Brian Whelan barely looks old enough to be shaving, but don’t let the boyish looks fool you: This Seattle native is a battle-hardened veteran of the music wars. Whelan has been around the block more than once working as a side man for the likes of Ted Russell Kamp, Randy Weeks, Tony Gilkyson, Mike Stinson, and, most recently, as a multi-instrument utility man for Dwight Yoakam’s red hot band.

But late last year Whelan, who began singing onstage at eight years old, stepped off the bus long enough to record his first solo LP, “Decider,” and it’s a twangy, power pop rocker that brings nothing but smiles and tapping toes. The album showcases Whelan’s triple threat musical abilities; he has a rare and tasty singing voice (all the better to sing harmonies in the Yoakam band), plays any damn instrument he decides to well, and he writes smart songs for , as Nick Lowe says, “Now People.” In fact, to get a handle on what Whelan sounds like, think no further than Lowe pop masterpieces like “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass” or “Cracking Up.”

Whelan wrote 80% of “Decider,” but he also harkened back to his days with Stinson in the joints in L.A., laying down an aching version of Stinson’s “Brand New Love Song.” When Whelan informs his lady “I’ve got a brand new love song just for you / And the worst thing about it is it’s true,” the deed is done and done well. He also rocks hard on Gilkyson’s “Mohave High,” and just stomps the rocking “Sharp Teeth of Love,” making it sound like something Lowe himself might cover.

Whelan, who is flying into Houston on the way to meet up with Yoakam in Austin for two gigs this weekend, will be backed by Mike Stinson’s rode-hard, put-up-wet bunch of road dog Houston hardcases. And Stinson, who was a longtime L.A. session drummer before picking up his songwriter pen and moving to the spotlight, will make a rare appearance on drums. This should be a roaring barnburner of a show in the intimate confines of Under the Volcano.

– William Michael Smith

Read the full feature here