Cullen Performance Hall (University of Houston), May 15
Although Kris Kristofferson or Guy Clark could probably at least carry his guitar, John Prine has few peers when it comes to craftsmanlike songwriting. The 68-year-old Illinois native — once known as the “Singing Mailman” — effectively took over from Bob Dylan as America's premier folksinger whose songs revealed unknown depths of emotion and wisdom lurking within everyday life, delivered with wry humor in Prine's signature warm, ever-so-slightly raspy vocals. Responsible for popular standards like “Angel From Montgomery,” “Illegal Smile” and “Please Don't Bury Me,” among many others, Prine is the kind of talent befitting the Library of Congress, where in 2005 he became the first singer-songwriter to perform and read his works. With Justin Townes Earle.
McGonigel's Mucky Duck, May 15
Since arriving in Denton from Lubbock four years ago, guitarist/writer Daniel Markham has finally found an accepting home for his blend of thick, grungy rock and Son Volt-ish alt-country. His latest solo effort, Pretty Bitchin’, mixes power-pop smarts with genuine West Texas twang while eschewing one of Markham’s pet peeves: weak guitar tone. Markham, who frequently plays Denton musical hotspot Dan’s Silverleaf Bar, notes that on some of the tunes he’s cleaning out his memory closet, dealing with leaving Lubbock and a relationship that hit the skids hard. But whatever he's channeling or battling, these songs, which have been getting major airplay in the DFW/Denton triangle, show serious musical maturity and confirm another major North Texas talent. With Eric Bibb. (WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH)
Dosey Doe, May 15
Though he's not quite a household name, Leon Russell's gospel-soaked style has infiltrated so much rock and pop of the past 40 years it's practically a genre of its own. The Lawton, Okla. native has been a go-to keyboardist, songwriter and partner in crime for almost too many stars to count — Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker and Willie Nelson chief among them — and his mellow honky-tonk keys made Russell a crucial player in the Tulsa scene that produced JJ Cale and Dwight Twilley. Not so long ago Russell got to enjoy a little time in the limelight with The Union, his 2010 tandem album with Elton John that the Rocket Man admitted was his way of saying "thank you" to one of his main mentors. Russell's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame followed in 2011.
Austin Jones Band
Last Concert Cafe, May 16
Houston's Austin Jones is a family man whose latest EP, Chasing the Wind, is “a concept EP, inspired by real life struggles...an illustration of all the things we as humans waste time on, that will never produce valuable results.” Chasing the Wind was crowdfunded via pledgemusic.com and recalls Jimmy Eat World's intricate guitar-layering and thoughtful lyrics; as luck would have it, you can also catch the band on YouTube covering JEW's “Lucky Denver Mint.” Saturday, they've hopped on the bill of Last Concert Cafe's Summer Concert Series, which also features local alt-rock acts Erasethevirus, Solitude Endeavor, Cosmic Serenity, Spacebear and several others, plus a BYO hula-hoop contest.
SIX OTHER SHOWS WORTH CONSIDERING
ABBA the Concert: Don't even think about not singing along. (Arena Theatre, May 15)
Houston Press BrewFest: Wash down dozens of sudsy varieties with live music by John Curry, Nathan Quick and Paper Street Soap Co. (Silver Street Station, 3 p.m. May 16)
Pasadena Strawberry Festival: 42nd year of the tasty tradition; live music by Texas country studs Wade Bowen and Granger Smith (Friday), Turnpike Troubadors and “Southern Brothers From Another Mother” Jason Eady & Adam Hood (Saturday), and Christian rockers 7enth Time Down and Building 429. (7603 Red Bluff Rd., Pasadena, May 16)
New Kids On the Block, TLC, Nelly: Rhythmic-pop goodness and high-intensity nostalgia from the '80s, '90s and '00s. The right stuff! (Toyota Center, May 16)
Joey Ramone Birthday Party: Houston's Thrill hosts a night of gabba gabba hey! (Big Top Lounge, May 16)
Austin Lounge Lizard: Peerless bluegrass satirists always have a joke or two up their sleeve. (McGonigel's Mucky Duck, May 17)