I've been heading down to Austin a lot the last few years, so on the drive down for SXSW 2016, I was prepared for the worst of traffic situations. But just like always, about an hour outside Austin, the clouds parted and that Texas landscape shimmered and shined upon me. Austin's been kind to me and I just love that glittering city silhouette as I'm driving in, even if it is for a festival that's become so big it's a little hard to navigate.
I had a good time playing with my Austin based band for the 6 shows we had throughout the week. The vibe was really fun -- the usual faces of the Austin music scene plus a lot of out-of- towners who are there to soak in new music. We played several of our usual haunts, some of them official venues and others not. The White Horse was particularly fun during the day party we played on the Friday of the festival. That place is magic and always feels a little like heaven - an endless circle through swinging doors and dance floors. We really kicked up some dust there. We also played at Black Heart on the wild and county-fair-esque Rainey Street and a fantastic Keep Austin Country showcase at Buzzmill.
As far as being an audience member, I was able to catch several good showcases and national touring acts that were really great. I went to the official showcase for New West records to hear my honkytonk soul brother, Jason James. Simply put, he's country music royalty - a true Texas baritone with beautifully crafted country songs and poetry that really resonates. He has a star quality that you can see from miles away. I'll stand by Jason and his songs till the very end and I hope to share the stage with him in the future. Y'all should check out his self-titled record if you like true blue country music with a strong and classic male vocalist who was born to do it.
After Jason, an amazing ensemble from Saskatchewan, Kacy and Clayton, took the stage. They were phenomenal and the lead singer, Kacy, had one of the most angelic and beautiful voices I've heard in a long time, especially in the genre of country/indie/folk. She was really singing out and had a beautiful vibrato that reminded me of Joan Baez. The bassist was really innovative too, playing a hollow-body bass in a real 60's style. The guitarist was pretty great too--the tones on his Gibson SG were so biting and aggressive while he was playing folky Byrds-like riffs. I really loved their sound and their vibe. One of my favorite new bands!
After the New West showcase, I used my magic Nightflying pass (thank you Peter!!) to get into Antone's to see my fellow Arkansan, Miss Elise Davis, play her showcase and warm the crowd up for Leon Russell. Elise is a friend of mine and I was just thrilled to see her in the SXSW environment. Her sound has evolved so beautifully since I last saw her. She's always written really catchy melodies and her poetry is universal, but she's added a sultry blues element to her performance alongside some jam-band vibes too. Her sound is beautiful and so is she. She's one to watch! After that, of course Leon Russell just grooved and rocked like the legend that he is and the crowd was on fire. It was a magical night.
I was also able to see Corb Lund at a daytime showcase at Maria's Tacos and he was impressive too. His band was whip-tight and the songs were country music at it's best --great storytelling and great vocals. It was the first time I have seen him live after listening to his records for a few years. Canadian country at it's best!
I also shared the bill with Aaron McDonnell at my Keep Austin Country showcase and whew, what a voice and what great songs! We move in the same country music circles, so it was good to see his live show and strike up a friendship. Truly great country music and the originals are very well crafted! I also shared the stage with Kathryn Legendre out of Austin. She is another great female country musician and as genuine and sweet as they come. I'm happy to be a part of Austin's country community because of friendships like these! The Keep Austin Country movement is very cool and I'm glad the gals who run it include this crazy Razorback in their outfit.
Thanks to everybody at NIghtflying for helping this Arkansas gal keep truckin and thanks again to Peter for the magical VIP pass! Much love!
Photos by Charles Ragsdell and Lori Ragsdell
"Nightflying down Hamburger Alley..."