Preacher (AMC, May 22)
Anyone wondering whether this adaptation of the popular comic book would maintain the source material’s deeply Texan milieu learns the answer two minutes into the pilot, when a Willie song—“Time of the Preacher,” of course—starts playing behind the action. And, oh, there’s so much action—bloody set piece after bloody set piece featuring a vampire, a man of God, and the most kick-ass heroine we’ve seen since Kill Bill.
Ain’t Who I Was, Bonnie Bishop (Thirty Tigers, May 27)
Years after the Houston-raised singer had given up on the music industry, Nashville-producer-of-the-moment Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton) lured her back into the studio to record a dazzling album of country-soul songs that will have plenty of listeners puzzling over how a genre that gave us Dusty in Memphis and “Shotgun Willie” all but disappeared from the airwaves.
Holy Hell, directed by Will Allen (May 27)
This doc gives a firsthand account of the Buddhafield, a California cult that moved to Austin, where it disintegrated amid sex-abuse scandals. Once the group’s official filmmaker, Allen has on hand every bit of blissed-out propaganda he ever made, as well as intimate interviews with former members. The highlight is footage of the group’s leader, a creepy narcissist whose seductive power remains unexplained.
Robert Ellis (New West Records, June 3)
Lake Jackson native Ellis’s catholicism—he can shift between country, prog rock, and bossa nova—has been his calling card. Album four is more cohesive, but it’s no accident its centerpiece is a lament about the toll of following your muse instead of the money. It’s called “The High Road,” and when a few songs later the dissonant guitar crescendo fades on the last track, you can’t help but pray he stays the course.
The Far Empty, J. Todd Scott (Putnam, June 7)
An atmospheric noir about drug runners and crooked West Texas border cops written by an ex–DEA agent who knows the territory, this debut thriller looks like the real deal. And for three hundred or so pages Scott juggles his cast of heroic, flawed, and monstrous characters with the skill of a far more experienced writer. Eventually, the book runs out of gas and plot twists. But Scott is, as they say, one to watch.
The Strange Career of William Ellis, Karl Jacoby (Norton, June 14)
This stranger-than-fiction biography of a former slave who crossed our southern border, transformed himself into “Guillermo Enrique Eliseo,” and went on to become a “Mexican millionaire” poses fascinating questions about race and class—and offers vivid portraits of two places William Ellis called home: antebellum Victoria and San Antonio.