Walters Owner Pam Robinson Hangs Tough

Categories: HPMA, In Print

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Photo courtesy of Zack Robinson
Pam Robinson is not going anywhere.

The outspoken owner of Walters Downtown -- and now an inductee into the Houston Music Hall of Fame -- has felt better, true. Recently her doctors discovered that the experimental drug that had been attacking her cancer was going after her heart just as aggressively. She had been on the drug since late April, and had even been able to give up the wheelchair she had been using since beginning chemotherapy last summer. But within just a few days of going off it, her pain was already coming back with a vengeance.

"By Monday I'll probably be screaming at MD Anderson," Robinson told Rocks Off a couple of weeks ago in Walters's small office. "I'm not real happy about it, but it was killing my heart, so I had no choice."


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In the Flesh: Houston Musicians Talk About Their Tattoos

Categories: In Print

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Photos by Jeff Myers
Old Crow owner Jared Green (right) has helped steel guitarist Bart Maloney create a '40s motif for many of his tattoos.
'I've gotten all of these tattoos over the years," laughs Houston musician Bart Maloney. "Some of them I've added to; some of them I've changed -- like this one here? I added the steel guitar after her. She needed something more."

Maloney's arms are covered in brightly colored ink, everything from a razor-sharp barber's edger to a traditional pinup girl drawn across the flesh of his arm. Another pictograph extends across the length of his arm and over his shoulder, ultimately making its way down his chest. Every one of these badges has a story behind it that he's happy to share.

"And this one?" Maloney excitedly points to his upper bicep, where lie the Alamo and some lyrics to Bob Wills' "San Antonio Rose."

"Well, it's for my love of Texas music."


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Cover Story: 10 More Houston Acts You Should Know About

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Photo courtesy of Aves Wing
Aves Wing
In this week's cover story, "Up and Coming," the Houston Press is proud to spotlight five local artists -- BLSHS, Libby Koch, Real Flow, War Master and Easy Yves Saint (whose new EP, Sincerely, Yves, we told you about Tuesday) -- we think you're going to be hearing a lot more from them in the months and years to come. Culled from the ranks of the local indie, Americana, metal and rap scenes, together they paint a fairly accurate portrait of Houston music at large: ambitious, talented, but chronically underexposed.

For the cover, we simply asked a few of our writers for a short profile of the last local act that had really captured their attention lately, but had not yet been featured in the local media. But Houston hardly has a shortage of bands and musicians who deserve a little attention; a city this size never does. For the past few weeks -- even before this story was conceived, honestly -- we've been scanning our email and various other sources and compiling a list of other worthy acts around here; not all of them are new, but we recommend we you get acquainted with them at your earliest convenience. And it's no stretch to say we'll do the whole thing again sometime.


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One of Our Own Wins VMG Music Writing Award

Categories: In Print

Note: Kiernan Maletsky is the Music Editor of the Dallas Observer.

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William Michael Smith (left, photo by Chris Knight) and David Thorpe
The 11 alternative weeklies of Voice Media Group are responsible for a tremendous amount of music writing: this year, we produced thousands of pages of printed stories and tens of thousands of blog posts. We're proud to present the very best of that work in the second annual Voice Media Group Music Writing Awards.

Each of the 11 music editors around the country selected his or her favorite articles from 2013 in two categories: blog posts and print stories. Then a judging panel comprising Senior Music Editor Ben Westhoff, Houston Press Music Editor Chris Gray and myself voted to pick the winners, who will get a cash prize.


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Five More Musical Texas Politicians

Categories: In Print, Texas Me

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Photo by Daniel Kramer
Kinky Friedman and a possible constituent
In this week's Houston Press cover story, you can read about Kinky Friedman's completely serious campaign to become Texas' next Agriculture Commissioner in the November 2014, a position he hopes will allow him to be the state's leading advocate for marijuana legalization. This is not the first time Friedman, a curmudgeonly but warm-hearted jack-of-all-trades for Texas arts and letters, has acted on his political ambitions. His 2010 run for governor drew about as many laughs as it did votes, but at least it was an entertaining few months.

But Friedman is not quite the only Texan to have kept two hats handy, one to toss into the political arena and the other to pass around from the bandstand for tips. Thanks to our friends at the Texas Music Office -- by far the coolest part of Rick Perry's entire operation -- Rocks Off was able to unearth five more.


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Family Man Kurt Vile Seeks "Deep and Epic" Sound

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Shawn Brackbill
At first glance, Kurt Vile seems like your typical scraggly-haired, Southern-bred stoner rocker. In reality, however, he's a responsible family man and a focused businessman. He doesn't really smoke pot, and he's not even from the South.

While his sound may be inspired by the folk tunes of the Deep South, Vile is actually a bona fide city kid, raised in Philadelphia. (Turns out, that trademark drawl in his songs isn't nearly as pronounced in regular conversation.)

