Houston hip-hop legend Scarface’s Alive and Well Farewell Tour made its DC stop last week at a sold-out Howard Theatre to tear down the venue one last time. Performing along side his band Formaldehyde Funk, the night was a celebration of Scarface’s 34-year-long career as well as his appreciation for more time. After some recent serious health scares the 51-year-old rapper announced this would be his final tour, although he’s announced retirement in the past.
Rodney Crowell performs at The Birchmere, Alexandria, Virginia, May 20, 2022. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Rodney Crowell came to Nashville from his native Houston 50 years ago, apprenticing himself himself to master songwriter Guy Clark. In the five decades since, he’s written songs for Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Bob Seger, and Rosanne Cash, to just rattle off a few very partial list of the folks who’ve covered his songs.
In addition to his solo records, he worked as a rhythm guitarist and backed vocalist in Emmylou’s band in the late ’70s, and the duo reunited in the middle of last decade for a pair of albums that each won the Grammy Award for Best American Roots Album. In 2004, he reunited for a well-received collaborative project with old friend Vince Gill, The Notorious Cherry Bombs. All this is to say, Rodney and his band played for more than 2 hours at The Birchmere recently, and there wasn’t a weak song in the set. As long and wide-ranging as the evening’s setlist was, Rodney could easily have added even more of his songs without diluting the quality of the material.
James McMurtry performs at The Birchmere on April 16, 2022. (Photo by Rashad Polk)
Popularity and respect are two entirely different things. Some artists — and I won’t name names here — are well known but may not be highly esteemed. Other artists command less name recognition, but, amongst those who are aware of them they are held in the highest regard.
James McMurtry is an artist who falls in the latter category: He’s far from a household name, but people who know James McMurtry think the world of him. Those people include his peers in the singer-songwriter community, like Jason Isbell, as well as literary figures like the bestselling author Stephen King and rock critics like Robert Christgau.
James has been making records since the ’80s, and his recent set at The Birchmere covered four decades of material.
Spoon performs at 9:30 Club on April 11, 2022. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
Spoon are a big enough band to play Merriweather Post Pavilion, but they choose to play smaller venues like the 9:30 Club — as they did last week! This is because, quite simply, Britt Daniel and the rest of the guys in this band are cool. They write great songs, and they perform them well. There’s no bullshit with Spoon, just rock ‘n’ roll; they don’t waste a lot of time on chatter — it’s all about the songs. They give you enough to feel satisfied, but they also know when it’s time to leave before you’re worn out, exhausted, and you’ve had too much. Because, Spoon, as I’ve, is a cool band.
Maxo Kream accepts a birthday cake from Union Stage on April 2, 2022. (Photo by AJ Waugh)
I think I heard the name Maxo Kream around for at least a year before I ever heard his music, but from the first time I heard “Grannies” in 2017, it connected instantly. I downloaded his Punken project and the Houston storyteller has stayed a constant in my rotation ever since; so I had to be there when I saw Maxo’s Big Persona Tour was making its DC stop recently at Union Stage.
Laura Colwell of Sun June leads a performance at Songbyrd Music House on Feb. 19, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Even music aimed to comfort the listener can be adventurous and dynamic within that delicate zone, but getting there unquestionably requires a careful and credible impetus.
Sun June, an encouraging indie outfit out of Austin and yet another outstanding member of the Keeled Scales roster, doesn’t loiter purposelessly, but strolls toward bliss in discovering and reconciling the fleeting beauty of one’s own emotions.
Lubbock sits alone in the arid plains of northwest Texas. far closer to the New Mexico border than to the populous Texas Triangle (Dallas-Houston-San Antonio) in the eastern part of the state. It’s not a small city, with a population of more than a quarter-million, one that has grown precipitously since WWII, along with the rest of the Lone Star State.
Its impact on popular music, however, far outstrips these numbers. Early rocker Buddy Holly was a native, as was country outlaw Waylon Jennings (who performed in the former’s band). Somewhat lesser known but influential country-rock and Americana acts like The Flatlanders and Terry Allen (who appears this weekend on PBS’s Austin City Limits) also hail from there. Josh Abbott, frontman of the seven-piece band that bears his name, may not be a native, but he’ s absolutely carrying the spirit of the city forward with his music.