4. Boondocks: This Montrose bar is becoming known for its noise-ordinance violations and is hardly the epitome of a blues club, but it hosts a weekly Tuesday-night residency by Houston's cherished mascot of the blues, Little Joe Washington, and that alone makes this joint on the Westheimer Strip deserve props for good taste and makes it a must-visit venue for anyone interested in Houston blues.
Washington's sound has recently been augmented by a four-piece horn section led by trombonist/heart surgeon Dr. Billy Cohn, and on our most recent visit to the club this ensemble was laying down the law and taking no prisoners. Washington remains slightly outside the usual Houston blues box due to the rawness and spontaneity of his performances, but that's exactly what makes him so compelling as a performer. It's hard to beat this no-cover show with its mix of young Montrose hipsters and grizzled old hands for a Tuesday-night live music fix.
1417 Westheimer, 713-522-8500, Web site
3. Katie's Bar: Katie's is almost another version of Shakespeare's Pub, booking a practically identical lineup as far as local blues players and bands goes, many on a regular rotating basis. But Katie's also features non-blues bands such as Mitch Jacobs and Chad Ware, both more Americana acts. But it all runs together down here in these Gulf Coast roadhouses anyway.
315 Grand Ave., Bacliff, 281-559-3773, Web site
Sadly there are only two clubs booking the blues daily. Not only the quantity, but the quality of the bookings at both of these bars sets them apart as the crème de la crème.
2. Shakespeare's Pub: As far as live blues, Shake's is the only club in town that holds a candle to the Big Easy. Featuring many of the same artists on the Big Easy calendar, there are, however, subtle differences. Ace timekeeper Sparetime Murray leads a regular Sunday early blues jam, while the rest of the week tends to be filled with the likes of Texas Johnny Brown, John McVey, Eugene Moody, Mojofromopolis, Snit's Dog and Pony Show, Don Kesee, and Jonn Richardson, all reliable local acts. And Shake's books the occasional touring act. The only negative here is the long drive out Memorial -- and the even longer drive back.
14129 Memorial, 281-497-4625, Web site
1. The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club: Long known as the Big Sleazy, this Kirby dive is as real as it gets as far as blues goes in Houston today. Owner Tom McClendon has a hard and fast policy of $5 cover and no higher, and when he brings in acts like harmonica badass John Nemeth, former Stevie Ray Vaughan mentor Marc Benno, or New Orleans piano virtuoso Jon Cleary for a measly Abraham Lincoln, that's as good a musical bargain as anything you'll find at any venue in any genre in this town.
While McClendon does hold Sundays open for zydeco, the rest of the nights are blues and blues only. The Wednesday blues jams bring out all sorts of known and unknown players. Thursdays feature longtime Houston faves Luther and the Healers, who keep it real with old school blues and soul covers while the Houston Blues Dancing Society fills the floor with swing dancers who can really scoot the boots. Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for the best blues shows McClendon can book, a healthy mix of touring acts and top local blues artists.
You've got to love a club that books Texas Johnny Brown, Trudy Lynn, Milton Hopkins, John McVey, Grady Gaines, Ezra Charles and other local treasures on a monthly basis. This is one of the friendliest, most laid-back scenes in town night in, night out.
5731 Kirby, 713-523-9999, Web site
Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.