"Austin City Limits" Festival Picks & Sleepers

Patty Griffin
Patty Griffin

SATURDAY PICKS

LI'L CAP'N TRAVIS: This rangy tribe of Plainsmen from the Llano Estacado (aka Amarillo) are everything a great country band should be: hirsute, tongue-in-cheek, and intoxicating. If they're not singing about rodeo clowns or breaking your heart with Sweet Gary Newcombe's steel guitar, they're channeling Kiss on their ode to Trans Ams and tube tops. The Gourds' only serious competition for the title of Quintessential Austin Band circa 2002. (Austin, 12:50pm) -- Christopher Gray

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL: The leading purveyors of Western swing, Austin's Asleep at the Wheel not only whip up a patented blend of jazz and country, they adhere to a standard of musicianship seldom heard. Under the leadership of tall Texan Ray Benson, the band has accrued a shelf full of Grammys, four alone for the Bob Wills' tribute Ride With Bob. One of the favorite acts ever to appear on Austin City Limits. (Texas, 1pm) -- Margaret Moser

SPIRIT OF THE CENTURY BAND FEATURING BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA: A musical treat in a weekend filled with such, the Blind Boys of Alabama have sung to the high heavens since the Thirties. Last year's Spirit of the Century and new Higher Ground garnered the trio critical praise across the board. Rarer than an appearance by the Boys is the Spirit of the Century Band, featuring John Hammond, David Lindley, and Charlie Musselwhite. Can I get an "amen"? (Feature, 1pm) -- Margaret Moser

LOS LOBOS: Mas y mas -- and never enough. Los Lobos make a powerful case for the art of sublimation, transforming the tragedy of Cesar Rosas' wife's murder into their best album in years, Good Morning Aztlan. By turns rowdy, pensive, despairing, and hopeful, Aztlan is understandably steeped in the blues, the sound of five longtime hermanos seeking solace and renewal by making the music they love. (Feature, 3pm) -- Christopher Gray

GILLIAN WELCH: Gillian Welch's music recalls another time and place, specifically rural Appalachia of the early 20th century. She accomplishes this, along with her partner David Rawlings, in a manner so genuine and heartfelt it's attracted a growing legion of fans. Her latest CD, Time (The Revelator) was hailed by many as one of the best releases of 2001. (Texas, 3pm) -- Jim Caligiuri

THE ORIGINAL BELLS OF JOY: Homegrown gospel from Austin's Eastside, the Bells of Joy ring true with deep spirituals and songs of praise and glory. Members of the Texas Music Hall of Fame, the five singers and their band have been spreading the good word for over four decades and even onto disc for 1998's Second Time Around. (American, 3:15pm) -- Margaret Moser

PATRICE PIKE: After years of fronting regional funk favorites Sister 7 (née Little Sister), Pike stepped out of the jam thang and opted for more rock with Black Box Rebellion. This year saw the release of BBR's first album, Fencing Under Fire, a showcase of Pike's growth as well as the measure of her partnership with longtime collaborator Wayne Sutton. (Austin, 4pm) -- Margaret Moser

CAITLIN CARY: Upon departing the ranks of Whiskeytown, Caitlin Cary wasted neither time nor tears, and headed straight for the studio. The result, While You Weren't Looking, is a sure-fire candidate for Top 10 lists of 2002, with her self-penned Triple A radio hit "Shallow Heart, Shallow Water" leading the way. Cary's wonderfully languorous voice and folky pop-rock is the stuff of dreams. (Heritage, 4pm) -- Margaret Moser

WILCO: Wilco's legend continues to grow right alongside its legacy. After the Chicagoans' much-publicized travails the past couple of years -- captured in the catch-it-if-you-can documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart -- they emerged with the second masterpiece of their brief, four-album career: the woozy, gas-lit Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Only Jeff Tweedy truly knows what lies over the horizon, but he's taking an ever-increasing number of devoted fans along on the journey. (Feature, 5pm) -- Christopher Gray

PATTY GRIFFIN: Last May, Patty Griffin did the near-impossible: She turned the Stubb's amphitheatre into a tranquil house of worship, complete with extended periods of rapt silence from the audience. Between the strength of the material on her latest set, 1,000 Kisses, and newfound onstage confidence, seeing Griffin these days is to see someone truly at the top of what was already considerable game. (Texas, 5pm) -- Andy Langer

DERAILERS: Renowned as far away as Europe for making a Texas dance hall feel like a California beach and vice versa, Austin's dapper Derailers add a little Roy Orbison and Sixties garage to the mix on 2001's Here Come the Derailers. But fear not: The foursome still tosses off some of the finest honky-tonk anywhere, anytime ("Taking the Bar Exam," "All the Rage in Paris") with all the effort of making a grocery list. (Austin, 5:15pm) -- Christopher Gray

JAYHAWKS: One of the great bands of our day, the Jayhawks continue making music that's distinctly American. Led by singer-songwriter Gary Louris, they've withstood numerous lineup changes over the years, yet have retained their ability to thoroughly entertain an audience with songs both rousing and touching. Expect a new Jayhawks CD in the beginning of 2003. (Heritage, 6pm) -- Jim Caligiuri

STRING CHEESE INCIDENT: Hailing from Boulder, Colo., String Cheese Incident describes their music as a "sacrilegious mix of bluegrass, calypso, salsa, Afro-pop, funk, rock, and jazz." One thing is for sure, however, the quartet is one of the most popular jam bands on today's circuit, and rightfully so, as their combination of skillful musicianship and hearty songwriting is among the best of the breed. (Feature, 7pm) -- Jim Caligiuri

ABRA MOORE: For over a decade, Austin's Abra Moore has been consistently delightful, both as a folksy singer-songwriter and VH1-style chanteuse. Although there's still no release date for her J Records debut, the glossy No Fear, Moore recently broke a two-year hiatus with a successful summer tour that introduced a new live band with a surprising leader -- Dynamite Hack frontman Mark Morris. (Austin, 7:45pm) -- Andy Langer

BOB SCHNEIDER: Since unleashing Lonelyland locally in 1999, Bob Schneider has turned versatility and charisma into an unprecedented domination of Waterloo's cash registers, Antone's calendar, KGSR's airwaves, and the Austin Music Awards. As much as he plays locally, it's a safe bet he'll add another feather to his cap -- one of the inaugural festival's strongest single-stage crowds. (Heritage, 8pm) -- Andy Langer

PAT GREEN: Love him or hate him, Pat Green is a Texas music juggernaut; his albums, shows, and merch have an uncanny way of separating Texans from their beer money. But make no mistake, most of his staunchest critics have probably never seen his stirring live show firsthand, and everything he's got he's earned the ol' fashioned way -- with a gentleman's class and work ethic. (Texas, 8:45pm) -- Andy Langer

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