Leon Russell House of Blues, November 24
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.
John Egan The Big Easy, November 24
Give John Egan credit for taking chances. The longtime solo Houston bluesman's new album, Amulet, is in some respects the polar opposite of its 2012 predecessor, Phantoms. Besides bringing in a few side musicians and respected Americana producer R.S. Field (Billy Joe Shaver, Webb Wilder), Egan has expanded his songwriting reach to include Latin-tinged jazz and melancholy pop, showing he's less reliant on his Resonator guitar's unforgiving tone but comfortable keeping the instrument as his anchor.
The end result is a softer mood than Phantoms, whose songs sometimes showed visibly bared teeth, but Amulet's overall disquieting feel suggests Egan has done little to ward off the same tormentors who were after him last time.
Hell City Kings Fitzgerald's, November 26
Thanksgiving Eve is "that time of year again to be thankful Houston still has some good bands around," saith the Kings, who celebrate their tenth anniversary by stuffing new 7-inch "One Night Stand Ego" b/w "Two Grams All For Me" into the turkey. Fellow music-scene miscreants Donkey Punch, Poor Dumb Bastards, the Guilloteens and Velostacks add bile and cranberry sauce.
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The 1975 Bayou Music Center, November 26
The 1975 sounds exactly like a band that cut their teeth on as many Brian Eno as Michael Jackson and Rolling Stones songs. Unlikely as it sounds, that's exactly how the Manchester four-piece got their start more than a decade ago, and reached fruition on last year's eponymous debut LP. The album is heavy on the dreamlike atmospherics of UK contemporaries like Glasvegas, with several songs obviously descended from the Cocteau Twins, but others are just one or two degrees removed from being screamed out by thousands of tweens at One Direction concerts. And the 1975 may get there yet. With CRUISR and Young Rising Sons.
Jackson Taylor & the Sinners Firehouse Saloon, November 26
Jackson Taylor & the Sinners' songs are full of drinkin', cussin', fightin', smokin', and associating with ladies of ill repute -- you know, the good stuff. The Wichita, Kan., group wears their allegiance to outlaw heroes like Waylon, Shaver and Social Distortion's Mike Ness as proudly as their abundant tattoos. As heard on albums like 2012's Bad Juju and last year's Crazy Again, it goes down a lot smoother than the prepackaged quasi-rebellion coming out of Nashville these days.
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