Friday, 18-March 2005

Just like last year, Comboplate Booking had organized the lunchtime "SXSoup Fest" at the Caritas of Austin soup kitchen. The Friday line-up was strong enough to get me out of bed early.


Eric Hisaw @ Caritas of Austin (SXSoup Fest)
"Like the true son of the New Mexico desert that he is, Eric Hisaw delivers Western roots music that's as real as a backyard full of rusting cars and as edgy as a smuggler's knife. If Chris Knight had grown up in New Mexico, he'd sound like this." - WM Smith, Rockzillaworld
Eric Hisaw
At 11am, grace was said at the Caritas soup kitchen, and as the room filled with hungry guests, Eric got to play his song. Yes, unfortunately only one, before handing the mike over to…


Ana Egge @ Caritas of Austin (SXSoup Fest)
“Brooklyn-by-way-of-Austin songsmith Ana Egge emerges from opening-act status for the likes of Shawn Colvin and Ron Sexsmith to deserving headliner with her fourth CD, Out Past the Lights, a breakout collection. Egge sings about tangled relationships and new beginnings in her lyrical tunes that are dreamlike and haunting, delicate and rough, folksy and hard-strum rocking.” - Billboard
Ana Egge
Elizabeth McQueen, who was supposed to share this 15 minute slot with Eric Hisaw and Ana Egge couldn’t make it, so Ana got to play two songs before sitting down and chatting with the crowd.
Ana Egge


Alexi Murdoch @ Caritas of Austin (SXSoup Fest)
“There aren't many new singer-songwriters who understand the importance of sparseness and subtlety like this Scotland-born, L.A.-based KCRW favorite. His "Orange Sky" has been on Dawson's Creek and in Garden State, but deserves a fuller life on his soon-to-be-completed debut LP.” – Andy Langer, Austin Chronicle
Alexi Murdoch
Alexi Murdoch got a full 15 minute slot, but sparseness and subtlety weren’t in high demand at the soup kitchen, so his beautifully crafted songs were largely ignored.
Alexi Murdoch


The Be Good Tanyas @ Caritas of Austin (SXSoup Fest)
“This Canadian bluegrass trio hasn't recorded much since their thrilling sophomore album, Chinatown (Nettwerk), but they scored the opening spot on the soundtrack to the film Because of Winn-Dixie and will release their third album this spring.” – Melanie Haupt, Austin Chronicle
Be Good Tanyas
It took a while to for the 5 members of the Be Good Tanyas to set up on the tiny “stage”. The highlight of the set was a beautiful version of “That’s How Strong My Love Is”.
Be Good Tanyas


Rich McCulley @ Caritas of Austin (SXSoup Fest)
“McCulley's vocal chords sound like they've been marinating in a whisky bath with a three pack a day habit added. Nevertheless, they suit his mix of late 70's power pop and roots-rock (think Tom Petty mixed with Wilco).” – Nashville Scene
Rich McCulley
Rich’s beautiful Fender Steel Resonator guitar got him some compliments. Unfortunately, a noisy disagreement at one of the tables during his set was almost louder than the music.


Trashcan Sinatras @ Caritas of Austin (SXSoup Fest)
“The Sinatras' lovely, contemplative SpinArt Weightlifting CD breaks new ground for the band when it comes to turning broken hearts into perfect pop lullabies. There's no better UK single this year than that album's title track, which gives the Red House Painters a new yardstick to measure their angst by.” – Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
Trashcan Sinatras
They were founded in 1987, yet the first time I saw the Trashcan Sinatras was at a soup kitchen in Austin almost 20 years later. They got the best response from the “audience” that morning. Things were running late by then, so unfortunately I could not stay for the set by Chatham County Line.
Trashcan Sinatras


Blind Boys Of Alabama @ Waterloo Records
Blind Boys Of Alabama
“Time's never a-wastin' with the BBOA; Grammys for their three previous albums in as many years couldn't stem the new Atom Bomb (Real World), another blast of God-refracted pop from this trio of gospel survivors. Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" never sounded so at home.” – Raoul Hernandez, Austin Chronicle
Blind Boys Of Alabama
It took me even longer than 20 years to finally see the next band, which was originally founded in 1937. And I’m glad I did, as their set at Waterloo Records was my favorite show of SXSW2005.
Blind Boys Of Alabama
Highlights of the set were songs like “(Jesus Hits Like The) Atom Bomb”, a fantastic rendition of “People Get Ready”, and “Amazing Grace”. Waterloo Records was more crowded than I had ever seen it before, and the band worked the audience into a frenzy. This was the best show of the week!
Blind Boys Of Alabama


