Willie Nelson Grand 1894 Opera House (Galveston), November 26 & 27
Yes, it's in Galveston, on a Monday/Tuesday, but hey -- it's still Willie, at one of the very few venues around here about as venerable and acoustically pleasing as the Red Headed Stranger himself. Although it doesn't seem like it (or maybe it does, kinda), Willie will be 80 next year, so don't blow off a chance to see him live just it's a long drive.
Promoting his brand-new aromatic memoir, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, and a not-half-bad new album in Heroes, Willie will keep right on being Willie right up until he isn't anymore. And who among us wants to be the first to wonder what that'll be like? Opening both nights is son of Willie Lukas Nelson's ass-kicker of a roots-rock band, as heard on this year's Wasted, Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real. CHRIS GRAY
Brennen Leigh Leon's Lounge, November 27
In a week crowded with legends and veterans, increasingly frequent Houston visitor Brennen Leigh squarely belongs in such august company. A favorite of both Dale Watson and Jesse Dayton (with whom she cut the duets album Holdin' Our Own in 2007), the Minnesota-raised Leigh has been one of Austin's leading honky-tonk angels for nearly a decade. As heard on 2010's The Box, her tart take on traditional country ("Backsliding Blues," "Sleeping With the Devil") is anything but stale. CHRIS GRAY
Steve Winwood Bayou Music Center, November 28
The higher love-needin' Winwood is secretly one of the biggest players of the classic rock era, even if his name and unassuming demeanor gets lost in the Jann Wenner-stunted shuffle. Besides his poppy solo output, Winwood was also an integral part of seminal rockers the Spencer Davis Group ("Gimme Some Lovin'"), the willowy Traffic ("The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys"), and Eric Clapton's post-Cream supergroup Blind Faith, whose eponymous one-off disc is still a mainstay on all-time best-of lists. A look at Winwood's recent set lists will tell you that he is in full career retrospective mode these days. CRAIG HLAVATY
Bettye Lavette Dosey Doe, November 28
Michigan native and longtime Detroit resident Bettye Lavette has gone from a Motown-style R&B diva not far removed from Patti Labelle to the best female rock singer this side of Tina Turner. The stunning A Woman Like Me, from 2003, made up for her 20-year absence from U.S. shelves in one fell swoop, while her last three albums have all been knockouts as well: 2007's noirish The Scene of the Crime was recorded with gnarly Georgia rockers Drive-By Truckers; 2010's Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook featured a heart-stopping version of The Who's "Love, Reign O'er Me"; and this year's Thankful N Thoughtful turns its attention to wizened Americans like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. CHRIS GRAY
Wanda Jackson Fitzgerald's, November 29
Known as the "First Lady of Rockabilly" since the days she toured with (and briefly dated) Elvis, Jackson is also a honky-tonk queen bar none and now one of the hottest names in alt-country all over again. Emboldened by her Jack White-produced 2011 comeback The Party Ain't Over, the 75-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer keeps right on winning over fans young enough to be her grandchildren.
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That number includes second-generation hardcore troubador Justin Townes Earle, who manned the controls for Jackson's just-released follow-up, Unfinished Business, and tosses his own "What Do You Do When You're Lonesome?" into a strong set alongside the venerable Delbert McClinton/Tanya Tucker classic "Old Weakness (Coming On Strong)" and Freddie King burner "Tore Down." CHRIS GRAY