Tribute CD Honors Texas Blues Legend Bugs Henderson

Bugs Henderson was a Texas blues rock mainstay for decades before his death in 2012.
When blues guitarist Bugs Henderson died from liver cancer in 2012 at the age of 68, Texas music lost one of its storied veterans. The native of Tyler spent much of his life performing and based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

And while he briefly flirted with larger stardom in the '60s as a member of the garage/psychedelic band Mouse and the Traps -- whose songs included the dead-on Dylan pastiche "A Public Execution" "Made of Sugar, Made of Spice" and "Sometimes You Just Can't Win" -- his heart was largely in the blues.

Several champions of Henderson - including performers Bill and Sherman Allen and producer/studio owner Chuck Kavooras - set out to pay spotlight the performer and make sure his music was kept alive. The end result is The King of Clubs, a 2-CD tribute record.

Players who contributed to the project -- recorded over several years at Kavooras's SlideAway Music Studio in California and various places in Texas make up a large list.

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James McMurtry's Different Kind of Fiction

Photos by Shane McCauley/Courtesy of Conqueroo Publicity
James McMurtry, perhaps looking toward the future (or perhaps not)
Sitting at the back of a darkened Austin club watching the duo onstage, one listener is a bit restless, clapping briefly but emphatically after every song. He's also proud as hell.

Watching his 24-year-old son Curtis perform isn't anything new for James McMurtry. But seeing his flesh-and-blood coming into his own alongside his cello-playing girlfriend Diana Burgess -- while they nail their harmonies and phrasing -- leaves the Texas-born singer-songwriter still shaking his head when he sits down for an interview after the show.

"I used to sing to him at night when he was real little; maybe that helped," the elder McMurtry says. "But I never taught him how to write a song. He figured that out on his own. I'm basically doing the 1-4-5 with a relative minor [when I write] but he's got a degree in music composition.

"It's this iTunes generation," he continues. "He can access all of music history but I didn't have that, all I had was vinyl. So if you've got the curiosity, it's the perfect time to be a musician. He's teaching me the value of curiosity, and rehearsing. I've never been that particular, and it probably shows."

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A Hill Country Romantic Getaway, Starring Shinyribs

Photo by Nan Palmero/Flickr Commons
Gruene Hall
For this month of wine and roses, Rocks Off recommends a romantic jaunt to Gruene, Tex. Cue Dating Game theme music and announcer voice: You'll sweep your sweetheart off his or her feet with leisurely antiquing, sumptuous cuisine, a cozy bed and breakfast and an evening at Gruene Hall, the state's oldest operating dance hall!

Saturday's evening's performers at the venerable music venue are Austin smooth operators Shinyribs and opener The O's, the Dallas duo of John Pedigo and Taylor Young that specializes in "good-timin' music," including more than a few love songs.

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Billy Hinkle Brings East Side Ethic to Poison Girl Turntables

photo by Matthew Romero
L-R: Robert Mena, Francisco Pulido, Scott Peterson (of Cryptic Slaughter), Billy Hinkle, and Ed Reyes
Pasadena hardcore outfit H.R.A., named after television personality Marvin Zindler's "heavy roach activity" blurb from his famous and often-amusing weekly rundown of local health-inspection violations, makes music to kill cats by, pens theme songs for nightmares, belches anthems for the apocalypse. Fast, furious, industrial-strength, and filled with rage, this is sonic warfare, the stuff they play in the torture cells at CIA black sites.

Unless you're part of the hardcore scene, it's hard to comprehend how deeply embedded hardcore is on the East Side. According to H.R.A. bassist Billy Hinkle, whose first DJ gig ever will be spinning his vinyl at Poison Girl tonight, the manic, abrasive, buzzsaw genre that sprang out of punk is in the water in east Houston. [Disclosure: the author is also DJing at PG this evening -- ed.]

"A lot of bands -- you know, Splatterreah, Bacteria, Social Deceit, Crucifixion -- were based out of the East Side. There's something about the working class and chemical pollution that caters to this music."

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Rodney Crowell Goes Geographic on "East Houston Blues"

Photo courtesy of New West Records
The Houston Kid tapping into the bedrock once again
Leave it to the Houston Kid, Rodney Crowell, to debut a new song about his former home town live on BBC. Rocks Off received a message from local music savant Father Sean Horrigan early Wednesday with a link to Crowell's performance.

Crowell, whose work has always been informed by his early life in the Bayou City, debuted a brand new composition, "East Houston Blues," on BBC's Another Country with Ricky Ross program earlier this week. So far the video only has about 100 views.

