Texas Rubies
Credit: courtesy Hideout

The Texas Rubies are the great Chicago alt-country phenomenon that wasn’t. Lead vocalist Jane Baxter Miller and guitarist and harmony singer Kelly Kessler were Kentucky transplants who met in Chicago in the early 90s and started writing hard-hitting retro-country songs in the tradition of Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard. They released one album, Working Girl Blues, on Monsterdisc in 1993 and contributed songs to a couple of Bloodshot compilations. But they never managed to catch hold, and soon disbanded amicably—though by then they’d become sisters-in-law, so they remained in touch.

The Texas Rubies’ lack of commercial success is evidence that meritocracy is a myth. Their music is uniformly excellent. “Someone I Used to Love” (from their debut) is a devastating mid-tempo weeper with serrated high-lonesome harmonies designed to cut your heart out, and their a cappella cover of Jean Ritchie’s “Blue Diamond Mines” (from the 2000 release Down to the Promised Land: 5 Years of Bloodshot Records) somehow manages to be even more chilling than the original. By contrast, “Come On Home” is a great honky-tonk flirtation where a Hank Williams-style yodel holds the promise of another kind of high-pitched vocalizing—if only that wandering man would come back to the lover he’s got waiting in his bed. 

Kessler hosted an alt-country series called the Honky Tonk Living Room at the Hideout from the late 90s through the early 2000s, which makes this Texas Rubies reunion show something of a homecoming. You can expect to feel a lot of well-deserved love for the Texas Rubies in the room as the audience enjoys some of the best country tunes created in Chicago, Kentucky, or anywhere else.

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Texas Rubies Sat 6/10, 5 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, $10, 21+