The Five Best Shows in Houston This Week: John Egan, Little Joe, Steve Earle, etc.

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John Egan The Big Easy, June 30

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. CHRIS GRAY

Debonair Lounge Cafe 4212, June 30

Since approximately Labor Day 2013 -- so about six months now -- the only way to get each week off on a good foot has been at this Museum District oasis of cool. Debonair Lounge has already welcomed a who's who of Houston's hottest young hip-hop and R&B performers strutting their stuff for one of the most stylish audiences in town. Hosted by local scenesters Tay Mitch and Brad Gilmore, whom Channel 39's Newsfix called "ebony and ivory at its finest," these few hours steered by that smooth-ass Debonair House Band will have you looking forward to every Monday...just not Tuesdays. The party never stops on Instagram at @DebonairLoungeHTX, too. CHRIS GRAY

Little Joe Washington Boondocks, July 1

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. After Joe's hospitalization for liver and kidney trouble last fall, he's back playing gigs... again. JOHN NOVA LOMAX/CHRIS GRAY

More shows on the next page.

Steve Earle & the Dukes House of Blues, July 3

Last month Steve Earle's "Guitar Town" came in at No. 50 on Rolling Stone's Top 100 Country Songs of All Time list, but he probably won't be bragging about it anytime soon. Despite winning Grammys for Contemporary Folk Album in 2004, 2007 and 2009, the 59-year-old Texas-raised polymath has never been one to put much stock in awards of any kind; in any case, "Guitar Town" was the one and only time when he and Top 40 country were on the same page.

Besides several albums that helped form the cornerstone of alt-country as we know it today, since then Earle has worked his way through rootsy hard rock, bluegrass, prison, marriage, children, a novel and a long-running Sirius/XM radio show to become a spokesman for all sorts of populist principles both on and offstage. In concert, he tells great stories about seeing ZZ Top as a young man, too. With the Mastersons. CHRIS GRAY

Nick Gaitan & the Umbrella Man Big Top Lounge, July 3

Recorded at Houston's historic SugarHill Studios, Umbrella Man's 2012 album Bridges and Bayous is long on local lore. "Hurricane Song," "El Barrio del Alacrán" and "Dead End Saints" are steeped in neighborhood history, both recent and distant. Gaitan wrote the Pogues-like "Sunken Ships" after the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and reworked "Beautiful Fools" and "Juana" from his days in Houston ska-punk institution Los Skarnales.

"We're surrounded by bayous," Gaitan said at the time of Bridges' release. "We move from one side to the other as we grow up, we start moving around the city, we move around with our families, people move out of the house and move on. I was focusing on a city in motion, where bridges and bayous are part of our lives." CHRIS GRAY


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