Houston Music

Has The Houston Music Scene Turned Things Around?

It's hard, if not impossible, to argue that Lee Alexander is one of Houston's most celebrated musical sons. If his Houston Press Music Awards were stacked on top of each other they would be taller than he is. Like many of the solid veteran names in Houston, Alexander has occasionally felt the more miasma-like properties (look it up) of the local scene.

What is it about this town that drives hordes of talent to hang their heads and just move on to something or somewhere else? A book could be written containing musings on the subject from this blog alone, and the private complaints of the city's 400-plus musical acts would form an encyclopedia-sized appendix.

Some blame the lack of a music district, others the laziness or unprofessional behavior of the bands themselves. Still others find cause in the general downturn of the music industry, unscrupulous or incompetent promoters, or just blame bad geographic luck. This atmosphere has made Alexander contemplate focusing on the highly profitable current popularity of children's music, scaling back the adult material that won him much acclaim, but has not launched him nationally.

His plans, however, may be changing, and the oft hoped-for but little-expected rise of Houston's musical community is the cause. There is little doubt that Houston is on the rise. Summer Fest has become a stable phenomenon. New West Records has just signed Buxton, the Wild Moccasins and Robert Ellis to deals. Space City Records, Mia Kat Empire, and Magnolia Red are actually developing artists into viable acts. Hell, Rocks Off is even putting a band back together just because no time has seemed like a better time to be onstage here.

In the current atmosphere, Alexander is considering putting his children's album on hold. He emailed Rocks Off to ask our advice, and the following conversation shows better than anything else that as a city, Houston is finally about to take our place as the home of cutting-edge music in Texas.

Rocks Off: You seem to feel that a - let's say it softly - scene seems to finally be gaining momentum here. Why does that make you doubt your own sound has a place in it?

Lee Alexander: Well, I think the doubt I expressed was concerning doing a "family album" at this particular place in time in Houston, not the music I usually do. But since you've mentioned it, up until only recently I have felt at odds with the scene, though the fault is entirely mine. I mean, look at my last album: Put a country song, a psychedelic song, and a jazz song up back to back and what do you expect?

Venues don't know what to make of you, many writers don't know how to review you, DJs don't know if they should play you, so there you are. That's what I get for following my obsessive whims and writing under a constant fear of becoming predictable. I think I have finally found my niche though this past year as I've played more house concerts and listening rooms. Places like Jeff Abrams House Concerts, The Artery, Anderson Fair - that's more my element.

RO: Who do you feel are the musicians responsible for the increasing attention Houston is starting to attract?

LA: Well, the urban/rap end of the musical spectrum in Houston has done pretty well for the past 20 years. That certainly helped, no question. The co-producer of my last two CDs, James Hoover has won a Grammy for his work with Chamillionaire, so he can certainly attest to that fact. But attention has really picked up for other genres as of late.

First off, whether you like them or not, Blue October has had at least something to do with it. They're not my cup of tea, but I have to give credit where it's due. Also, Hayes Carll and Mando Saenz are starting to make their mark in the alt-country scene. Props also go out to touring bands like Buxton, The Ton Tons, and Wild Moccasins. They are really getting out there and making things happen for themselves.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner