SXSW 2004 – Thursday, March 18, 2004 - Afternoon

Susan Cowsill & The Midcity Ministers @ Cheapo Discs
Susan Cowsill & The Midcity Ministers
“A poster girl for rock & roll mommy, New Orleans-based Susan Cowsill was a member of the Cowsills, Continental Drifters, and a veteran of numerous sessions and notable marriages (Dwight Twilley, then Peter Holsapple). Her musical heritage is as strong as her deft pop.” -- Margaret Moser, Austin Chronicle

Susan Cowsill & The Midcity Ministers
I hadn't seen Susan Cowsill and Russ Broussard since their departure from the Continental Drifters and was very happy to hear that they would play three shows in Austin. Highlights of the lunchtime set were a song written with her husbands dying grandmother, and the only Continental Drifters era tune, “The Rain Song”. Judging from the songs on her demo, the yet to be recorded CD will be something to look forward to.

The Holmes Brothers @ Waterloo Records
Holmes Brothers
“The Holmes Brothers's unique synthesis of gospel-inflected blues harmonies, accompanied by good drumming and rhythm-based guitar playing, gives them a down-home rural feeling that no other touring blues group can duplicate. Brothers Sherman and Wendell Holmes, along with drummer Popsy Dixon (the falsetto voice), are the group's core members, although they occasionally tour with extra musicians. All three harmonize well together. The Holmes Brothers are so versatile, they're booked solid every summer at folk, blues, gospel and jazz festivals, as they play a style of music that is a gumbo of church tunes, blues and soul. Although people like Bo Diddley and especially Jimmy Reed were early influences on Wendell and Sherman, gospel music also played an important role in their respective upbringings.” -- Richard Skelly & Al Campbell, allmusic.com
Holmes Brothers 
Moving from the “ministers” to the gospel-tinged tunes of the Holmes Brothers seemed a logical progression, and the Brothers managed to impress the crowd. Unfortunately they only played for just over 20 minutes before retreating to the back of the store to sign CD’s.
Holmes Brothers
Dolly Varden @ Jovita’s (Twangfest Party)
Dolly Varden Dolly Varden
“The Chicago group Dolly Varden produces rootsy, atmospheric tunes laced with rock, country, and soul influences. The husband and wife songwriting team of Diane Christiansen and Stephen Dawson founded Dolly Varden in 1995, recording their debut album,
Mouthful of Lies, in Christiansen's converted art studio and releasing it on their own Mid-Fi label. […] Dolly Varden's well-crafted albums have garnered enthusiastic accolades from such vanguard publications of alt-country as the Austin Chronicle and No Depression." -- Erik Hage, allmusic.com
Dolly Varden
Dolly Varden is another band that I've always liked but never had a chance to see. I was first introduced to them in 1995, when 3/5 of them toured as Michael Hall’s backing band on his European tour. They started out strong with appealing songs, melodies and harmonies, but lost a bit of momentum halfway through the set when they tried out some new material.

Slaid Cleaves @ Jovita’s (Twangfest Party)
Slaid Cleaves
“The goal of any songwriter is to tell their story with a minimum of words and maximum impact. Slaid Cleaves accomplishes this feat effortlessly and consistently throughout Wishbones, easily making it one of the best of the year.” -- Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
Jovita's
I keep hearing what a great songwriter Slaid Cleaves is, but I haven't been overly impressed by the CD’s I've heard, and here at Jovita’s his songs and his performance seemed somewhat cliched. The place was filled with fans who seemed to enjoy the show, so I guess it’s just me...

Jesse Malin @ Tower Records
Jesse Malin
“2002's
Fine Art of Self Destruction proved that this New Yawker could transition from sleazy, no-frills punk with D Generation into a loveable heart-on-his-sleeve singer-songwriter. Expect a preview of his forthcoming Artemis disc.” -- Andy Langer, Austin Chronicle
Jesse Malin
At SXSW you quite often don’t know what line-up to expect for a show: will it be an acoustic solo set, a full band performance, or something in between? Jesse Malin brought Christine Smith along, who played piano and added beautiful harmony vocals. Jesse played many new songs, a terrific cover of “Helpless”, and finished with a great version of “Riding On The Subway” from his debut. This was most likely my last visit to Austin’s Tower Records, which has hosted many great showcases over the years but is going to close for good in June of this year.
Christine Smith

Dengue Fever @ Waterloo Records
Dengue Fever
“Despite its rough edges, the debut album by Dengue Fever is an indicator of where pop music is headed, particularly in areas of multicultural urban sprawl. Though Cambodian émigré Chhom Nimol's sinuous vocals dominate each song, Zachary Holtzman (guitar, vocals) plays an equally essential role in defining the band's direction. Retro surf guitar, the throwback psychedelic tone of the Farfisa organ, rhythms on songs like "Pow Pow" that conjure visions of James Bond dancing the Swim in a Hong Kong nightclub, as well as the absence of any post-punk or disco residue, create a sense of time displacement; this music could just as easily have been heard decades ago, long before American demographics had absorbed Asian pop influences.” -- Robert L. Doerschuk, allmusic.com

Dengue Fever
I continued my afternoon tour of Austin's record stores and headed south to see the most exotic band of the week. Waterloo Records was crowded and everyone was mesmerized by the combination of Chhom Nimol's stunning voice with extraordinary melodies. Pretty cool!
Dengue Fever

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All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2004