RIP Local Country Star Mundo Earwood

Courtesy of Mundo Earwood
Mundo Earwood and his wife Jeannie in his heyday
Country singer Raymond "Mundo" Earwood has passed after a long illness. The Del Rio native, who has long resided in the Humble area, was 61. The news came from a message on his Facebook page, which read in part, "We are of course deeply saddened by the loss of a great man, but we rejoice that today, Mundo is no longer suffering, and is at peace with his Father in Heaven."

Earwood had been battling pancreatic cancer since February 2013. Last month a benefit was held for him at Pasadena's Lonestar Club, with Randy Cornor, Pete Burke, Miss Leslie, Roy Head and others supporting the ailing singer.

After growing up in Corpus Christi, where he graduated from high school, Earwood enrolled in San Jacinto Junior College. But shortly after arriving in the Houston area, he formed a band and was working any joint that would have him for the princely sum of $8 a night. By 1971, he'd quit college and was working full-time as a musician.

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Y'all Come to Neon Boots, Where the Two-Steppin' Is (Usually) Easy

Photos by Angelica Leicht
"Excuse me, ma'am. Would you like to dance?"

We've only just stepped foot in the bar, but have already been invited onto the dance floor a few times. Our two left feet are hesitant to oblige.

"Come on," she coaxes. "She'll hold your drink, I'm sure."

Nancy, the woman standing over us at Neon Boots Dancehall and Saloon (11410 Hempstead Hwy.), grins as we explain our two-step difficulties. She just laughs as she leads us out onto the floor, as we silently hope she knows what she's in for. Our nickname is most assuredly not "Grace."

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Buck Owens: The Country Cad Who Couldn't Quite Escape Hee Haw

Buck Owens (left) and the classic lineup of the Buckaroos: Don Rich, Willie Cantu, Tom Brumley and Doyle Holly

Buck 'Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens
By Buck Owens with Randy Poe
Backbeat Books, 360 pp., $29.99

Music legend says that bluesman Robert Johnson made his deal with the Devil at the Crossroads. If that's the case, then country legend Buck Owens must have booked his date with Ol' Scratch in the cornfield.

As Owens (1929-2006) mentions numerous times in this autobiography -- drawn largely verbatim from nearly 100 hours of recently-discovered taped reminisces -- his 17 seasons as co-host of the cornpone country comedy/music show Hee Haw fattened his wallet and made him a household name.

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Other States Sure Have Hilarious Taste In Music

See that map above? It knows things.

It knows if most of your entire state is sporting permed ponytails and jamming out to horrible '90s rock, like in North Dakota. But it also knows when your state is a bunch of bearded hipsters with collective "outsider" tastes, like Pennsylvania.

It even knows that Texas, as a collective, has awesome taste in music. George Strait, anyone?

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Fred Eaglesmith: "Anyone Can Make a Record -- the Sad Part Is They Do"

Being 56 might seem a bit old to be out bouncing around in a bus with a handful of people half your age and staying up all night, but Canadian songster Fred Eaglesmith flips that on its back.

"You know, at 35 when you're doing this, you look around at your friends and they're lawyers or they're plumbers and their life is a lot different than yours and you maybe question the path you've taken," he observes. "But then when you get to my age, your plumber friend has back pain all the time and he realizes he spent his whole life repairing toilets or unstopping drains and maybe you realize he envies you your life.

"We did 230 dates last year, and I still love doing this rock and roll touring thing."

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The Rocks Off 200: Kevin Anthony, 45 Southbound Man

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

Photos courtesy of Kevin Anthony
Who? It's not even Mardi Gras yet, but pretty soon Rocks Off may have to start a branch of the 200 exclusively devoted to musicians from Galveston. Last week we brought you Robert Kuhn, and today it's our pleasure to introduce you to Kevin Anthony, whose roots on the Island run deep. Step it up, inner-loopers.

Anthony was BOI -- hope you know what that means -- and says he's been playing music since age eight. His parents and grandparents exposed him to the likes of Bob Wills, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard, among others, and the family would also soak up the Cajun and country bands at rodeos and trail rides around the Gulf Coast. They would "dance dance dance," he says.