Earlier this year, Vile released his fifth album, Wakin On a Pretty Daze, whose hazy, psychedelic lo-fi sound is consummate Kurt Vile. His vision for the record was loftier than his past efforts, though.

"I definitely had some kind of epic theme going," he explains, considering his catalog. "I was excited to take that even further with Wakin. I wanted it to be a deep and epic record."

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Cover Story: Two Cozy Alternatives to Bothersome Nightclub Concerts

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Photo by Amanda J. Cain
David Bazan at Fitzgerald's in November 2012
Houston audiences who grow weary of their concert neighbors' incessant chatter and smartphone camerawork should absolutely check out this week's Houston Press cover story that takes a look inside the cozy world of living-room concerts.

Inspired by a favorite musician who would be passing through the area but had not booked a date at an area club, Rick Wood, a board member of popular St. Louis Americana station KDHX, offered his own home as a venue for the evening. It went off without a hitch: the musician (former Whiskeytown violinist Caitlin Cary, now a respected solo artist) made more than she would have at a club.

Wood, meanwhile, found a door open to a tidy sideline as a living-room concert promoter. Now his monthly shows even draw the respect of top St. Louis venue owners, one of whom says, "It's always a sellout. "[He does] what, in a perfect world, we'd all do."


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Cover Story: Riff Raff, Rap Game Lon Chaney Jr.

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Photo by Amanda Lopez
Who is Riff Raff? Rap Game Stephen Hawking or 21st-century minstrel? Not so long ago, he was just a huge Vanilla Ice fan from Copperfield who may or may not have graduated from Langham Creek High School. One thing is for sure: the former Horst Simco from Houston's northwestern outskirts -- now a tatted-up, fur-rocking, language-bending rap star on the rise who often swears he's an alien -- is very postmodern.

Riff Raff has done such a bang-up job of obfuscating details about his background that the lines between reality, MTV-reality, and outright fiction are even blurrier than in a certain Robin Thicke song. But he also has a new album about to drop, Neon Icon, which means he's about to be even more visible. So Ben Westhoff, VMG Senior Music Editor and Music Editor at our sister paper LA Weekly, put on his sleuthing hat and started knocking on doors to get to the bottom of who this Riff Raff character really is; read all about what he found out in this week's Houston Press cover story, "Becoming Riff Raff."

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Working With Willie Nelson: Houston's Joe Sample Takes Us In the Studio

Categories: In Print

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Photo courtesy of Columbia Records
Willie Nelson in the early 1960s
Working on this week's cover story on Willie Nelson was a blast -- and a blast from the past. One minute I'd be typing and the next the phone would ring.

"Hey, this is Johnny Bush, I hear you're doing a story on Willie. Why didn't you call me?"
Stuff like that just kept happening. Willie's worldwide.

Cover Story:

Mr. Record Man: Willie Nelson, Houstonian


And this week's cover was not the only Willie work in the past couple of months. I also had a long feature in "Willie's birthday" issue of Texas Music magazine that hit the usual outlets April 1.

One part of all this Willie-ing that got left on the cutting-room floor was a highly interesting email from none other than Joe Sample, the extraordinary keyboardist and composer of the Crusaders who himself recently appeared on a Houston Press cover.


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Five Essential Willie Nelson Albums

Categories: In Print, Texas Me

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Photo courtesy of Columbia Records
Willie Nelson in the studio in the mid-'70s, making gospel album The Troublemaker
This week and into next, the State of Texas and the rest of the world will join together in saluting American hero Willie Nelson on his 80th birthday. Rocks Off would certainly like to add our congratulations, but we woke up today -- well, yesterday -- looking to start an argument.

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The standard line in Willie's current bio is that he has released some 200 albums, and recently it sure seems like he has something new in stores every few months. Since 2008, his original, non-compilation titles include Two Men With the Blues (with Wynton Marsalis), Country Music, Willie and the Wheel (with Asleep at the Wheel), American Classic, Ray Charles tribute Here We Go Again, Heroes, and the brand-new Let's Face the Music and Dance. There may not be a stone-cold classic in there, but most of them are above average, and there certainly isn't an outright dog in the bunch.

True, Willie has said before that all he really does these days is play music and play golf. But he's still releasing albums at a clip that -- even considering that the Charles tribute and Two Men With the Blues were largely recorded live in one evening -- would put a man half his age to shame. There are a lot of reasons to admire Willie Nelson, and his laid-back but dogged work ethic is a big one for us personally.

Now, imagine that through some cruel twist of fate, you do not own any Willie Nelson albums. At all. That's where we come in. Of course these are not the only Willie Nelson albums you should buy, just the five we think you should buy first. But please don't stop there.


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