Webb Wilder Keeps the Crackle in His Groove

Categories: Playbill

photo by David McLister
Webb Wilder, last of the full-grown men
Webb Wilder, who rolls into McGonigel's Mucky Duck on his first-ever solo tour Sunday, is a lifer, a rock and roll true believer who refuses to give in to the modern-day music business model. Thirty years after the release of his monumental cowpunk statement It Came From Nashville, Wilder soldiers on, doing his own thing, making a living the hard way, one show at a time.

"If you're going to do this," the last of the full grown men explains, "you need to keep bringing in new fans while being careful not to alienate and lose your old fans. I think every artist with much longevity has to deal with that dynamic, find some balance."

Wilder, who was signed to Island Records for his second release, Hybrid Vigor, has been through a Who's Who of noted roots-music labels: Praxis/Zoo, Watermelon, Blind Pig, Landslide, Racket and DixieFrog. Ironically, Wilder, who was a disc jockey on Sirius/XM radio for a while, will return to Landslide for his next release due later this year.

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Upcoming: Billy Bob Thornton, Boz Scaggs, Hans Raj Hans, Jewel Brown, Slash, etc.

Categories: Playbill

Photo by Craig Hlavaty
Billy Bob Thornton & the Boxmasters perform at Firehouse Saloon April 5.
2X4: With Scavenger, REX, Far From Nothing, Thrones, Demoted to the Grave. Sun., May 3, 6 p.m., $12. Walters Downtown, 1120 Naylor, Houston, 713-222-2679.

8 1/2 Souvenirs: Sat., April 18, 9 p.m., $10. Natachee's Supper 'n Punch, 3622 Main, Houston, 713-524-7203.

A.J. Vincent: With the Journey Agents, Sun Thieves. Fri., March 27, 8:30 p.m., $5. Alley Kat Bar & Lounge, 3718 Main, Houston.

Anne McCue: Thu., April 9, 9:30 p.m., $20 to $22. McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, Houston, 713-528-5999.

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The Five Best Concerts In Houston This Week: Twin Shadow, Pentatonix, Frontier Fiesta, etc.

Photo by Milan Zrnic/Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
Twin Shadow
Fitzgerald's, March 23

Twin Shadow fans are living on borrowed time. The day will come when he's too big for those small venues he's been playing for the last few years; it's just a matter of when, really. George Lewis Jr. has always been a gifted songwriter, but he's taking things up a level on his major-label debut Eclipse. "To the Top" is a song too big for the venues that he's playing currently; it needs to be blasted on festival main stages and chanted by thousands. So yeah, enjoy the intimacy of these shows while you can. With Lolawolf. CORY GARCIA

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Songs in the Key of Life Endures, Almost 40 Years Later

Photo by Marco Torres
Stevie Wonder at the 2011 Austin City Limits Music Festival
Tonight Stevie Wonder will perform a "live adaptation" of his 1976 album Songs In the Key of Life at Toyota Center. The 64-year-old pianist/composer/performer is one of the undisputed all-time greats, Motown Records' answer to Muhammad Ali (sorry, Marvin), but on the surface this still seems like a risky move. Beloved as it is, it's hard to get around the fact that the album was released coming up on 40 years ago. What could Songs In the Key of Life possibly have to offer listeners in 2015?

It's right there at the very beginning, as it turns out. The 21-song, 76-minute double LP opens with "Love's In Need of Love Today," a gentle song of healing that Wonder treats almost like a modern spiritual. "I have serious news to pass to pass on to everybody," he sings. "What I'm about to say could mean the world's disaster, could change your joy and laughter to tears and pain." Imagine Kanye opening his next album by announcing it's about to be a total bummer...yeah, right. (Although you never know.)

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The 10 Best Concerts in Houston This Weekend: Stevie Wonder, The Suffers, Luke Bryan, etc.

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Stevie Wonder accepts the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from President Barack Obama in 2009
Stevie Wonder
Toyota Center, March 20

Stevie Wonder was already a superstar in 1976, taking home consecutive Grammy Album of the Year wins for Innervisions and Fulfillingness' First Finale, but double LP Songs In the Key of Life put him in the pantheon. Almost 90 minutes of music that required approximately 130 players to create, the album lights up just about every area of Wonder's considerable skill set, from ripping jazz fusion to doe-eyed ballads and the brilliant No. 1 singles "Sir Duke" and "I Wish."

