What to hear, read, watch, and look at this month to achieve maximum Texas cultural literacy.“Made In Texas: Art, Life & Culture, 1845–1900” (Beeville Art Museum, September 20–January 10, 2015) This exhibition of nineteenth-century decorative arts, paintings, and household items—most on loan from Houston’s Bayou Bend Collection but some from private collections previously unseen by the public—includes ant traps, a steer-horn rocking chair, a sauerkraut press, and something called a “poultry fountain.” Yes, life was different then. MUSIC The Big Picture, Kat Edmonson (Sony Masterworks, September 30) On her third album the Houston native with the charmingly pickled voice continues her project of crafting modern pop inspired by the Great American Songbook, vintage movie sound tracks, and AM radio hits of the sixties and seventies—this time with overt John Barry and Simon and Garfunkel references and a happier vibe than she has assayed in the past. I’m the Troubadour, Hal Ketchum (Music Road Records, October 7)
The Gruene cabinetmaker who went to Nashville and became a country star is back in Texas these days. He’s been slowed a bit by multiple sclerosis, but he’s still up for something new—an organ-drenched sound reminiscent of the late, lamented country-funk genre (think Tony Joe White and “Shotgun Willie”) that should have been bigger forty years ago. BOOKS Ghost Horse, Thomas Mcneely (Gival Press, October 6) “Last day of fifth grade, Houston, Texas, 1975: the time before Star Wars.” So opens this former Dobie Paisano fellow’s haunting debut novel, which never allows its pop culture references or beautifully rendered sentences to soften the violence that life—his parents’ disintegrating marriage, his classmates’ cruelty, his grandmother’s vindictiveness—visits upon its sensitive protagonist. Wildfire, Mary Pauline Lowry (Skyhorse, October 7)
Lowry, a fourth-generation Austinite, hails from a storied Texas family (Google, if you’re curious, L. Theo Bellmont, Jack Gray, and Ruth Millett), but her accomplishments, as the rare female wildland firefighter inducted into the USDA’s Pike Interagency Hotshot Crew and as an author who has turned her experiences into a compelling debut novel, are her own. SPORTS San Antonio Spurs, Season Opener (October 28) Coming off its fifth NBA championship—and sixth conference title, and eleventh division title—in sixteen years, the greatest basketball team in the world heads into the 2014–2015 season worried about Tim Duncan’s and Manu Ginóbili’s aging bodies. But maybe not that worried. After all, what’s the worst thing that could happen? They beat the Heat in six games instead of five?