Written by Jane Ponte

It has been said in the past that Mike Stinson was one of Los Angeles’ “best kept secrets.” The operative word in that sentence is “was,” because California’s loss is clearly Texas’ gain. Stinson moved to Houston about 10 years ago, and we’ve been the lucky recipients of his rock-solid quirkiness and sweet ‘n salty songwriting ever since. There’s no pretense when it comes to Mike Stinson—he’s a genuinely nice guy who writes some killer songs that are worthy of recognition and definitely deserving of a full house on a nightly basis.

Last night’s show at The Mucky Duck in Houston was a great example of a perfectly stellar Mike Stinson show. Equal parts country & western tinged with bluesy, cowpunk swag–(if there is such a thing)—Stinson came out strong and stayed that way all evening. It certainly helps that he’s got one of the best bands around. Lead guitarist Lance Smith delivered cleverly-placed notes and masterful runs that complimented Stinson’s rhythm guitar all night long. Bassist Mark Ridell stayed in the pocket and kept the time perfectly, along with drummer Jon Hahn, who remained solid all evening as well. These guys are super tight and just plain fun. They clearly are seasoned musicians who play for the love of music and enjoy the ride, which makes it easy for a Stinson fan to come along, kick back, forget their troubles and bask in the groove.

For this Stinson fan, highlights from last night’s show have to be “Lost Side of Town,” “Box I Take to Work,” “This Year,” and “Late For My Funeral,” all off of Stinson’s latest album, “Hell and Half of Georgia.” Although his previous 3 albums stand tall and contain some trademark songs that are Stinson fan favorites, his latest release truly shows how strong a contender Stinson is as a songwriter, and how much he has grown. It still contains some of the classic country elements from his previous work, but it’s a tad grittier, edgier, and fully steeped in the sardonic, self-deprecating humor combined with tenderness that Stinson has always effortlessly embodied in his songwriting. He played a good portion of the newest release, along with fan favorites such as “Square with the World,” “She’s a Cadillac,” and “You Don’t Get Nothing Done.” All in all, it was a well-rounded, perfectly-executed show from start to finish, and as I sit here trying to conjure up just the right words to succinctly summarize my thoughts on last night’s performance (and Mike Stinson in general)-one thought keeps coming to mind: Houston got a diamond when Mike Stinson moved to town, and we know it. Sorry, Los Angeles. We’re keeping him.