The Art of the Song at South by Southwest


Amid all the din and the distractions at the South by Southwest music festival, it’s easy to forget that songwriting still holds currency. A musical act can make a splash for a while on a sound, or a look, or a well-funded hype machine, but at its core its songs must connect with listeners. Utne Reader is proud to be sponsoring two talent-packed SXSW showcases that reveal the art of the song is alive and well, and that the singer-songwriter is not as endangered a species as is sometimes presumed.

Here’s the lineup of the official showcase presented by Utne Reader and the music label/management outfit Thirty Tigers on Friday (March 18) at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin:

• Ben Sollee (1 a.m.) The main instrument played by Ben Sollee is the moody cello, but his music is more upbeat and varied than that would imply, thanks to his percussive playing style and soulful vocals.

• Ron Sexsmith (midnight) Ron Sexsmith is the epitome of the singer-songwriter, having turned out his share of guy-and-a-guitar classics. His new Long Player Late Bloomer is another is in a long, solid string of work; he’s the elder-statesman figure on the bill.

• Amy Speace (11 p.m.) A former actress, Amy Speace creates immersive dramas in her vivid story-songs.

Josh Ritter• Josh Ritter (10 p.m.) Lyrics are no afterthought for Josh Ritter, whose carefully crafted folk-rock is deeper and sometimes darker than his million-megawatt performing persona would imply.

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