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Preston’s picks: Robert Ellis at Cambridge Room at House of Blues; Jamey Johnson at Billy Bob’s Texas

Posted 9:13am on Thursday, Mar. 27, 2014

Jamey Johnson at Billy Bob’s Texas

Tough, unsentimental country music is harder to find than it might seem, but fortunately, one of its finest purveyors, Jamey Johnson, has lodged himself firmly in the mainstream, giving Nashville some much needed grit. The troubadour continues to tour behind his ironclad catalog, which includes the 2012 homage to Hank Cochran, Living for a Song, and his sterling 2010 double-disc effort, The Guitar Song. Putting the top down, popping a beer and leering at scantily clad women have no place in Johnson’s songs — this is looking at life, pulling inspiration from the depths of the soul. (And a big congrats to Billy Bob’s, which was just named nightclub of the year for the 10th time by the Academy of Country Music, which will hold its 49th annual awards ceremony April 6 in Las Vegas.)

10:30 p.m. Saturday. Billy Bob’s Texas, Fort Worth. $15-$25.

Robert Ellis at Cambridge Room at House of Blues

There’s just something in Robert Ellis’ voice that compels you to lean closer. It’s evident throughout the Houston native’s masterful third album, The Lights From the Chemical Plant, which veers from country to rock to blues to folk and back again. Highlights like Bottle of Wine or his sterling take on Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years suggest that the now Nashville-based singer-songwriter is merely getting warmed up. Lean in, listen up and you’ll agree. With Wild Child.

9 p.m. Wednesday. Cambridge Room at House of Blues, Dallas. $15, $17 day of show.

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