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"After the Fire Is Gone": A Near-Forgotten Willie (and Tracy) Nelson Classic

Tracy Nelson's only album on Atlantic Records, 1974
To hear Tracy Nelson tell it, her decision to ask Willie Nelson to sing a duet with her on "After the Fire Is Gone" was mostly just kismet meeting standard industry practice.

"I loved that song and knew I wanted to cover it just as soon as I heard the Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn version that was such a huge hit in 1971," recalls Nelson, no relation to the Red Headed Stranger, from her home outside Nashville.

Primarily considered a blues singer, she had recently left her band Mother Earth and signed a solo deal with Atlantic Records. Written by L.E. White, a close associate of Twitty's who had been in Bill Monroe's band before turning mostly to songwriting, "After The Fire Is Gone" was Twitty and Lynn's first No. 1 as a duo. It also won them a Grammy for Best Country Duet.

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Houston Firm Books First-Rate Austin EDM Fest

Photo by Marc Brubaker
Major Lazer: Ghostland Observatory in 2009
It seems like only two weeks ago that we were talking about the upcoming year of dance-music festivals. At the time we were talking about the heavyweight lineup that UME had assembled for this year's Spring Break on South Padre Island. Today we have a different festival with a different type of lineup, but one that is just as exciting.

Out in Austin, the Euphoria Music + Camping Festival is joining the ranks of Levitation and South By So What as early-2015 festivals worth checking out in the Lone Star State. Although it is decidedly more electronic than those two, they're doing their part to remind folks that Texas festivals exist outside of ACL, FFF Fest and FPSF.

So who is joining the previously announced headliner Pretty Lights?

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Mineral Learns the Power of Un-Failing

Photo by Courtney Chavanell/Courtesy of
One of Mineral's early champions was a zine writer and Strake Jesuit student at the time.
Note: this article was written by Eric Grubbs of our sister paper, the Dallas Observer.

Come Friday night, this might be your only chance to see Mineral play in Houston.

Winding down a reunion tour that began last August, the Austin four-piece plays here and then Dallas, but after that, all scheduled tourdates are outside of the United States. Having never toured outside of the country during their original incarnation, the band will play Europe, Japan, and Australia next.

What comes after that remains up in the air. They might play some more festivals leading up to the summer, but don't place a large bet they're coming back for a victory lap. "It might end all there or we might pick away at it, do shows here and there," front man/guitarist Chris Simpson says from his home in Austin. "It's tough to say. We didn't want to overstay our welcome, but we want to play for people who are interested and play internationally."

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Spoon Turns House of Blues Inside Out

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Spoon brought out both the diehards and "soundtrack fans" to House of Blues Tuesday.
House of Blues
December 30, 2014

Beloved Austin band Spoon's audience is comprised of two different types of individuals: 1) people who love the band; and 2) people that love the band but have no idea who they are. But how can this be?

Spoon is one of many groups that have continued to gain popularity during a time of major change in the music industry. In a previous world where a band's success would lead to massive radio play, arena tours and high record sales, Spoon's success has continued to grow in a post-iTunes world through different avenues. Their music (not unlike other indie bands) has been featured in commercials and soundtracks for many movies and television shows.

Not to mention, Spoon manages to pop up in the algorithm of just about every male-led rock band on any given streaming site; seriously, try typing in the National, Interpol, Phoenix, or even Tom Petty, and Spoon is going to make multiple cameos. Their sound has slipped into the public's musical lexicon without any notice -- unless we are speaking of active fans. Tuesday night's House of Blues show was full of true Spoon fans who love and follow the group, as well as people that were not even aware that they had been fans for years.

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Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas" Miracle

Photo by Darren Carroll/Courtesy of Shore Fire Media
Never mind the Love Boat, Robert Earl Keen will now be your "party captain."
Dubbing himself "the party captain of the holidays," Robert Earl Keen figures he's feeling pretty jolly this year.

"You know, it comes and it goes," reflects the Houston-born singer-songwriter, who will turn 59 next month. "Sometimes I feel kind of overwhelmed. I think that might be in all of our natures. This year I'm having a great time. I feel real peace on Earth, goodwill towards men. And women."

Whether he was joking or not (it's a little hard to tell), when we reached Keen by phone a couple of weeks ago, he said he was "just sobering up." He was in the early stages of the "Merry Christmas From the Family" tour, his annual trek built around the song that affectionately if sarcastically celebrates those trailer-dwelling, Salem Light-puffing, fake-snow-spewing Christmas lovers from coast to coast.

"These Christmas shows, they take a lot out of you, so you have to put a lot back in," Keen says by way of hair-of-the-dog advice.

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