Part of the allure and joy of having the Cain's Ballroom right here in the heart of downtown Tulsa is that its history and reputation as "The house that Bob built" makes it a location where rising and established stars actually want to play.
While we do get a few icons and legends that take a night off from the large venues to play the ballroom, the most fascinating perk might actually be the opportunity to see the up-and-comers as they strive to establish themselves.
While it is true that a history that includes gigs by an early Van Halen, The Police and most notoriously, The Sex Pistols, make the Ballroom a coveted venue for rock acts, it's even more revered by the country set.
With that in mind, Saturday night is a good time to stop in at Cain's to see who's waiting in the wings, especially if you're a country fan. An evening with Randy Houser promises to be a glimpse of who's about to blow up on the country circuit in the near future.
Having recently garnered CMA (Country Music Association) nominations for "Video of the Year" (for "Boots On") and New Artist of the Year, Houser is definitely one of country music's hottest commodities at the moment, even if he isn't a household name yet. Don't mistake him for a Nashville newbie, however, just because he's nominated as a new artist.
Houser packed his bags and moved from Mississippi to Nashville nearly nine years ago and first found his spot on music row as a songwriter.
Writing or co-writing credits include Trace Adkins' hit "Honky-tonk Badonkadonk" and songs covered by John Michael Montgomery ("If You Ever Went Away"), Justin Moore ("Back That Thing Up") and George Canyon ("Coming From You"), amongst others.
It's within the past few years that Houser has established himself in Nashville circles as a player, even though they already knew he could write. After moving to Nashville on his own, Houser initially only played within songwriter circles, but he eventually got the itch to perform again. Once he formed a band, he quickly built a large local following and started turning heads and was picked up by Universal South Records.
Once Houser's debut disc, Anything Goes, came out, the wheels were set in motion. A David Letterman appearance to perform the title track was just the beginning, as the video for "Boots On" created an Internet buzz and drew the attention of cable and network TV news and talk shows.
In turn, the added exposure drove the single to top five status on the Billboard and Mediabase charts and landed at No. 1 for two weeks on the Music Row charts.
Perhaps the most ironic part of Houser's success is that the two singles with the most airplay, "Boots On" and "Whistlin' Dixie" aren't all that country. Even Houser himself said that "Whistlin' Dixie" is more of a southern rock single, but he's grateful that country radio grabbed hold of each of them.
The arrival of Houser's follow up, entitled "They Call Me Cadillac" and planned for release on Toby Keith's Show Dog label (Show Dog and Universal South recently merged) should change any preconceptions from those singles.
When discussing the new disc, Houser said, "It's definitely a lot more country record. It's not as (area code) 615-Nashville sounding as the first because I used my own band and wasn't really writing for radio.
"The first record was basically a bunch of songs written over a period of time -- some were more personal and others were more geared toward radio. This album isn't so much. It's more what I like. Of course, I have to put a few on for radio; otherwise nobody will book me next year," he said.
In that instance, Houser is unabashed.
Although he's a true country boy through and through, he's not afraid to admit, "I don't just want to stay in one area. I don't care about being the small fish in the big pond -- I want to play everywhere."
With the success of Anything Goes and the building anticipation for Houser's follow-up, he's earning the opportunity to do just that. Saturday night's show at Cain's Ballroom is Houser's first headlining appearance in Tulsa but surely won't be his last. Brandon Clark Band opens the show at 8:30pm, and Houser will bring a night full of pure country music.
"I'm not up there to shake my butt," he said. "We're there to play music." That sounds like a perfect match for Cain's Ballroom. After all, Bob built the house to play, right?
And who more appropriate to play Cain's than one of country music's rising stars? Tickets are $21 in advance, or $24 at the door.
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