What to hear, read, watch, and look at this month to achieve maximum Texas literacy.
I Got More Soul!, Bobby Patterson (Omnivore, July 22)
The seventy-year-old Dallas soul singer’s first album in sixteen years—ably produced in Austin by former Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears guitarist Zach Ernst, who did similar honors for gospel group the Relatives last year—finds him in astonishingly strong voice and good humor; a title like “Your Love Belongs Under a Rock” is all the hint you need that this is no mere reverential revival.
Friendswood, René Steinke (Riverhead, August 14)
Steinke, a National Book Award finalist and native of the East Texas city of Friendswood, has turned her hometown into the setting of her third novel, which explores what happens when a tightly knit community is unraveled by a toxic leak and a high school sexual assault. The daughter of a Lutheran minister, Steinke isn’t afraid to throw some old-time religion into the mix.
Blood Aces, Doug J. Swanson (Viking, August 14)
Devotees of Lone Star and Las Vegas history know the name Benny Binion, but few others are aware of the colorful life of the cold-blooded Texas gangster who moved to Nevada in 1946 and, as this biography claims, essentially created modern-day poker culture. Swanson, an editor at the Dallas Morning News, counts the many bodies that were dropped along the way.
“The Boundary of Life Is Quietly Crossed,” Dario Robleto (Menil Collection, August 16–January 4)
Robleto is one of Texas’s most celebrated sculptors because his works have serious thematic heft (this exhibit is an inquiry into the “unexplored history of the human heartbeat”) and because they’re so mesmerizingly detailed that you don’t need to grapple with the thematic heft to appreciate them.
Don’t Disconnect, Sarah Jaffe (Kirtland Records, August 19)
The song she recently co-wrote for Eminem was a dead giveaway, but on her third album the Denton singer has decisively left behind her early acoustic stylings. With Midlake’s McKenzie Smith behind the boards, Jaffe offers up a dozen songs built out of synthesizers and electric guitars—and the sort of emotional honesty that got her noticed in the first place.
Opening of college football season (August 28)
The first game of 2014–2015 finds Texas A&M with a quarterback not named Johnny Manziel taking on South Carolina in the inaugural programming of the SEC Network. Two days later, the Longhorns, led by a coach not named Mack Brown, face off against North Texas. A day after that, Baylor, in a brand-new, $266 million venue not named Floyd Casey Stadium, tests its mettle against SMU.