Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
Old Settler's Music Festival preview
With three of Old Settler's top local draws included in its ranks, the Coveters have become South Austin's premier songwriting stable. Unofficial leader Suzanna Choffel (Fri., 5:30pm, Bluebonnet Stage) previews her highly anticipated new album, Steady Eye Steady Bow, due May 24, the native songstress ready for her close-up on the strength of its smoky soul and addictive, speakeasy charm. Hopefully she'll guest with fellow Coveter Warren Hood (Fri., 6:45pm, Bluebonnet Stage), who follows immediately after backed by his band, the Goods. The fiddle scion carries the spirit of Uncle Walt's Band in his DNA, as well as a collaborative streak that's made him a ubiquitous presence in clubs even as his compositions hold their own. Ed Jurdi moonlights as a Coveter, but he's better known in the Band of Heathens (Sunday, 3:45pm, Campground Stage). Not even a rapturous downpour at last year's campground could stop the Heathens, who unplugged entirely to deliver fest highlight "Hurricane." That number's now been officially released on the recent Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster's Son, a masterful combination of gris-gris and Muscle Shoals soul. – Austin Powell
Jimmie Dale Gilmore & the Wronglers9:45pm, Bluebonnet Stage
"We rehearse like crazy, at least two days a week," Warren Hellman, the banjoist and revered San Francisco billionaire behind the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, told the Chronicle last year before the Wronglers' inaugural camping trip to Old Settler's. "I think we've risen to levels of new mediocrity."
Hellman's old-time country outfit recently took another giant leap forward with the recruitment of Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The pair, a longtime Lehman Bros. investor and West Texas' Zen cowboy, finds sacred middle ground in the early American songbook of Appalachian folk music. The group's debut collaboration, Heirloom Music, tackles standards by Charlie Poole, the Carter Family, and Bill Monroe, among others, with fervent reverence, almost like a historical companion piece to Gilmore's 2005 collection, Come on Back. Dale and Hellman first got acquainted during the Flatlanders' second appearance at Hardly Strictly in 2009.
"I was having dinner with Jimmie Dale, and I said, 'You know what drives me absolutely crazy is that everybody in the world has a mother or brother in a band, and I'm just inundated with CDs.' Then later I said; 'By the way, Jimmie Dale, my band has made a CD. I'd love for you to have one.'" – Austin Powell
3:30pm, Hill Country Stage
San Antonio folkie Mueller is just a freshman in college, but like another talented Sarah (Jarosz), her voice belies her youth. The acoustic guitarist doesn't have a proper album yet, but Mueller's lovely melodies can be found on such originals as "The Tree." – Audra Schroeder
5:45pm, Hill Country Stage
With the pedigrees of two of Colorado's biggest jam bands, Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon and Bill Nershi of String Cheese Incident bring a rocker's edge to their lovingly assembled newgrass act. With new bassist Johnny Grubb, formerly of Railroad Earth, this is a band subtly entering jazzy spaces then flashing tender harmonies at a moment's notice. – Jim Caligiuri