After graduating high school, he moved to Houston to attend the Art Institute of Houston and began working as a freelance artist. While he was here Anthony played in several bands, but says the city all but killed off the music scene with a noise ordinance limiting the volume to 85 decibels or below. (Sounds familiar.) In 1993 he moved to New York, where he worked for MTV Networks and founded his own studio creating music for Web and TV ad agencies. He also taught himself to play fiddle after joining a bluegrass jam session in the West Village.

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10 Things Country Music Should Write About Besides Trucks

David Guo via Flickr
We get the point, thanks.
Though it's probably no worse than current pop, rock or hip-hop, you know country music is in sorry shape when someone from Entertainment Weekly goes after it. A few days before Christmas, EW critic Grady W. Smith posted a video to YouTube that boils down dozens of 2013 country hits to a handful of topics: pickup trucks, dirt roads, girls in painted-on jeans climbing in pickup trucks (driving down dirt roads), and just the single word "girl." Then he washes it all down with the "good stuff," aka booze. It's brilliant.

But it's also heartbreaking to see a genre built on the witty and woebegone words of Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and so many others reduced to this Blake Shelton couplet from "Boys Round Here": "Talkin' 'bout girls, talkin' 'bout trucks/ Runnin' them red dirt roads out, kicking up dust." Among other things, simpleton lines like that pave straight over the quiet integrity of Kacey Musgraves' Same Trailer Different Park, as clever and lovely a country album as has been released in either this decade or the last one.

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Dwight Yoakam at Arena Theatre, 12/20/2013

Photo by Jay Lee
Dwight Yoakam the last time we were approved to shoot him at the Arena -- July 2011
Dwight Yoakam
Arena Theatre
December 20, 2013

An odd thing occurred at the Dwight Yoakam show at Arena Theatre Friday night: the cast of Federico Fellini's epic remake of Urban Cowboy showed up to party. Rhinestones, Jack and Coke, and all.

While Yoakam and his band of musical throat-cutters ran through a 30-song set list with all the abandon of pirates sacking a town full of vestal virgins, a crowd mainly consisting of people who looked like they did their dancing at Gilley's three decades ago got drunk and fairly rowdy, although as best we could determine from where we were sitting no one threw panties on the stage -- or disrobed (thank God!).

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It Could Be a While Before We See Garth Brooks Here

Photo by Mark Lopatka via Flickr
Garth Brooks performing in 2003
Without question, one of the music's biggest sweepstakes in the weeks and months to come will be speculation on Garth Brooks' impending tour, his first since more or less retiring in 2001. But with his children about to leave the nest and his four-year residency at Las Vegas' Wynn Resort almost up, the Oklahoma-born superstar is getting restless. "It sure feels good to get to throw your hat back in the ring," he said while announcing his plans on Good Morning America last week.

But where would that hat land? A city of Houston's size is virtually assured of getting a stop at some point, but when that might be is anyone's guess. Though he hardly needs to drum up interest, Brooks has been making the publicity rounds of radio stations and other media since his GMA visit, and told CBS daytime show The Talk he's planning for the tour to last as long as three years.

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R.I.P. Ray Price: Iconic Country Crooner Passes Away at 87

Photo by Jason Wolter
Ray Price at Stafford Centre, January 2013
Ray Price, one of the singular voices of country music for 60 years, has passed away, according to country-music elder Bill Mack, who posted "Ray Price left for heaven about 4:43 p.m. Central time" on Facebook about 25 minutes ago. Price was 87, and had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year ago.

"He went in perfect peace," Mack said, adding that Price's will be received at Restland Funeral Home in Dallas.

On October 8, Price was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with sepsis in his blood, according to announcements by his wife Janie Price. But he responded to the treatment of noted Houston medical figure Dr. Red Duke and was able to return home in November. After a Thanksgiving at home with his family, Price's condition worsened and he was admitted to the East Texas Medical Center in Tyler on December 2.

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