Austin City Limits Festival Picks & Sleepers

Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams


JANE BOND: Forget that Kelly girl; the real American Idol from Austin could be this chestnut-haired former Omelettry waitress. With a set of pipes the organ at Westminster Abbey would envy (if it were human), Bond may be a relative newcomer, but the way she belts the blues and purrs Western swing suggests a part of her has been here all along. (Austin, noon) -- Christopher Gray

ALLISON MOORER: On her just-released third CD Miss Fortune, Allison Moorer mixes soul and country in a way that's fresh and extremely listenable. The Nashville-based singer-songwriter's Southern roots are exposed in a way that recalls the best of Dusty Springfield and brings her closer to the sound of sister Shelby Lynne. (Heritage, noon) -- Jim Caligiuri

KELLY WILLIS: Of the nearly 70 acts, virtually nobody is as inherently representative of the Austin City Limits aesthetic as Kelly Willis. With songs from Easy, her instantly likeable new album, and a firecracker of a new live band (featuring guitarist Mark Spencer) this is your best bet to kickoff Sunday with an ear-to-ear smile. (Texas, 12:30pm) -- Andy Langer

JON DEE GRAHAM: Six years into his solo career, ex-True Believer Jon Dee Graham is batting 1.000 -- each of his three albums have been extraordinary exercises in songwriting and passion. As the smartest small crowd in Austin can attest, Graham's Wednesday night Continental Club residency routinely pulls off the immediacy of those already fiery releases. (Austin, 12:50pm) -- Andy Langer

JAMES MCMURTRY: No one portrays the decay of rural society, the uplift of the human spirit, and house-shaking domestic disturbances with such bitter, respectful beauty as James McMurtry. The local songwriter/guitar virtuoso has outdone himself on his new Sugar Hill release, Saint Mary of the Woods, a razor-smart batch of songs that put him in the company of the state's best raconteurs. (Heritage, 1:45pm) -- Christopher Hess

RUTHIE FOSTER: Currently based in College Station, Ruthie Foster possesses a voice that will stop you in your tracks. Her latest release, Runaway Soul, showcases her talents as a vocalist, songwriter, and song interpreter extremely well, as she mixes gospel, blues, and folk in a way that's cleverly refreshing and positively uplifting. (American, 2:30pm) -- Jim Caligiuri

SHAWN COLVIN: Although last year's Whole New You performed surprisingly poorly at cash registers, Austin's Shawn Colvin is still a sure thing live: She's confident, funny, and pulling from a fully loaded bag of instantly recognizable songs. (Texas, 2:30pm) -- Andy Langer

KARL DENSON'S TINY UNIVERSE: If you don't recognize the name, you're probably familiar with the folks Karl Denson's played with: Femi Kuti, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Widespread Panic, DJ Logic, and Lenny Kravitz. Yet what makes Karl Denson's Tiny Universe a triple threat is soul -- jazzy, funky soul. (Feature, 2:30pm) -- David Lynch

THE GOURDS: Funk, backwoods blues balladry, rural pop-rock, hell-raisin' honky-tonk ... the Gourds' music neatly skirts definition, but not their appeal, or the pure Americana roots-rock and brilliant non sequiturs that fire up an audience like few bands do. Their brand-new CD Cow Fish Fowl or Pig just hit shelves, much to their rabid fans' delight. (Heritage, 3:30pm) -- Margaret Moser

JIMMIE VAUGHAN: Jimmie Vaughan's just come off the road from a year of almost constant touring, meaning his playing is sharp and lethal. Last year's Grammy winner, Do You Get the Blues, was his third solo release, another in a series of award-winning albums that are testament to his acclaimed guitar expertise. (Texas, 4:30pm) -- Margaret Moser

ERIC JOHNSON & ALIEN LOVE CHILD: With Jimmie Vaughan, the Arc Angels, and Eric Johnson, Sunday's lineup represents Austin's inexhaustible fascination with guitar heroism. Johnson, the toughest of the bunch to air guitar, brings his bluesy Alien Love Child, the Grammy-nominated side project with Bill Maddox and Chris Maresh that's looking less like a side project after nearly two solid years of jaw-dropping shows. (Heritage, 5:30pm) -- Andy Langer

EMMYLOU HARRIS: Grievous angels' muse or golden-throated crossover queen, Emmylou Harris is always the red dirt girl with the most cake. Lately she's been mother superior of the whole O Brother, Where Art Thou?-spawned roots revival, but recently reissued Seventies output like Roses in the Snow is just as luminous. Her live bands are always stocked with the best players in the business. (Texas, 6:30pm) -- Christopher Gray

RYAN ADAMS: One of the most prolific songwriters around, ex-Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams has just released Demolition. It's a collection of songs recorded during 2000-01 that offers a glimpse of his process in gaining fans worldwide. It's a wide-ranging effort that veers from garage rockers to weepy heartsongs to down-home country. Adams' live sets can vary from boisterous to quietly moving, which is just a part of his considerable charm. (Feature, 6:30pm) -- Jim Caligiuri

W.C. CLARK: There may be more famous bassists around than W.C. Clark, but few are more beloved. His latest CD, From Austin With Soul, ties up four decades of performing. Having played with everyone from Joe Tex to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Clark's earned his place in the hearts of Texans with honey-rich vocals and smoky soulful, rhythms that linger long after he's unplugged his amp. (American, 7pm) -- Margaret Moser

ROBERT RANDOLPH: At just 24, the House Of God's Robert Randolph is the real deal on sacred steel; like the true guitar greats, he's equal parts virtuosity and passion. Jam band fanatics have already flocked to the intensity of his improvisations, and his flexibility may insure his future; whether rocking with his Family Band or righteously grooving with the Blind Boys of Alabama, Randolph's potential seems unlimited. (Heritage, 7:30pm) -- Andy Langer

ARC ANGELS: It's easy not to expect much from supergroup reunions, let alone a one-off reunion from a band as short-lived as this, but each of the Arc Angels' previous post-breakup outings have served as reminders that the union of Doyle Bramhall II, Charlie Sexton, Tommy Shannon, and Chris Layton has always been fueled by instant chemistry. (Feature, 8:30pm) -- Andy Langer

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Shawn Colvin, Jane Bond, Arc Angels, The Gourds

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