“I’m just going to sing a bunch of songs that I wrote about living out here,” announced Israel Nash before launching into “Lucky Ones” in the headlining slot of his fourth annual From the Hills With Love Fest on Saturday. Hosting a couple hundred artists and neighbors on his Dripping Springs ranch, Nash provided a calming Hill Country close to SXSW.
The lineup culled mostly from artists who recorded at his Plum Creek Sound studio, and the sound all afternoon reflected Nash’s brand of mellow, rumbling, guitar-driven roots rock. That included Western Youth’s more subdued early-afternoon set and ex-Band of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey’s meditative, reverberating anthems from upcoming fourth LP For the Morning. Carson McHone also showcased new material that hinted at more rocking directions on top of her twanging country sound.
Denver’s Kyle Emerson chilled a Kurt Vile-like twang, while T. Hardy Morris sent steel-laden rock bouncing deep into the hills. E.B. The Younger bopped Harry Nilsson charm, even covering the late tunesmith’s “Gotta Get Up,” but Jonathan Tyler swept the best set with three-guitar, Southern-fried jams and Nikki Lane joining to duet “To Love Is to Fly.”
Compared to other events on the outskirts of SXSW – the Revival Experience’s inaugural high-end communion or the Luck Reunion’s full-blown Western town activation – Nash’s event felt like an informal neighborhood party with free-whiskey sponsors. The grounds are naturally unruly, which plays into crowds with their own chairs, picnics, and kids running free. It proved a refreshing reminder that sometimes the best festival experience is still just a casual Hill Country party.
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