What to watch, read, and listen to this month to achieve maximum Texas cultural literacy.
Innocent Victims and Evil Companions, Bill Carter (Forty Below, February 26)
This Austin veteran is best known for writing songs for other people; Waylon Jennings and the Fabulous Thunderbirds have recorded his tunes, and he had a hand in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Crossfire.” But he’s not shy about fronting a band, sometimes a very good one—note the presence of two Bob Dylan sidemen on this, his ninth self-produced album.
Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin (Legacy, February 26)
Since Stardust, Willie has returned repeatedly to the Great American Songbook, and if the results are never as revelatory as they were that first time, his offhand approach has its charms. Despite too few Trigger solos and one Cyndi Lauper guest turn too many (they should have called the whole thing off), this is one of his better sojourns into standards territory.
For a Little While: New and Selected Stories, Rick Bass (Little, Brown; March 1)
Fort Worth native Bass is one of our finest chroniclers of the collision of the natural and somewhat civilized worlds, a skill on vivid display in this collection’s final story, the tale of a North Texas boy tasked with guarding and sustaining an 86-pound catfish until the cooking fire is ready. It’s at once grittily prosaic and unnervingly mystical, no mean feat.
Knight of Cups, directed by Terrence Malick (March 4)
Who knows when he’ll finish his Texas-music-scene romance or his history-of-the-cosmos IMAX doc. But this month Austin-area recluse Malick unveils a drama in which Christian Bale plays a screenwriter drowning in Hollywood decadence. Early reports promise a more narrative-driven film than the meandering To the Wonder, but rest assured: there will be a whispery voice-over.
Midnight Special, directed by Jeff Nichols (March 18)
Having hinted at the supernatural in Take Shelter, Austinite Nichols dives in headlong with this “sci-fi chase film” about a young boy cursed with inexplicable powers. If the material is risky for an indie auteur, the participation of frequent collaborators (actor Michael Shannon, cinematographer Adam Stone, composer David Wingo) suggests it isn’t as big a leap as it looks.
Major League Baseball Spring Training (through April 3)
Baseball isn’t the big sport in Texas, but all eyes will be on the Rangers and the Astros even before the regular season starts. After strong showings in 2015—we were just a few wins shy of an all-Texas A.L. Championship Series—the prospects for both teams are high. Can Dallas Keuchel win another Cy Young? Will Josh Hamilton’s bat return to life? Here’s an early chance to find out.