Nearly every musical genre under the sun will be represented in Austin for the annual SXSW festival, but the number of cowboy hats per capita in the great state of Texas suggest that alt-country music has a leading role in the upcoming proceedings. Here are some of the better bets -- speaking of country and alt-country, of course -- that Austin has in store.
'Austin City Limits'
Fri., March 18, 8:05PM CT at Moody Theatre (310 W. 2nd St.)
Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images
'Austin City Limits' will put forth a stellar lineup on this night, culminating with a midnight set by Lucinda Williams, who will no doubt play material from her new album, 'Blessed.' The evening also includes Houston-based Hayes Carll, Robert Earle Keen and an as-yet unannounced "special guest" at 10PM CT. Any thoughts of it being Williams' current touring partner Levon Helm are mistaken, as the Band's legendary drummer plays Tarrytown, N.Y., that same evening.
Americana Music Association Showcase
Thu., March 17, 8PM CT at Antone's (213 W. 5th St.)
Chris McKay, WireImage
The Americana Music Association showcase offers some serious country-minded delights with Rhett Miller's Dallas darlings Old 97's and the iconic Emmylou Harris. The 63-year-old Harris -- releasing a new studio album titled 'Hard Bargain' on April 26 -- will be preceded by clawhammer banjo player extraordinaire Abigail Washburn and the tandem of Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, so get ready for an evening of countrified magic.
Bloodshot Records Showcase
Sat., March 19, 7:30PM CT at Red Eye Flag (715 Red River St.)
Thu., March 17, 8PM CT at 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn (500 N. Interstate 35)
The alt-country quota is in overdrive at this showcase with the very fine but still underappreciated Lubbock, Texas, band Thrift Store Cowboys rounding things out. The band's latest album, 'Light Fighter,' is a compelling blend of slow, deliberate Americana tunes with a healthy dose of pop perfection. Also performing this night: hometown heroes the Roving Gamblers, the Susan Cowsill Band from New Orleans and Valerie June, among others.
James 'Slim' Hand
Fri., March 18, 8:30PM CT at Saxon Pub (1320 S. Lamar Blvd.)
Rich Chapla, jamesslimhand.com
If there was ever an artist who oozes an old-school approach (think Hank Williams, not George Jones and Tammy Wynette) to country music, it has to be Tokio, Texas, native James 'Slim' Hand. Hand's delivery and tone will convince you that he wasn't made for this era, yet his stellar recent albums, 'The Truth Will Set You Free' and 2009's 'Shadow On the Ground,' ended up on many critics' year-end lists.
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