The Gulf Coast At iFest: Joe Ely's Rattlesnake Rock, Soulful Latinology, Voodoo Brass And Creole Zydeco

Over the next two weeks, Rocks Off will be previewing acts performing at this year's Houston International Festival Saturday and Sunday and April 24-25 broken down by genre (loosely, anyway) and with a guest pick from a true insider: iFest Director of Performing Arts Rick Mitchell. We're doubling up today with "world music" and now sounds from a little closer to home...

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Joe Ely Band: Devoted acolyte of fellow Lubbock native Buddy Holly, both influence on and brother in arms of the Clash and Bruce Springsteen - who's fond of pulling out both Ely's "All Just To Get To You" and its author whenever he swings through Texas - Joe Ely casts a shadow few Texas musicians of his generation (or any other) can match. String-searing guitarist David Grissom will be back in the ranks of Ely's band for this iFest gig, which suggests it will be a lot closer to Springsteen's arena-revival rock than Ely's more acoustic, poetic musings with Flatlanders kinsmen Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock and most recent solo album, Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch. (6 p.m. Saturday, April 17, Bud Light World Stage)

Chris Bell & 100% Blues: Nothing but the electric six-string blues, baby, from this Vegas-based guitar ace who says Beaumont-born Johnny Winter is his favorite and is no stranger to Dan Electro's. Bell's most recent album, The Devil, My Guitar & Me, came out this year. (2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 18, Chron.com Entertainment Stage)

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myspace.com/curtispoullard

Curtis Poullard and the Creole Zydeco Band: Born in Baytown, raised in Barrett Station (near Crosby) and spending many young summers in Ville Platte, La., Curtis Poullard is a walking embodiment of the zydeco diaspora. Poullard apprenticed on drums and rubboard in groups around the region before graduating to leading his own in 2005; his busy datebook, including a monthly residency at the Big Easy, shows what a good student he was. (12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 18, Louisiana Stage)

Voodoo Brass Band: Whether you've already been sucked into HBO's Treme or, like us, you have to wait for the DVD to come out because you don't have cable, the Voodoo Brass Band gives New Orleans street-parade music an H-town twist. The eight-piece ensemble, several of whom are alumni of TSU's one and only "Ocean of Soul" band, formed in November 2005 as a sort of music ministry to displaced New Orleanians. Information about VBB is a little scarce on the Internet - although Rocks Off's predecessor did give them this write-up in February 2008 - but one listen to "Oh Lil Liza" (aka "Lil' Liza Jane") on this page should be all you need to know. (12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 17, Louisiana Stage)

Rick's Pick

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Latinology feat. Sarah Fox and Joel Guzman: Guzman, most recently seen in the movie Crazy Heart, has long been known to his peers (including Joe Ely, Los Lobos and the members of Los Super Seven) as the most versatile and virtuoso conjunto accordionist in Texas. He performed at last year's iFest as part of Los Tres Reyes with Flaco Jimenez and Jaime DeAnda.

Latinology, featuring Joel's wife Sarah Fox on soulful lead vocals, is a more eclectic project, mixing tropical rhythms with soaring, Latin-rock guitar solos and fuller arrangements. But no worries - Guzman will still be playing plenty of accordion. (2 p.m. Saturday, April 17, Bud Light World Stage; 8 p.m. Saturday, April 17, RoomStore Latin Stage)


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