: "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," from Walker's 2013 EP of the same name, doubles the talk-to-the-hand attitude of Carrie Underwood or Shania Twain's fiestier tracks.

STEP RIDEAU (March 6) From: H-Town, baby Style: One of the Bayou City's best-known accordion-squeezers, veteran Step Rideau and his Zydeco Outlaws have soundtracked many a trail ride and Jax Grill fais do-do; you best believe that. Listen: "The Mess Around," a swamped-up companion to (though not a cover of) the 1950s Ray Charles classic, as heard on Rideau's 1999 CD I'm So Glad.

JOSH WARD (March 7) From: Splendora Style: Sponsored bass fisherman whose traditionalist sound and hardwood baritone recalls '90s greats like Mark Chesnutt and Travis Tritt. Listen: "Hard Whiskey," a down-to-my-last teardrop ballad from 2012's Promises.

CAMERAN NELSON (March 11) From: Blanco Style: Nelson seems to loves beer and rockin' Texas country music, in about that order. Listen: "Reckless In Texas," Nelson's answer to the dropped-tailgate anthems of Jason Aldean, et al. ("we'll show 'em how the west was won"); hear it on 2012's Reckless In Texas EP.

FOLK FAMILY REVIVAL (March 12) From: Magnolia Style: You may not hear too many Hideout acts use the phrase "angel-headed hipster" in a song, but FFR can tear up a fretboard and a dance floor too. Listen: "I Found God," a woozy come-to-Jesus meeting from new album Water Walker (due next month) that will have you sleeping with the lights on.

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MIKE & THE MOONPIES (March 13) From: Austin Style: Scruffy longhairs have Waylon and Bob Wills down cold. Shine up your boots for this one. Listen: "Hot Moonpie #1," available on the Moonpies' self-titled 2012 LP, is a sly nod to the Flying Burrito Brothers disguised as a classic Texas swing shuffle.

CROOKS (March 18) From: Austin Style: About like Hank III was before he went death-metal: bright-eyed and lookin' for trouble. Listen: "Bendin' Rules and Breakin' Hearts," a rockabilly romp from Crooks' 2012 LP, pretty much covers it.

SAM RIGGS (March 20) From: Austin Style: Boldly putting banjo right up front in the mix, Riggs and his Night People have also perfected those open-chord John Mellencamp guitars that are all all over Texas country radio. Listen: "The Chase," a midtempo rocker from 2013's Outrun the Sun that ought to make Reckless Kelly mighty nervous.

JUNIOR GORDON (March 21) From: Alvin Style: Almost a dead ringer for Tracy Byrd, Gordon's strapping tunes will make you smile almost in spite of yourself. Listen: "Country Lovin'," where Gordon's musclebound band dips into classic-rock territory.

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