For music fans in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Round Rock, and San Antonio, these are the fest of times. Plus: An oilman’s artistic vision is realized in San Antonio; a Dallas photography show honors lensmen from Mexico and Houston; Houston Grand Opera stages Arabella; and many of the nation’s swiftest athletes get on track in Austin. Edited by Quita McMath, Erin Gromen, and Katy Vine


The Joy of Tex

A true aficionado of Texas music could get downright intoxicated absorbing all the eclectic sounds filling the air this month. The first weekend kicks off with the Old Settlers Music Festival in Round Rock. Ostensibly an acoustic and bluegrass event, the eleventh edition breaks with tradition with Shawn Colvin, below (the Austin resident took home two Grammys this year), Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and the Fairfield Four, the black gospel quartet responsible for the sweet harmonies on Steve Earle’s “Telephone Road.” In Dallas the Bronco Bowl hosts A Tribute to the Golden Era of Country Music, featuring Western swing pioneers Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys and alt-country faves Dale Watson and Marty Stuart. The huge Houston International Festival takes a Texas-centric global perspective, showcasing two exceptional neo-yeehaw bands, the Hollisters from Houston and the Old 97’s from Dallas, as well as Texas’ own world music band, Brave Combo from Denton. The Bowie Street Blues fest in San Antonio celebrates the fine art of the get-down, as performed by guitar ace and native son Steve James, the Boogie Chillin’ Boys (Robert Ealey and U. P. Wilson), and W. C. Clark and the Blues Revue. The month ends in Austin with a night of Hurtin’ and Cheatin’ Songs, starring three genuine living legends of the honky-tonk craft, Floyd Tillman, Johnny Bush, and Johnny Gimble. If your toes are too tuckered to tap after that, you’re excused. Joe Nick Patoski


Art of the State

Chances are the name Edgar B. Davis doesn’t ring a bell, but the oilman was one of the founding fathers of Texas’ art scene. Wanting to give something back to the state that had enriched him, Davis thought up and funded the Texas Wildflower Competitive Exhibitions in 1926 (cotton picking and ranching were later added as subjects). Administered by the San Antonio Art League, his competition lured national artists to Texas and fueled the regionalist movement that would gain prominence in the thirties. Twenty-seven of the winning paintings now make up the Art League’s fabled Edgar B. Davis Collection (above, The Horse Wrangler, by W. Herbert Dunton, 1928). After the stock market crash of 1929, the league took over sponsorship of the competition, which today is open only to regional artists and is called the Annual San Antonio Artists Competition. This year’s winners will be exhibited at the San Antonio Art League Museum this month, and the Edgar B. Davis Collection will be on view at the Mexican Cultural Institute. (The full story of the oilman and the art can be found in Texas Art and a Wildcatter’s Dream, by William E. Reaves, Jr., published in March by Texas A&M University Press.) “The Davis competition put a national spotlight on the Texas art scene,” says Angelika Jansen-Brown, the executive director of the museum. “It was amazing.” Katy Vine


Moving Pictures

Houston photographer Geoff Winningham first visited Mexico in 1979 and was instantly struck by the strange beauty of its culture and countryside. “I realized that, without traveling very far, I could get lost in time and place,” he says. “Mexico is a faraway land, but it’s right on our border.” Winningham had been photographing classic Texas rituals—rodeos and high school football—and was looking for new subject matter. He found inspiration in Mexico—“You could say that Mexico chose me”—and produced In the Eye of the Sun: Mexican Fiestas, a volume of photographs that documents the country’s religious celebrations (above, Penitente, Atotonilco, 1992). Fascinated as he is by imagery of Mexico, it’s not surprising that Winningham is an admirer of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, the nonagenarian many consider to be the father of Mexican photography, and he is honored that he and Alvarez Bravo are being paired in the exhibit “Mexico Through Two Lenses: Photographs by Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Geoff Winningham” at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Museum. Selected from the university’s permanent holdings, the exhibit will juxtapose Alvarez Bravo’s sometimes stark, often surreal, black and white images dating from the twenties and Winningham’s colorfully kinetic shots taken in the more recent past. Erin Gromen


Tones of Glory

Houston Grand Opera, renowned for its long list of premieres and historic revivals, will score another first this month when Renée Fleming sings the title role in Richard Strauss’s Arabella for the first time, joined by maestro Christoph Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony. Arguably the hottest soprano since the near-deification of Cecilia Bartoli a few years back, Fleming (far right, with Eschenbach) made her breakthrough in another appearance with Houston Grand Opera, a 1988 production of Le Nozze di Figaro, also conducted by Eschenbach. Since then she has gone from success to success, forming strong professional relationships with such important international conductors as James Levine of the Met and the late Sir Georg Solti of the Chicago Symphony as well as with Houston’s Eschenbach. (Their 1996 collaboration on a critically acclaimed recording of Strauss’s Four Last Songs is as strongly personal as the classic recording by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and George Szell.) Arabella, set in waltz-mad nineteenth-century Vienna and with a frothy plot involving a fortune-teller, mistaken identity, apparent betrayal, and triumphant love, should be an irresistible vehicle for the talents of the American soprano and her German-born conductor. Chester Rosson