SXSW Music Review: Nicole Atkins/Erin Rae

The new Nashville sound

“I wrote a song about how much modern Nashville country music sucks,” said Nicole Atkins before leading the crowd in a sing-along of “As Country Was,” John Paul White jumping onstage for the chorus. It proved an apt anthem for Single Lock Records’ Friday night showcase at Cooper’s BBQ, the Alabama imprint co-founded by White rostering a new Nashville sound.

Nicole Atkins on Thursday at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion (Photo by Gary Miller)

Atkins found musical rejuvenation after getting sober and unloading 2017’s sublime LP Goodnight Rhonda Lee, which unleashed her impressive vocals into a soulful throwback sound. Introducing the album’s title track, she noted, “This is a song I wrote for a really drunken friend of mine. It was me, two years ago.”

The New Jersey native’s vocal range swelled as she worked solo through “Sleepwalking” and a stripped down “Cry Cry Cry.” Closing with her Chris Isaak co-write “A Little Crazy” and a stunning take on Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” Atkins’ voice emerged every bit as wondrous as those influences.

Erin Rae (Photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

Erin Rae likewise lifted a soulful Southern sound with last year’s debut Putting on Airs, country ballads walking the line between Dusty Springfield and Shelby Lynn. Her backing fourpiece provided a rich but ambient fullness to the soft sway of her songs that swooned through sharply simple lines like, “You’re drawn to the night like a june bug.” Standout tunes like “Wild Blue Wind” marked a perfect balance of polished songcraft, patiently unfolding melodies, and wistful vocals that shine with promise for Rae and Nashville.

Single Lock Records Showcase

Friday, March 15, 9pm, Cooper’s BBQ

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Patty Griffin on Her Battle With Breast Cancer and New Album
Patty Griffin on Her Battle With Breast Cancer and New Album
Local songwriter rises through the fire

Doug Freeman, March 29, 2019

Nardwuar Gifts Quin NFN a Copy of the <i>Chronicle</i> in New Video
Nardwuar Gifts Quin NFN a Copy of the Chronicle in New Video
“They had it everywhere. My momma was loving it.”

Kevin Curtin, March 26, 2019

More by Doug Freeman
Texas Platters
George Ensle
Home (Record Review)

April 19, 2019

Texas Platters
D.C. Bloom
Pack Up the Moon (Record Review)

April 19, 2019


Nicole Atkins, Erin Rae, SXSW 2019, SXSW Music 2019, Single Lock Records, John Paul White, Civil Wars, Chris Isaak, Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, Shelby Lynn

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle