The Best Concerts in Houston This Week
It's easy to call Punch Brothers a thinking-man's bluegrass band, but even that doesn't describe the kind of ambition and virtuosity we're dealing with here. After flirting with the mainstream on a few pop-tinged albums, Nickel Creek banjo prodigy Chris Thiele formed this quintet in 2006 and made it his main concern upon Creek's 2007 breakup; its first album, Punch, included a four-part quasi-classical suite.
More recently Thiele was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, to the tune of $100,000 a year for five years, and the Brothers are currently the reigning group of the year as named by both the International Bluegrass Music Association and Americana Music Association. Hardly a bluegrass album at all, the group's latest effort, last year's Who's Feeling Young Now?, reflects a pronounced Radiohead influence up to and including a cover of "Kid A." CHRIS GRAY
Little Joe Washington
Boondocks, January 29
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. JOHN NOVA LOMAX
Wale rose up through the Washington, D.C. rap underground and influential The Source column "Unsigned Hype," and is still known for 2008's Seinfeld-obsessed The Mixtape About Nothing, an album-length volume of detailed rhymes about that equally detail-obsessed '90s sitcom. (He offered up a sequel of sorts on 2011 tape More About Nothing.)
After 2009's Interscope debut Attention Deficit, the boss Rick Ross welcomed Wale into the Maybach Music family for 2011's Ambition, which allows the forever-hustling MC and guests Big Sean, Jeremih, Kid Cudi, Miguel, Ne-Yo, Meek Mill and Ross himself to romp in a big-budget hip-hop playground created by producers including Lex Luger, Diplo, Tha Bizness and Cloud Eater. CHRIS GRAY