The MATCH, August 3
What we think of as traditional Irish music dates has been passed down orally for at least a couple of millennia, has only existed in written form since about the 1760s, and in the modern era is personified in the voice and songs of Mary Black. Born into one of Ireland’s most prominent musical families, she emerged in the 1980s with an acclaimed eponymous solo album and two more with arguably the country’s leading contemporary folk ensemble, the still-active De Danann. Her first album to go multiplatinum, 1987’s By the Time It Gets Dark, set the stage for even further success; released two years later, No Frontiers spent more than a year in the Irish Top 30 and became her first album released in the U.S. Coinciding with the 30th-anniversary reissue of Dark, yet another leg of Black’s “Last Call” tour — which originally began in 2014 — brings her to Houston’s MATCH, whose bare-bones intimacy is a natural fit for the sort of hushed reverence Black’s gooseflesh-raising voice demands. CHRIS GRAY
White Oak Music Hall, August 6
Waxahatchee songs are a triumph of rejecting bullshit. Riveted between simple, lo-fi chords and brooding melodies, the world-weary lyrics singer Katie Crutchfield (who performs under the Waxahatchee moniker) drive through the woes of heartache bluntly and without shame. Waxahatchee's latest effort, Out In the Storm, is a full-throated confrontation of a toxic love affair; with each song, Crutchfield stares down her misery, unafraid to confront her sadness, her weakness, and her desire for simple relief. For all the pain, the album lacks bitterness; Crutchfield, as the song "Brass Beam" says, "just wants to play [her] songs and sleep through the night." That confidence and security has inspired a robust sonic turn for Waxahatchee, trading in the rough eight-track recordings of debut album American Weekend for a sound that is broader, unequivocal and potent. You don't have to be heartbroken to come see the Waxahatchee show, but if you are, it just might help.
Redneck Country Club, August 11
Until recently, and the force of nature known as Beyonce, Kenny Rogers held the distinction of being the top-selling recording artist from the City of Houston. His September 2015 Today Show retirement announcement couldn’t help but launch a million “Gambler” puns, most of them of the “know when to fold ‘em" variety. Rogers’ chart achievements are truly staggering, and many of his country and pop comrades will salute him at an all-star October concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena featuring, among others, Little Big Town, Jamey Johnson, Elle King, old friend Dolly Parton and, well, the Flaming Lips. By contrast, joining the 78-year-old Rogers at the Redneck Country Club is Dottie West, his partner in a string of hit ‘70s duets including “Every Time Two Fools Collide,” “What Are We Doin’ In Love” and “All I Ever Need Is You.” Easy to argue that Rogers’ hometown fans are getting the better end of that deal. CHRIS GRAY
THE AVETT BROTHERS
Smart Financial Centre, August 18
About a year ago, the Avett Brothers released their first album in three years. Much to the chagrin of longtime fans and folk enthusiasts, True Sadness showcased the band testing their ability to craft pop music under the tutelage of iconic producer Rick Rubin. But despite a number of tepid reviews, True Sadness debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and provided the North Carolina-born bluegrass outfit with a jumping-off point for a successful tour stretching from the US to the UK. Eight years removed from their major-label debut, the Avetts should bring a unique blend of country, roots and pop to their Sugar Land stop. They're likely to play at least a track or two from their latest release, but longtime fans are sure to hear the likes of "Murder in the City" and "I and Love and You" as well. MATTHEW KEEVER
House of Blues, August 18
Guess what? The ‘90s are back, ya’ll. And you can’t have the ‘90s without including Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, who have had their fair share of hardship, victories, crushing losses and everlasting place in music history in the more than 20 years since their catchy Grammy-award winning lament, “Tha Crossroads.” A fun fact: Bone Thugs was one of the groups to record with both Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. Fresh off their latest release, New Waves, Bone Thugs take a walk with devil with this new sound. Containing reggae melodies, pop ballads and EDM, the album might bite off more than it can chew; however, the near-title track, “Waves,” is a throwback to the days of East Coast vs. West Coast, featuring the group's original members. Rumor has it a Bone Thugs biopic in the works is being produced by Ice Cube. See you at the crossroads. VERONICA ANNE SALINAS
Toyota Center, August 18
J. Cole has quietly become one of the biggest hip-hop stars on the planet. While Drake, Future and now, even a rejuvenated Jay-Z, get most of the run, J. Cole has managed to place his first four studio albums atop the Billboard 200. That includes his latest, last year’s 4 Your Eyez Only, which doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor – 2014 Forest Hills Drive – but gets pretty damn close. J. Cole has been climbing the ladder as it pertains to Houston venues, having played Warehouse Live, House of Blues and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion for his last three outings. It’ll be interesting to see how his show translates to a full-fledged arena such as Toyota Center. CLINT HALE
Toyota Center, August 19
Who would have thought a red-headed Englishman would jump-start his career with a song about homelessness, drug addiction and prostitution? At first listen, Ed Sheeran's "The A Team" sounds like any other forlorn pop ballad, but its melodic tune and soulful vocals belie its dark lyricism about what people do to keep warm at night. Perhaps even more unlikely than the single's success, Sheeran has become a sex symbol in his own right as of late, thanks to his emotive vocals. Fresh off the release of his third studio album — which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts both in the U.S. and across the pond —- Sheeran will return to Houston's Toyota Center on August 19. MATTHEW KEEVER
Warehouse Live, August 24
25-year-old Destiny Frasqueri, a.k.a. Princess Nokia, is a hip-hop/R&B rising star who not only entrances fans with females-to-the-front empowerment, bruja spirituality and ‘90s beats, but an assertive personality that encourages BFF status. She is the founder of the Smart Girl’s Club, a collective of artists and "urban feminists" who work to support each other’s creative visions. Her latest album, 1992, is a mixtape of storytelling through root magic and NYC hip-hop. Highlights like “Tomboy” and “Brujas” unapologetically fuse bounce, trap and outsider rap into fierce narratives. Speaking of unapologetic, one might recall the incident at Cambridge University earlier this year in which a male student woofed ribald comments at Nokia during a show. Known for zero tolerance towards the degradation of women, Nokia ran offstage and personally dealt with her harasser. This sets up a cautionary tale to men: Treat the princess with respect, please. VERONICA ANNE SALINAS
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NRG Stadium, August 25
Somewhere along the way, Coldplay became the modern-day U2. Hell, like U2 did a while back, Chris Martin and crew are even headlining their own tour stop at NRG Stadium. Opinions of Coldplay certainly vary. Some see them as a once-great act who got away from their own successful formula in sorta losing their way. Others see a band that had the wherewithal to change its sound before becoming stale. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, but one thing is for certain, Coldplay puts on an amazing live show. It’s theatrical. It’s dramatic. It’s everything you’d expect from a band that once titled a single, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.” CLINT HALE
House of Blues, August 28
Marlon Williams's self-titled album is a chilling, deep cut of Americana. This is strange, considering the artist originally hails from New Zealand. But Williams is right at home in the genre, echoing the sounds of Waylon Jennings or Johnny Cash with artful simplicity. Likely a product of his classical training, Williams has the ability to reach deep into emotional registers with his songs. The rollicking single "Hello Miss Lonesome" is a high energy two-stepper, complete some fine fiddling, while the song "Dark Child" reaches into the darkest quarters of human emotion, exploring the loss of a son to suicide. It's too bad that Williams is an opening act; Williams's sonorous, low voice deserves top billing, and his ability to take people to somber, reflective places will likely make him a hard act to follow. KATIE SULLIVAN