Leave it to hip Southern living magazine Garden & Gun to put together SXSW’s most packed showcase of emergent, wide-ranging Americana.
“I need a revolution!” declared Red Shahan, kicking off the Wednesday night showcase at the Palm Door on Sixth.
Leading a rocking revolt of new cuts from upcoming sophomore LP Culberson County, the Lubbock songwriter led a quintet roaring through bar-honed guitar rippers, roadhouse boogies, and brooding outlaw ballads. Courtney Marie Andrews followed in cutting contrast, the Phoenix native’s powerhouse vocals destined to one day earn awards bearing her initials.
Behind several albums already under Andrews’ belt, this month’s May Your Kindness Remain drops an expected breakout. The singer’s distinct twang delivers behind both keys and guitars ringing subtle grace and an anthemic weight somewhere between Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Her quintet held up its end of the bargain by brewing smooth Southern country soul in her SXSW debut.
A packed local triptych carried the middle of the lineup. Austin’s Erika Wennerstrom proved triumphant in emerging solo from her Heartless Bastards with Sweet Unknown. Her swelling vox found a slightly poppier layer of melody atop familiar heavy rhythms powered by Lauren Gurgiolo’s guitar. Her local fivepiece stretched various shades of psychedelia, from expansive desert swirls to country-tinged Western psych and lighter Sixties nuggets.
Low-crooning Austinite Paul Cauthen likewise diverged from 2016 debut My Gospel by reworking the tunes with a stellar band into extended guitar jams. Arm Saran-wrapped with a fresh black rose tattoo, the balladeer brought full charisma to the short set, including “Flatland” from his former outfit Sons of Fathers, which turned into a swampy soul stomp. David Ramirez proved exceptionally polished in promoting last year’s stellar We’re Not Going Anywhere, especially the biting hypocrisy of “Stone Age” and brooding closer “Time.”
Headlining Kentucky romper Tyler Childers took the stage looking almost dazed, with a wild-eyed, staring intensity and the mumbled enunciation of his mentor and Purgatory producer Sturgill Simpson. The show felt half-cocked and fully loaded until the closing rounds struck with galloping “Feathered Indians,” gritty “Whitehouse Road,” and solo acoustic closer “Lady May.”
Shahan called for revolution at the outset, and country music just might get it.
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