Reckless Kelly @ Jovita’s (Sugar Hill Records / Welk Music Group / Harp Magazine Party)
Reckless Kelly
“Reckless Kelly is my kind of band; hell-raising, hard playing, kick-ass songwriting, feet firmly in the present but with an amazing knowledge of where it has all come from. What else is there?” - Joe Ely
Reckless Kelly
Pretty much every show would have paled compared to the one I had just witnessed, but Reckless Kelly delivered a solid performance as usual. It was a sit-down, half-acoustic affair, which included a fine version of “Baby's Got a Whole Lot More” from their latest album, Wicked Twisted Road, and a cover of Alejandro Escovedo’s “Castanets”.
Reckless Kelly


Crooked Fingers @ Pok-E-Jo’s (Merge Records / Barsuk Records / KEXP / Red Stripe Party)
Crooked Fingers
“From the Archers of Loaf rose Eric Bachmann's Crooked Fingers, which showcases this giant's gentle side with earthy, melancholy rock. The Seattle trio's fourth LP, Dignity and Shame (Merge), is a thing of beauty, experimenting with Spanish trumpet and pedal steel.” – Melanie Haupt, Austin Chronicle
Crooked Fingers
Crooked Fingers
The weather was back to standard central Texas climate (sunny and warm), just perfect for an outdoor party. A good opportunity to catch some rays, have my first meal of the day at my favorite Austin BBQ (at 4pm), and enjoy a free Red Stripe. Oh yes, and Crooked Fingers were playing.
Crooked Fingers


Jesse Sykes @ Pok-E-Jo’s (Merge Records / Barsuk Records / KEXP / Red Stripe Party)
Jesse Sykes
“Seattle's Jesse Sykes gained national exposure earlier this year as opening act for Bright Eyes. Jesse's second disc, '04's Oh, My Girl (Barsuk), was hailed for its seductive blend of brooding, atmospheric rock and haunting country noir.” – Jim Caligiuri, Austin Chronicle
Jesse Sykes
Phil Wandscher
One could assume that Jesse Sykes’ quiet, low-key material would not come across very well at a big open air party co-sponsored by Red Stripe, but I was amazed to see that the vast majority of the audience was spellbound by the performance. She was accompanied by Phil Wandscher on guitar and Bill Herzog on bass.
Jesse Sykes


David Lowery & Johnny Hickman of Cracker @ Jovita’s (Welk Music/Harp Magazine Party)
David Lowery & Johnny Hickman
David Lowery and Johnny Hickmann played a set of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker songs: “All Her Favorite Fruit”, “Big Dipper”, “Might Makes Right”, “One Fine Day”, “Sweethearts”, “Duty Free”. Unfortunately, Johnny did not do any songs from his new album.
David Lowery   Johnny Hickman


Nels Andrews @ Las Manitas (Little Kiss Records Party)
Nels Andrews
“Nels Andrews does a number of things right on Sunday Shoes. He's got the world-weary voice to carry the weight of his songs, and a solid, country-rock production with a nice mix of acoustic and electric guitars.” - Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., allmusic.com
Nels Andrews
To get to the Little Kiss Records party, you had to walk across the restaurant and through the kitchen (!) to a patio area with a small stage. I had expected a solo performance, but was happy to see that Nels Andrews was performing with his band, the El Paso Eyepatch, which included Jeffrey Richards (ex Hazeldine) on guitar and banjo. Brilliant songs and a solid performance by the band made for another excellent showcase.
Nels Andrews


Echoset @ Love (Love On The Lawn)
Echoset
“Echoset is moody, breathy vocals, backed by a tight band that will rock out when you least expect it. […] Echoset sound as if they have closet gospel influences, but they are suppressed by their brand of hard rocking pop. They have a familiar sound, but you just can’t put your finger on what other groups it is reminiscent of. Maybe there is a touch of PJ Harvey, but there is more to them than that. What is more certain is that they sound as if they will be able to surpass their indie status.” - Erica Leduc, Exclaim!
Echoset   Echoset
Echoset had been one of my favorite shows of SXSW 2004, but unfortunately they didn’t have an official showcase this year. My only chance to see them was at Love, another interesting “venue” that was simply a makeshift stage on the front lawn. Luckily the neighbors didn’t mind - across the street was the Texas School for the Deaf. The sound was less than perfect, but it was great to listen to songs like “Pinwheel” and “Learning Curve” again, and to hear some new material as well…
Echoset


Amos Lee @ Austin Music Hall
Amos Lee
“Lee has a phenomenal voice matched by a journeyman's sense of songcraft that is just too good to go unnoticed.” - Matt Collar, allmusic.com
Amos Lee
The previous shows had been running late, and by the time I left Love, the 9pm showcases were already halfway over. I decided to make the best of it and stop by the Austin Music Hall, which was on the way to my next destination and where Amos Lee was scheduled to start his showcase at 9:30pm.
Amos Lee
It was obvious that opening for the likes of Bob Dylan and Norah Jones had given him some experience playing larger venues; people in the audience stopped their conversations and listened intently to his set, which included a nice version of “Orphan Girl” (Gillian Welch).
Amos Lee


Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell @ Tambaleo
Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell
“Caitlin Cary was the utility infielder for Whiskeytown who went on to record two critically hailed solo albums and a collaboration with two North Carolina gal pals known as Tres Chicas. Thad Cockrell is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter with a high-lonesome tenor as clear as mountain spring water. The two had collaborated on songs in the past including “Please Break My Heart,” which led naturally to their pairing on a forthcoming full-length album, Begonias (Yep Roc), due out in June.” – SXSW Band Info
Rich Gilbert
At Tambaleo, Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell were already on stage when I arrived, previewing songs from their upcoming duets record. Their voices do blend together perfectly on the faster honky-tonk material but even better on the slower ballads.
Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell


Kathleen Edwards @ Tambaleo
Kathleen Edwards
Back to Me never comes off as bitter for its own sake — sounding as if it were recorded under the influence of warm bourbon and a gray sky, the album is long on plain-spoken emotions and tough-talking guitars, but there's a fragile undertow beneath Edwards' flinty veneer that often rises to the surface […]. Edwards' songs are well served by producer and guitarist Colin Cripps, and her road band gives the music plenty of rich sonic detail (and guest musicians Benmont Tench and Eric Heywood lend a valuable assist). Back to Me is a powerful and affecting album from an artist who is quickly establishing herself as a major talent.” - Mark Deming, allmusic.com
Colin Cripps
Jim Bryson
No Depression magazine had pulled together a perfect lineup for this evening at Tambaleo. According to the official schedule the 11pm slot was reserved for a “Special Guest”. It was Kathleen Edwards, who had already played her “official” showcase one day earlier. She had also made a guest appearance during Jim Bryson’s set at 8pm.
Kevin McCarragher
Jim Bryson
Jim Bryson plays guitar, keyboards and percussion in her fantastic band, which also includes Joel Anderson on drums, Kevin McCarragher on bass, and Colin Cribbs on guitar. They delivered a somewhat loose-yet-fun set, starting off slowly with “Pink Emerson Radio”. “Six O’Clock News”, “What Are You Waiting For”, “Good Things”, “In State”, “Copied Keys”, and “Westby” followed, before she finished with “Back To Me”. Another highlight of the day.
Kathleen Edwards
Kathleen Edwards


Jon Dee Graham @ Tambaleo
Jon Dee Graham
Jon Dee Graham
Next up was Jon Dee Graham. I had seen him already on Wednesday, but for this show he appeared with his full band including Mike Hardwick, who adds tremendously to the overall sound of the band..
Mike Hardwick   George Reiff
John Chipman


Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3 @ Tambaleo
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Steve Wynn Show number 4 in as many days, and once again I got to hear one brand new song and quite a few tunes not played during previous sets: “When You Smile”, “Death Valley Rain”, “California Style”, “Southern California Line”, “Why?”, “Burn”, “Wired”, “That’s What You Always Say”, “Amphetamine”.
Linda Pitmon
Jason Victor
Rich Gilbert joined the Miracle 3 for “Days Of Wine & Roses”, and played a far-out beer-bottle slide, eventually breaking the bottle and cutting himself. A perfect show to end a day with several highlights.
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Rich Gilbert

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All pictures (c) Steffen Paulus 2005