SXSW Music: Must-See Country
10 twangy acts to catch
The Secret SistersWed. 15, Cooper's BBQ, 8:10pm; Fri. 17, Cooper's BBQ, 9pm
The sharp harmonies of Lydia and Laura Rogers come naturally, but just as natural is the Muscle Shoals siblings' eclectic range through Americana. First two LPs helmed by T Bone Burnett, the duo evolved in stylistic confidence, currently-recording third LP, which promises another leap with production from Brandi Carlile.
Colter WallWed. 15, Palm Door on Sabine, 9pm; Thu. 16, Swan Dive, 9pm
Colter Wall's worn and weary voice scars his dark ballads, both anachronistic for the Saskatchewan native's millennial age range. 2015 debut EP Imaginary Appalachia haunted on slow-n-low picked rhythms, but the songwriter's upcoming follow-up with hot hand Nashville producer Dave Cobb promises a breakout this year.
Holly MacveWed. 15, Esther's Follies, 9pm; Thu. 16, Latitude 30, 8pm
The hard twang of Holly Macve's softly crooning, dreamy falsetto sounds drawn from West Texas rather than the shores of Galway. Yet the 21-year-old Irish songwriter marvels on her upcoming debut LP for noted UK indie Bella Union, its weary blues and ballads tilting between Hope Sandoval and Patsy Cline.
Kasey ChambersWed. 15, Cooper's BBQ, 9:20pm
On her 2000 debut The Captain, Kasey Chambers became Australia's leading export to the country charts, furthered by sophomore LP hit "Not Pretty Enough." This year's double LP Dragonfly, her 11th release, marks her most ambitious, including more rocking cuts that balance her hallmark personal grit and emotional strength.
Brent CobbWed. 15, Palm Door on Sabine, 11pm
Brent Cobb has penned cuts for country superstars ranging from Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney to Miranda Lambert, but the Nashville songwriter's own sophomore LP lifted his name from liner notes to the marquee. Shine on Rainy Day rolls easy, back porch melodies and expert narratives with a smooth Seventies folk flavor.
Avett BrothersWed. 15, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 11pm
Avett Brothers roll into SXSW with the premiere of their Judd Apatow-directed documentary, May It Last, chronicling the making of last year's exceptional ninth LP, True Sadness. Expect a heavy dose of the latter from the quartet, which has risen from stomping string band upstarts to North Carolina's hottest act.
Jaime WyattWed. 15, 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn, 1am
Jaime Wyatt had a prison record before she had a vinyl one, which may explain why this year's debut Felony Blues triggers a sharp outlaw kick in her soft country twang. The L.A.-based singer joins a rising tide of left-coast balladeers polishing both folk ballads and barroom kickers.
Jason JamesThu. 16, Victorian Room at the Driskill, 9pm; Sat. 18, Lamberts, 8pm
Jason James' eponymous 2015 debut wrangled more throwback country styles than a hot rod time machine. From honky-tonk shuffles to rockabilly rippers and Seventies-styled ballads that would make George Jones weep, James' twang and gentle croon recalls dance halls informing the Houstonian as he preps his upcoming sophomore effort.
The GrahamsThu. 16, Cooper's BBQ, 12:30am
New York natives Alyssa and Doug Graham wandered across the nation by rail and waterway, inspiring the couple's two rambling roots LPs and a documentary. Newly released The Grahams & Friends recruits fellow travelers John Fullbright, the Watkins Family, and Milk Carton Kids for a rollicking Americana hootenanny.
Jared DeckSat. 18, Saxon Pub, 12:40am
Winner of 2016's Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Songwriting Contest, Jared Deck's tunes carry the sweat and dirt of blue-collar Oklahoma roots, sensitive but calloused by wear. Last year's eponymous debut disc showcased Deck's vocal range, keen narrative insight, and stylistic tour through touches of the blues, gospel, and Springsteen.