Less than a month ago, a guide to prominent 2014 releases from Texas artists would have begun with a long-rumored Beyoncé album. Although she took that off the plate with her headline-grabbing stealth release on Dec. 13, a robust selection remains of Texans planning on ringing in the first part of the year with new albums. Our roundup — which ranges from a pair of Houston-based alternative rock acts to celebrated veterans branching out in new directions — hints at what the year may bring. And sets from Don Henley, the Austin rock band Spoon and the Old 97s, although still unscheduled, are on the horizon.
Reverend Horton Heat
Rev (Jan. 21)
THE STORY Rev is the longtime nickname of the band’s leader, Jim Heath, but the title of its 11th album does double duty as a verb: after a country-leaning 2009 set, this is, by design, a return to the fast-paced, full-throttle brand of punk-infused rockabilly that this Dallas trio has been perfecting for nearly 30 years.
START HERE Piercing, but playful guitars punctuate each line of not so thinly veiled innuendo in the double-entendre-driven “Let Me Teach You How to Eat.”
Daylight and Dark (Jan. 21)
THE STORY This Fort Worth-based singer-songwriter’s last record, “AM Country Heaven,”, wound up cracking Billboard’s Top 40 country chart in 2012 despite a title track that sharply criticized modern country music. His new set hopes to build on that momentum with a cycle of tightly wound narratives enhanced by healthy helpings of pedal steel and fiddle.
START HERE “Lonesome Down and Out” is a lushly orchestrated and easy-to-sing-along-to meditation on guilt, shame and the great pains we take to mask our emotions.
A Little Piece (Jan. 21)
THE STORY Forty years of leading Asleep at the Wheel have established Benson’s bona fides as the pre-eminent torchbearer for the Western Swing tradition of Bob Wills. But Benson says in the liner notes to his second solo set that he hopes “eclectic” is the word people use to describe the album. Indeed it features forays into blues, folk and rock — and even a Latin number that pairs him with members of Del Castillo.
START HERE Benson’s longtime collaborator and golfing buddy Willie Nelson duets on “It Ain’t You,” written by Waylon Jennings and Gary Nicholson and never recorded before.
Los Lonely Boys
Revelation (Jan. 21)
THE STORY Ten years and five albums after they sold two million copies of their self-titled major-label debut, Ringo, JoJo and Henry Garza strike again with an album that introduces bits of conjunto and reggae into the sound the three brothers call “Texican rock ’n’ roll.” The album includes songs written with Radney Foster and with the Black-Eyed Peas collaborators George Pajon Jr. and Keith Harris.
START HERE There’s nary a hint of the blues that put them on the map on the album’s unapologetically Beatlesque centerpiece, “There’s Always Tomorrow.”
88 92 (Feb. 4)
THE STORY This Houston quintet’s sleek fusion of indie rock, new wave and synth-pop has earned them a collection of Houston Press Music Awards and a deal with New West Records — the label that reissued their first EP and album as a deluxe package, “Skin Collision Past.” A few ballads aside, this sophomore set appears built for the dance floor.
START HERE On the frenetic B-52s-styled “Emergency Broadcast,” Zahira Gutierrez and Cody Swann dexterously pass the lead vocal baton back and forth.
Make Out King and Other Stories of Love (Feb.18)
THE STORY On the heels of three years of solid touring, this Houston-based quartet aims to harness what they learned on the road in their third full-length album. And what they learned appears to be how to fuse the sticky, soulful howl of their frontwoman, Asli Omar, with smart, alternative-rock-leaning soundscapes.
START HERE “Veida” chronicles a relationship in transition and finds Ms. Omar pleading “Don’t get so close to me” with the conviction of a dying wish.
Eli Young Band
10,000 Towns (March 4)
THE STORY The Eli Young Band sold 18,000 tickets last November to their mini-festival at Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, 13 years after their overnight success story began in a tiny Denton sports bar when the four studied at the University of North Texas. They’re also doing all right on the radio: “Drunk Last Night,” the lead single from their fifth album, started climbing Billboard’s country airplay chart back in July and landed at No. 1 in late December — their third straight chart-topping single.
START HERE “Drunk Last Night” is more about the morning after than the party itself. Mike Eli, the band’s leader, said, “It’s the song between the drinking song and the rehab song.”