Two Tons of Steel Main Street Crossing, December 22
If you like your Christmas music served with a healthy side of swing, Two Tons of Steel might be just the ticket. Their jiving version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," ought to be enough to get you up and twirling on the tiny Main Street Crossing dance floor; it may not be Brian Setzer's Christmas spectacular, but it'll sure get the job done. Even when it's not Christmas week, though, the San Antonio rockabilly veterans are always worth coming out to see.
John Egan The Big Easy, Decmeber 22
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.
Free Radicals AvantGarden, December 22
Free Radicals is both Nick Cooper's revolving-door ensemble that at any given moment could be playing free jazz or Latin funk, and also Cooper's ongoing testimonial to how much he digs being a member of the Houston music community. He has so much experience at this point that he has very much become a one-man hub of that community.
In 2012, Cooper brought that same kind of musical civic pride to the Radicals' first albumin several years, The Freedom Fence, and that July watched it win a well-deserved Houston Press Music Award for Local Album of the Year. The group's on-and-off weekly jam at AvantGarden a true local-music institution. Preceding the Radicals is David Dove's avant-music showcase They, Who Sound -- still another.
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DJ Flash Gordon Parks Alley Kat Lounge, December 24
If you see Flash Gordon Parks around a set of turntables -- which you can every Wednesday at the Big Top's tiny next-door neighbor, the Alley Kat Lounge -- it's better than even money you're in for a funky good time. Parks pours an encyclopedic knowledge of soul, funk, jazz, hip-hop and more into sets that will make you think as much as they make you sweat. That's no easy feat, but he makes it sound that way.
Grand Old Grizzly Continental Club, December 25
Truly fine front-porch pickin' is in fairly short supply in Houston, but not entirely absent thanks to Grand Old Grizzly. The local quartet's songs (heard on their self-titled 2013 album) are clean and tuneful, similar to the more acoustic moments on Wilco's Being There. Houston doesn't have as many pure Americana acts as you might think, but GOG may be the only one we really need.
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