Utne Reader at South by Southwest 2010
Utne Reader was a co-sponsor of the wildly successful Americana Music Association showcase at Antone’s at the South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas. Here are links to reviews, video, and photos from the show. Profiles of the artists are below:
Court Yard Hounds: As the mainstays of the Dixie Chicks since they formed the group in 1989, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison have been familiar faces to many millions of fans, yet just a little mysterious in that familiarity–content as they were to cede the lead vocalist position and remain music’s most recognizable “sidewomen.” Chicks fans couldn’t help but hear those ever-present harmonies and wonder if Emily and Martie might ever come out from hiding in plain sight.
That’s just what they’ve done in their newly hatched incarnation as Court Yard Hounds, with a gorgeously assured debut album that has the siblings sounding like they’ve been fearless frontwomen all their lives. Is this band a side project? They can live with that label. Or something permanent? Yes, that, too.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are like a modern-day version of Tina Turner stroking the microphone in a spangled mini-dress while fronting the Rolling Stones circa Sticky Fingers. The proof is there for all to hear on the band’s newest album, called Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, which marks an artistic breakthrough for a vital young band caught in the act of fulfilling its immense promise. Though GPN initially made a name for themselves on the jam-band circuit, the group’s sound was rooted in the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll. Burr and Potter formed the earliest version of the Nocturnals while both were students at St. Lawrence University after he introduced her to the myriad joys of The Last Waltz. So it was that the two soon-to-be bandmates and soulmates formed their bond while in the thrall of The Band, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. All in all, not a bad place to start.
Hayes Carll: On his new album, Trouble In Mind, the 32-year-old Carll navigates his way through both stormy weather and calm, sun-drenched waters with ease, emerging with songs that melt even the hardest heart in town (a feat he manages on the plaintive, world-weary “Don’t Let Me Fall”) or heat up a roadhouse (like the ruggedly strutting “Wild as a Turkey”). Their impact is heightened by the fact that they’re songs born of both immersion in the works of his songwriting heroes and plenty of real-world experience.
Carll’s live performances continue to win over fans everywhere. His clever, irreverent lyrics and sharp observations combined with his warm Texas drawl make his stories and anecdotes as compelling and entertaining as his songs. There’s that sweet taste of honey followed with the sharp sting of a wisecrack.
Elizabeth Cook: In contemporary country music, it’s a rare performer who will dare to take on the industry on her own hogs-and-kisses terms. But for the artist whom Nanci Griffith has called “this generation’s Loretta Lynn,” it takes a certain tenacity to meld smart attitude with classic tradition, the credibility of a life lived with genuine hillbilly passion, and the integrity to write an acclaimed cache of uncommonly cool songs.
“In an era of fabricated fame, Elizabeth is the real deal,” says the legendary singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell. “Elizabeth has a quirky Loretta sensibility that is positively poetic. She’s got that Emmylou quality that inspires those around her. Then factor in her amazing family history — you simply cannot make that stuff up.”
Read an interview with Elizabeth Cook by Utne Reader’s Keith Goetzman in which she discusses growing up as the daughter of an ex-con and a hillbilly singer, and why she can’t play her own songs on the Grand Ole Opry.
Jim Lauderdale: Jim Lauderdale is a multi-talented performer and songwriter, with successes in both country and bluegrass music. His roots stem from the Carolinas, yet his career has taken him all over the United States and abroad, making him an international recording artist with an ever-growing fan base.
He is among Nashville’s “A” list of songwriters, with songs recorded by artists such as: Patty Loveless, George Jones, the Dixie Chicks, Solomon Burke, Mark Chesnutt, Dave Edmunds, John Mayall, Kathy Mattea, Lee Ann Womack, Gary Allan, Blake Shelton. Vince Gill, and George Strait. He also contributed several songs to the successful soundtrack of the George Strait film Pure Country. Not content to just write hits for the stars, he has toured with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rhonda Vincent and Elvis Costello, among others.