Willie Nelson warned mamas not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys. He probably wouldn't mind, though, if the little ones dressed up in western gear and did a little two-step to the sweet sounds of Last Train Home. The group, one of the area's finest homegrown alternative country acts, pulls into IOTA for a three-gig appearance this weekend, including a smoke-free and family-friendly matinee on Halloween that will include a costume contest for the kids (details had not been finalized at press time).

Also on the bill for Sunday's party/concert are the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours, who have proven their own baby-wrangling skills with "Turn It Up Mommy!," a 10-track CD of children's music released last year under the band's alter-ego moniker, the RTT's. Whatever you call them, the Troubadours are crowd-pleasers, a perfect match for families and a fine choice to co-host a party with Last Train Home.

Last Train Home, winners of multiple Washington Area Music Association Wammie Awards for Best Roots Rock Band (frontman and sometimes Washington Post scribe Eric Brace has also taken Best Roots Rock Vocalist honors), has spent the past year on tour, both in the United States and in Europe. The band visited 13 German cities this month, an effort Brace described in an e-mail as an attempt to "win over the hearts and minds and Euros of these resolute Germans . . . but we must admit, their technique of plying us with incredible beer and bratwurst is weakening our resolve." For the Germanic adventure, the group played as a stripped-down four-man unit, but it will be back to its full eight-player strength for the IOTA shows.

Last Train Home officially came together in February 1997, when a rough approximation of the current lineup opened for the Waco Brothers at the Black Cat. The group's first CD came out that same year, followed by five other full-length CDs and appearances on a slew of compilations. The band's Web site, www.lasttrainhome.com, is overflowing with more information, including music samples, a tour diary and photos. It might be a little early in the season for the group to play material from 2000's festive "Holiday Limited" collection, but count on some tracks from last year's "Time and Water" and maybe some previews from "Bound Away," the band's next CD, which will be released early next year.

Of course, the kids won't have all the fun this weekend. Grown-ups are welcome to dress in their best or strangest costumes -- even for two 21-and-over shows that take place tomorrow and Saturday, with singer-songwriter Paul Burch opening.


IOTA Club and Cafe is located at 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Admission is $12 and limited to those over 21 with valid ID (except on Sunday afternoon, which is an all-ages show). Tickets are not sold in advance; customers are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, call 703-522-8340 or visit www.iotaclubandcafe.com.

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After a year of touring nationally and abroad, Last Train Home returns for three shows this weekend. Expect to hear songs from the group's new album.