Blues, rockabilly, classic honky-tonkand maybe even Jimmy Buffett.
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In this agricultural town just east of McAllen, the Alamo Flea Marke offers a weekend’s worth of norteño, the northern Mexico accordion music—similar to Tex-Mex conjunto—that’s taking over the Rio Grande Valley. Visit the market on Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., or Sunday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m., when admission to the cinder-block-and-tin-roof dance hall is free. During the day you’ll see up-and-coming local acts such as Los Forasteros de San Luis, while evenings are headlined by touring Mexican stars like Los Cadetes de Linares and Carlos y José (northeast corner of Cesar Chavez and U.S. 83, 956-781-1911).
Even after the demise early this year of the venerable Cabaret Cafe and Dance Hall, this Hill Country resort town remains cowboy central. Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar Saloon is a sawdust-on-the-floor joint where Arkey Blue and the Blue Cowboys wail classic honky-tonk Fridays and Saturdays for a $5 cover, with more-expensive names like balladeer Johnny Bush booked on holiday weekends (308 Main, 830-796-8826). On Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the 11th Street Cowboy Bar (307 Eleventh, 830-796-4849) features Cajun bands and country singers like T. C. Taylor in an outdoor pavilion, while the barn-wood Bandera Saloon (402 Main, 830-796-3699) offers country (such as the Drugstore Cowboys) and rockabilly (Sean Castillo and the Hubcaps) on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; both venues are free. There’s more (but less regularly scheduled) music at other local watering holes and nearby guest ranches.
Housed in an old wood-frame building that once contained an African American cafe, pool hall, and barber shop—and watched over by a statue of patron saint Lightnin’ Hopkins across the street—the bare-bones Camp Street Café and Store is one of the state’s homiest listening rooms. From kids to grandparents, the audiences in this Piney Woods town seem open to just about anything. So when owners Guy and Pipp Gillette aren’t providing their own eclectic brand of bedrock American roots music, they’re bringing in purveyors of every other kind of acoustic fare, from East Texas bluesman Frank Robinson and Lone Star troubadours Eric Taylor and Michael Fracasso to top-flight touring Americana acts like Geoff Muldaur, Kate Campbell, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Cover charge varies (215 S. Third, 936-544-8656; BYO alcohol and food).
In this cotton town west of Lubbock, the commercial-music program at South Plains College trains pickers in all genres—but especially rock—and the local clubs showcase student and professional talent alike. House favorites at the burger place Mean Woman Grill include the Living Jukebox (which plays audience requests exclusively) and country singer Joe Dee Brooks, Tuesday through Saturday (209 E. Texas Highway 114, 806-897-0006). At Larry’s Smokehouse, a barbecue joint that has music Friday and Saturday nights during the school year, Lubbock blues-rockers Steel Reserve are a big draw (408 College Avenue, 806-894-6227). Both venues are free. And don’t forget that the campus television station, SPCTV, regularly airs live concerts (call 806-894-9611 for schedule). You might even catch a star of the future: Both Natalie Maines and Lee Ann Womack attended SPC.
After returning to his native Linden, in far northeast Texas, in 1998 and winning a seat on the city council, Richard Bowden spearheaded the transformation of the 1950 Linden American Legion Auditorium into the 420-seat Music City Texas Theater. Previously, Bowden had spent three decades in L.A. and Nashville, where among other gigs he’d been a member of Linda Ronstadt’s backup band and half of the hit country-parody team Pinkard and Bowden. So he’s connected, and it shows: Jackson Browne played an MCTT solo acoustic concert in June at a top ticket price of $100, Linden homeboy Don Henley is booked September 14 and 15, and Bowden promises Jimmy Buffett soon. Meanwhile, his own comedy and country-rock band, Moon and the Starz, yuks it up the first Saturday of every month. Ticket prices vary (108 North Legion, 903-756-9934).