World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest NRG Park, February 27 & 28
Never mind the Hideout during the rodeo itself, but critics who gripe that the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo embraces the likes of Fall Out Boy at the expense of the boot-scootin' talent in its own backyard must have overlooked the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. This year the contest spreads an even dozen top Texas country and like-minded acts over its three days, down to "Hound Dog" howler Bri Bagwell mini-residency at the "Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon."
After everyone has slept off last night, the fun continues Friday with headliner Aaron Watson, whose new album The Underdog hit the No. 1 spot on iTunes country chart last week, alongside Baytown's Breelan Angel; Houston's Justin Van Sant and the Bart Crow Band. Saturday brings a full plate of finger-licking tunes Saturday with Cameran Nelson, Clare Dunn, Max Stalling, Uncle Lucius and the Turnpike Troubadors. As for the food, even if you don't score a pass to one of the invite-only tents, each ticket comes complete with a yummy chopped-beef sandwich. See the rodeo's Web site for a map and more info. CHRIS GRAY
Buxton Continental Club, February 27
As entrenched a band as can be found in Houston, Buxton has now notched more than a decade on local stages as their delicate, eerie style of indie-folk has continued to mature and evolve. Next Tuesday the band will release Half a Native, their first album since 2012's Nothing Here Seems Strange and second overall on New West Records. Adding a little more rock to their acoustic-based Americana on songs like "Good As Gone" and "Miss Catalina 1992" -- for which they've also created their own brand of coffee(!) -- Native nonetheless retains that core of imperiled innocence that is essential to Buxton's sound. CHRIS GRAY
Mystery Loves Company Rudyard's, February 28
Houston's Mystery Loves Company go a long way to preemptively stake out their music as unique by labeling it "chamber rock," but the cello and clarinet that dominate most of their songs close the deal. Carlos Machado and Madeline Herdeman's dynamic vocal interplay doesn't hurt, either. MLC's new album, Rock Symphony Billion, admirably carries on the tradition of groups that make folk music rock, from the Waterboys and Gogol Bordello to Texas' own Shoulders and Poi Dog Pondering. CHRIS GRAY
Robyn Ludwick, Lisa Morales McGonigel's Mucky Duck, February 28
You'll have to pay two covers, but you might not see two more talented Texas singer-songwriters this month -- or next, for that matter -- than Friday's double bill at the Duck. (You'll save $$$ on parking, at the very least.) Sister of Bruce and Charlie Robison, Robyn Ludwick has been called "the most talented of the Robisons," earning that kind of praise through albums like 2011's Out of These Blues and last year's unflinching Little Rain. San Antonio's Lisa Morales set her own high-water mark earlier this decade with 2011's exemplary Beautiful Mistake, turning the crucible of her mother's death into as honest and cleansing a folk-rock album as you'll find anywhere. CHRIS GRAY
Cursive Fitzgerald's, March 1
When was the last time you thought about Cursive? Not the slowly dying form of writing, but the indie/emo outfit from Nebraska? Tim Kasher and company are still alive and kicking, and are spending the early part of 2015 touring in support of the recently re-released The Ugly Organ. This is good news for those of you who want to throw down the money to see the group but worry you're not going to hear the songs you want.
If "Some Red-Handed Sleight of Hand" or "Staying Alive" were ever your jam, you'll get your shot at reliving the glory of 2003. And you should, because giving The Ugly Organ a spin 12 years later shows that the songs still hold up a lot better than what many of us were listening to at the time. Or today, for that matter. With Beach Slang and Megafauna. CORY GARCIA
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Sarah McLachlan Jones Hall, March 1
Those SPCA commercials featuring "Angel" may be on the heavy-handed side, but don't let that tarnish your image of Sarah McLachlan, who has been one of Canada's most visible and decorated musicians since her 1993 breakthrough Fumbling Toward Ecstacy. Last year the muse of Lilith Fair and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (she wrote theme song "One Dream" in honor of the games) released her first album in four years, Shine On. Besides McLachlan's trademark soft-focus songs of assurance and empowerment, Shine On also makes room for even more personal material, in the form of an elegy for her late father and the adorable lullaby "Little B." CHRIS GRAY
FIVE MORE SHOWS WORTH CONSIDERING By Chris Gray
James McMurtry: Play a Complicated Game with curmudgeonly Austin singer-songwriter. (McGonigel's Mucky Duck, February 27; 7 & 9:30 p.m.)
Electrifunk Fest: NOLA's redoubtable Rebirth Brass Band headlines over backbone-crackers Flow Tribe; piano-rocker Marco Benevento; Ex-Critters Buggin' groover Mike Dillon's posse; and acid-jazz earhole-blowers Naughty Professor. (Warehouse Live, February 27)
Angie Stone, Lyfe Jennings: Earthy soul singers belt out broad-shouldered R&B. (Arena Theatre, February 28)
Anne McCue: Young Aussie blues singer-guitarist is the real deal, mate. (Continental Club, February 28)
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