Houston's Best Concerts This Week: Emeli Sande, Jimbo Mathus, Fitz & the Tantrums, etc.
A few years ago, it was Corinne Bailey-Rae, now here comes Emeli Sande to claim the title of the the British Isles' reigning soul starlet. The piano-trained Scottish native, now 26, notched the UK's top-selling debut of last year with Our Version of Events, a nigh-irresistible blend of cutting-edge electronica and classic R&B. The baby-Beyonce whispers might have started even if Sande hadn't cut a nifty version of "Crazy In Love," but this star in the making needs no such comparisons. CHRIS GRAY
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.
Last year Cooper brought that same kind of musical civic pride to the Radicals' first album in several years, The Freedom Fence, and then in July watched it win a well-deserved Houston Press Music Award for Local Album of the Year. The group's weekly jam, wherever it may be, is a true local-music institution that these days happens to be at AvantGarden, a local-music institution of its own, and follows David Dove's They, Who Sound showcase -- still another. CHRIS GRAY
Squirrel Nut Zippers deserve to be remembered as more than just a footnote in the late-'90s "swing revival," if for no other reason because Jimbo Mathus had a hand in their creation. Mathus has also knocked around the Memphis punk scene, appeared on a couple of Andrew Bird records and cut an album of Charley Patton songs to benefit the Mississippi country-blues progenitor's daughter Rosetta.
Now based in the same city as his label Fat Possum -- Oxford, Mississippi -- Mathus has taken everything he's absorbed and channeled it into recent albums Confederate Buddha and last year's White Buffalo. On the latter, he comes off as a mystical rock and roller along the lines of Bruce Springsteen, James McMurtry and Alejandro Escovedo; around here, those are names we don't drop lightly. CHRIS GRAY