By William Michael Smith

(LSM May/June 2011/vol. 4 – Issue 3)

Roots label New West Records has signed three upstart Houston bands: country singer Robert Ellis, and poppy rockers Buxton and Wild Moccasins. Given the label’s aging roster — Delbert McClinton, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, etc. — the signings of the three young acts signal a move by New West into something most labels have abandoned: artist development. All three acts have recently completed albums at SugarHill Studios in Houston, with Ellis’ Photographs set to drop the earliest (July 5). The Buxton and Wild Moccasins records are tentatively scheduled for college-targeted, return-to-school releases in September.

Robert Ellis (Photo by Brandon Holley)

Robert Ellis (Photo by Brandon Holley)

Ellis has a popular honky-tonk residency at Fitzgerald’s every Wednesday night, and this will be his second solo album. It’s reported to be split between country songs with his band and some quieter singer-songwriter offerings. According to label executive George Fontaine, the new Buxton album will rock more than 2008’s quiet, self-released A Family Light. Indie-poppers Wild Moccasins were touring in Europe from mid-February to mid-April, but they’re expected to finalize their album upon their return.

In other Houston industry news, fledgling label ZenHill signed a deal to put out the next album of gonzo Houston roots band Sideshow Tramps. The company also inked deals with popular indie-rockers Roky Moon & BOLT, with longtime Houston rockers Southern Backtones, and with neo-classical hipsters Two Star Symphony. They will all drop new releases this year.