It also won four more Grammys, topped Billboard's album chart for 13 weeks straight, was a favorite of Elton John and Whitney Houston (among many others) and earlier this year inspired a CBS-TV special featuring everyone from Beyonce to Willie Nelson. More importantly for Houston, Songs also inspired this tour that brings Wonder back to Toyota Center for the first time since 2007. CHRIS GRAY

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Canada's Whitehorse: "It's Just Roots Music to Us"

Photo by Paul Robert Wright/Courtesy of Six Shooter Music
Whitehorse were finalists for Canada's top music prize, known as the Polaris, with 2012 album The Fate of the World Depends On This Kiss.
Melissa McClelland, one half of the Toronto-based marital duo Whitehorse, has a little bone to pick with this Americana thing. She and husband Luke Doucet operated as two independent solo acts before joining forces in Whitehorse. The duo picked the name Whitehorse, the capitol of Canada's Yukon Territory, for its Canadiana associations.

"We named our band Whitehorse as sort of a gentle response to the term Americana," McClelland laughs. "Whitehorse, even by Canadian standards, is in the middle of nowhere, but that resonates to Canadians. It is actually a great little town and a fun place to play music, so naming ourselves after Whitehorse is a bit of tongue-in-cheek Canadian humor. And us pushing back just a little bit."

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The Five Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Ariana Grande, Gang of Four, Whitehorse, etc.

Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
Ariana Grande
NRG Stadium, March 17

Little Cat Valentine is all grown up, figuratively speaking. Ariana Grande, the former Nickelodeon TV star turned pop diva, is still all of 5 feet tall, but she's becoming an increasingly big figure in the pop-music landscape, while only courting some of the tabloid drama that surrounds similar stars. While she's probably never going to chop all her hair off and become a twerk queen, the stories about her being carried around like a baby or that she wants her fans to die are kind of weird, true or not.

It's enough to forget that she has some real solid pop gems to her name, including her collaborations with Zedd ("Break Free") and The Weeknd ("Love Me Harder"). Will her voice be enough to fill NRG Stadium? Either way, it's set to be one of the most talked-about shows of rodeo season. CORY GARCIA

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The 10 Best Concerts in Houston This Weekend: Fuzz a Rama, TV On the Radio, etc.

Poster by Carlos Hernandez
Fuzz a Rama Beat Stomp
Continental Club & Big Top Lounge, March 14

If this afternoon/evening garage, psych, surf, soul and go-go blowout gets any more '60s, someone is going to have to start passing out draft cards to burn. With go-go dancers on hand to shake and DJs from A Fistful of Soul, Reverberation and the Alamo City Social Club around to spin only the choicest 45s, you can might have a perfectly groovy time without ever getting around to the bands.

But let's do that anyway: Headlining is former International Artists recording artists of no small renown, Austin's own "Hot Smoke and Sassafrass" inhalers Bubble Puppy, over a stacked undercard that also reels in Detroit's Blaire Alise & the Bombshells; a bunch of San Antonio bands (King Pelican, the Phantomatics, the Dead Barons); Miami's Ketchy Shuby; and a clutch from right here in the Bayou City: the Motion, Modfag, Allen Oldies Band and finally Mikey & the Drags, who helped pull this whole shindig together. (Whew.) Sold yet?

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The Five Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Tim McGraw, Paul Wall, Zac Brown Band, etc.

Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Tim McGraw at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, August 2014
Tim McGraw
NRG Stadium, March 10

Although some of the more regrettable traits of the recent "bro-country" fad can be laid squarely at Tim McGraw's doorstep, his 20-year career has been a lot more than 12-packs and Daisy Dukes; his keen interest in Southern soul music and knack for crossover ballads like "Live Like You Were Dying" are just two reasons McGraw has outlasted and outsold just about every other hat-wearing star who cut his teeth in the mid-'90s. Earlier this year his 13th studio album, last year's Sundown Heaven Town, gave him yet another No. 1 single with "Shotgun Rider"; he was also excellent saluting Glen Campbell at the Oscars last month.

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L.A.'s the Sloths Crawl Back From the Grave

Categories: Playbill, Pop Life

Photos by Art Tavana
Written by Art Tavana/LA Weekly

Jason Voorhees' gimmick in Friday the 13th is that he never stays dead. He's the campy horror equivalent of '60s garage rock, back from the grave whenever we need knuckle-dragging escapism to tickle our prepubescent fancy.

In 1964, British Invasion-aping garage rock was sexing up the Sunset Strip, as clubs feverishly booked bands with a rudimentary training in the blues, and a master's understanding of how to turn rock standards into libido-boosting shakedowns. Beverly Hills High School's The Sloths were one of those bands.

Between 1964 and '66, the Sloths opened for the Doors, the Animals and Pink Floyd, and managed to release a crude, nearly improvised single, "Makin' Love," which was too sexy for mid-'60s radio. But by the summer '66, they were done; buried alive, it would seem, under the murky swamps of the hippie riots on the Strip, frequent LSD trips, and law school for original guitarist Jeff Briskin.

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