The Damn Quails & 10 Other Bird-Brained Bands

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Tonight the Houston Press Concert Series resumes at Pub Fiction with Oklahoma duo the Damn Quails. The Quails' song "Fools Gold," from their 2011 album Down the Hatch, is tearing it up on Texas country and roots-rock radio right now, landing them three Lonestar Music Awards and airplay on BBC roots guru Bob Harris's show last week, so come early.

If we had to guess, Rocks Off would say the Quails enjoy a spot of hunting. (Oklahoma has some of the finest quail country anywhere.) But whatever their reasons, they are just the latest in a long line of bands who, when it was time to choose a name, looked to the skies for inspiration. Oof.

Eagles: Hate if you want, but the Eagles did as much to bridge the country and rock and roll divide as more critically acclaimed groups like the Band, and sold a lot more records. "Take It Easy" or "One of These Nights," they have at least one song you love, even if you won't admit it.

The Byrds: The Byrds may not have invented psychedelic rock with "Eight Miles High," but they came pretty close. Roger McGuinn's pristine 12-string guitar arguably did George Harrison one better, and David Crosby was always around for a laugh (and killer harmony). Then they let Gram Parsons join and created alt-country with 1968's Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The Byrds have to rank among the very best American bands of the '60s; just ask Tom Petty.

The Dodos: San Francisco experimental-pop duo the Dodos combine folk-singer finger-picking with as many drums as they can get their hands on. It's eccentric, charming and a little annoying, a perfect fit for the Dodos' label, Frenchkiss Records.

Swans: Those who know about Swans -- among whom you can count longtime friend/collaborator Thurston Moore and probably Indian Jewelry, Richard Ramirez and the other pillars of Houston's experimental/noise community -- speak about Michael Gira's drone overlords in reverent, cult-like tones. Gira called the group Swans because he wanted something both beautiful and ugly, and after almost 15 years of pursuing other projects like Angels of Light, reactivated Swans and released My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky in 2010.

Shearwater: Jonathan Meiburg, an actual ornithologist, started Shearwater alongside his duties in Okkervil River before striking out on his own. His hyperintelligent folk-rock draws equally from classical and alternative (though not at the same time), making this year's Animal Joy one of 2012's albums to beat so far.

The Housemartins: Jangly British rockers the Housemartins gave the Smiths a good run for their money in their home country during the '80s, though Americans didn't take much notice. Unfortunately they broke up about the same time, in 1988, and leader Paul Martins also failed to cross the pond (outside some college-radio play) with his next group, the Beautiful South.

T-Bird & the Breaks: These Austin soul men can get funky like James Brown or rock the mike like MCA. With fat stacks of Stax sax, the only thing they might be missing is sharper threads.

Mother Falcon: Another Austin group, Mother Falcon is an oversized mostly string ensemble that has been one of the hottest things in the Live Music Capital for the past couple of years, proof that not every kid who grows up in the shadow of the Mohawk and Emo's and dreams of playing on those stages wants to pick up a guitar.

The Owls: Not just a Rice mascot, the wise bird of prey was once adopted by a Minneapolis band briefly mentioned in the same blissful indie-pop breath as Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura, and now a Queens of the Stone Age-loving quartet from Down Under has taken on the name.

Rick Lee & the Night Owls: Meanwhile, Blues-guitar wild man Lee and his keen-eyed mates in the Night Owls have been holding down Tuesday nights at the Hideaway on Dunvale for years, and will probably do so from here to eternity.

The Damn Quails: 10:15 p.m. tonight at Pub Fiction, 2303 Smith.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


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