Tianna Hall Sambuca, March 4
You could argue that Tianna Hall is the best jazz singer in all of Houston. I mean, you could argue against it, too, but it's like arguing that the moon landing was faked. Her smoky voice is a fine mix of skill and improvised magic, and it's landed her on the Grammy nomination ballot three times. Name any high-class Houston gathering that could use a set of pipes on loan from an angel, and Hall has been there owning every inch of the stage. JEF WITH ONE F
Tom Russell McGonigel's Mucky Duck, March 5
Think of the ballyhooed Texas "singer-songwriter tradition," and Tom Russell may not be the first name that comes to mind, but he absolutely belongs up there with the Elys and Hancocks and Lovetts and Earles. The longtime El Pasoan is in many ways roots music's answer to fellow borderlands citizen Cormac McCarthy, author of one volume after another of story-songs rich in drama, poetry, legends and blood. Many of his albums, including the latest, 2011's Mesabi, qualify Russell as much as a folklorist as a songwriter. CHRIS GRAY
Little Joe Washington Boondocks, March 5
Out of a Third Ward blues guitar school that has now graduated to the great beyond Albert Collins, Johnny Clyde Copeland, Johnny Guitar Watson and Joe Guitar Hughes, Little Joe Washington is the last man standing. And he's hardly standing still: He's also pedaling his Schwinn from gig to gig, Fender strapped to his back, doing things with it you've never heard before and never will again, and then passing his hat around for tips. JOHN NOVA LOMAX
Dierks Bentley Reliant Stadium, March 6
Not nearly as cheesy as Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley can make beer-drinking sound downright eloquent on his recent hit "Tip It on Back," couching a couple of hours of Friday-night cruising as an essential ritual to salute the passing of small-town U.S.A. The Arizona native's tough-guy attitude, dry sense of humor and expert way with a ladykilling ballad make it no surprise he's been one of the most consistent and successful male vocalists to come out of Nashville in the past ten years.
At the top of his profession, Bentley is also a little bit more plugged into some of country music's honorable traditions than many of his peers, gathering talents like the Del McCoury Band, Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert and Kris Kristofferson for 2010's superlative Up On the Ridge. CHRIS GRAY
Bruno Mars Reliant Stadium, March 7
The improbable rise of Bruno Mars these past few years -- he plays instruments! -- was both surprising and comforting at the same time, if (like us) you enjoy buttery '80s pop-rock hooks. Mars isn't dangerous, no, but he is dangerous in the sense that he is proving that you don't necessarily need to have a dubstep breakdown or a rapper cameo to sell a song to radio these days.
Not only that, he followed up 2010's Doo-Wops & Hooligans with the darker Unorthodox Jukebox without losing a step, even touching on his chemical speedbumps. If you don't dig on RodeoHouston as a setting for a pop show, don't fret: Mars and electro starlet Ellie Goulding just announced a Toyota Center date for the end of summer. CRAIG HLAVATY
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