"Austin City Limits" Festival Picks & Sleepers

Tift Merritt
Tift Merritt

SUNDAY SLEEPERS

JACK INGRAM: About the only thing that's cliched about the perennially underrated Jack Ingram is the story of how his third and finest major-label album, Electric, cost him his Sony Nashville deal; they deemed it too country for rock, too rock for country. His ambition to embarrass his old bosses with success has added new vitality to what was already a volatile live show. (Feature, 12:30pm) -- Andy Langer

KEVIN MCKINNEY: Although the Soulhat frontman would've made the cut anyway, Kevin McKinney was reportedly hand-picked for the festival by a longtime diehard fan -- Lance Armstrong (his management company is organizing the weekend). The champ's got fine ears: McKinney's eccentric songwriting and untraditional phrasings shine both in his recent turn as a singer-songwriter and in Soulhat. (Austin, 1:50pm) -- Andy Langer

TIFT MERRITT: Texas-born and North Carolina-raised Tift Merritt has just released her debut, Bramble Rose, on Lost Highway. It's being praised by critics nationwide for Merritt's literary songwriting style and the variety of backdrops she uses (folk/country/pop) to get her stories and themes across. A newcomer to recording, Merritt has been performing for almost five years, and her live appearances are dramatic and potent. (Austin, 2:50pm) -- Jim Caligiuri

TOPAZ: NYC-based acid-funk-jazz, yes, but Topaz is also the rarest of local commodities: home-grown. Alto-saxman Topaz McGarrigle was born in Austin, so what better reason to return to the place of his birth than the Austin City Limits Music Festival? Maybe only that the group's second album, the simmering Zone, is garnering good press. Check the homeboy. (Jam, 3:30pm) -- Raoul Hernandez

VALLEJO: Although the dream of transitioning one of Austin's most popular live acts into an international radio phenomenon hit a snag with their recent departure from Emilio Estefan's Crescent Moon, Vallejo rebounded by targeting not Mexico, but Japan; Universal Japan will release their next set, October's Stereo. Expect plenty of new material at this return-from-the-studio engagement. (Austin, 4pm) -- Andy Langer

BETO Y LOS FAIRLANES: Since the mid-Seventies, the Austin-based Fairlanes have been performing "Texas salsa," a percussive, brassy sound that blends jazz, Latino, and rock. Longtime regulars at the late, lamented Liberty Lunch, the eight-piece is led by Beto Skiles and features an all-star lineup of horn players and percussionists. (American, 4pm) -- Margaret Moser

G. LOVE & SPECIAL SAUCE: Once the funkiest white boys busking on the Philadelphia subway system, G. Love (the former Garrett Dutton III) parlayed his telegenic looks and tangy guitar style into a mid-Nineties MTV buzz clip and steady touring work ever since. Remaining an inspiration to hip-hop-loving honky bluesmen everywhere, his latest offering is 2001's The Electric Mile. (Feature, 4:30pm) -- Christopher Gray

REBIRTH BRASS BAND: This venerable New Orleans outfit has served as ambassador of the Big Easy for nearly 20 years. Their soulful, funky, horn-heavy sound is equal parts tradition and innovation, heard over the span of 10 albums, from Bourbon Street across the world. Hands-down favorites at the annual New Orleans Jazz Fest, the RBB are only occasional visitors to Austin, making this performance a must-see. (American, 5:30pm) -- Margaret Moser

CROSS CANADIAN RAGWEED: New Texans Cross Canadian Ragweed (their name mixes three of the band member's last names) is one of the most popular new acts on the Texas Music scene, and their notoriety as an exciting live act has now spread throughout the South. The young quartet has just released their self-titled debut for the Universal South label. (Austin, 5:15pm) -- Jim Caligiuri

RECKLESS KELLY: These dashing young twangers from up Idaho way took Austin by storm some years back, and then decided to hang around. Since then they've built a rabidly loyal following on the strength of their consistent and energetic live shows and their burgeoning abilities as songwriters. (Austin, 6:30pm) -- Christopher Hess

LUNA: Luna's dreamy psychedelia has a lot in common with that other New York band, the Velvet Underground, with whom they are often (and favorably) compared. Their mesmerizing sound and intelligent lyrics are arty without artifice, as their last CD, Romantica, demonstrated. Expect tunes from their upcoming EP, Close Cover Before Striking, including covers of Kraftwerk and the Rolling Stones. (Jam, 7:30pm) -- Margaret Moser

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