Our new monthly roundup looks back at highlights from the last month of music in Austin venues, along with new albums and songs by local artists. (And in case you missed them, check out our Best of Austin Music posts for January and February.)
THE MAIN EVENT
South by Southwest. Our attention in March inevitably gets gobbled up by SXSW, which marked its 30th year with a music festival that overall seemed less focused on major names (though unofficial shows brought cameos by George Strait at Ray Benson’s birthday party and Drake at the Fader Fort). Check out our American-Statesman SXSW wrap-up, or go in-depth with dozens of SXSW show reviews on austin360.com.
BEST NON-SXSW SHOWS
March 7: Townes Van Zandt birthday tribute at Cactus Cafe. Butch Hancock has been hosting these birthday tributes to the late, great Van Zandt ever since the legendary Texas troubadour’s death in 1997. Peers from Townes’ generation such as Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Mickey White and Richard Dobson teamed with younger artists including Graham Weber, Betty Soo and Jaimee Harris to keep such classic songs as “If I Needed You” and “Tecumseh Valley.” — P.B.
March 25: Greyhounds and Emily Gimble at C-Boy’s. A double bill featuring two of the city’s best singers in the Greyhounds’ Anthony Farrell and former Asleep at the Wheel pianist Emily Gimble, this show even drew in soul star Leon Bridges, who was spotted in the C-Boy’s crowd after his private PGA tournament-related show earlier in the evening. — P.B.
Also: Austin City Limits tapings by Robert Plant and Iggy Pop; local band Explosions in the Sky at the Paramount; Patty Griffin, Sara Watkins & Anais Mitchell at Bass Concert Hall; Mavis Staples and Nick Lowe at the Paramount; Paul Ray tribute at Antone’s.
BEST NEW ALBUMS
Jeff Plankenhorn, “SoulSlide.” An in-demand sideman with a rich, resonant singing voice, Plankenhorn steps out with a dozen tracks of rootsy material, mostly his own compositions. Guest-vocalist ringers Malford Milligan and Ruthie Foster turn up on a couple of tracks, but the spotlight stays on Plankenhorn’s own intuition for a good soul groove. — P.B.
Here’s the song “Trouble Find Me”:
Holy Wave, “Freaks of Nurture.” Opening track “She Put a Seed in My Ear” begins with a guitar riff that recalls the desert blues of Malian acts like Tinariwen, then opens into a surprisingly buoyant, expansive ramble. The wanderings continue through an album that unwinds like a Texas summer, heavy with hazy vibes to temper the emotional heat. — D.S.S.
CAKE, “CAKE.” Technically, this compilation was part of Austin’s end of February album blitz, but it didn’t hit our desks til the beginning of March. Rapper Anya, the best undersung emcee in the city, organized this collective of female hip-hop, R&B and reggae artists to create a fully realized platter loaded with powerful verses, catchy hooks and a through-line of raw emotional integrity driven by a mission to empower young women. — D.S.S.
BEST NEW SONGS
Migrant Kids, “Thread.” The video actually debuted in late February, but the EP that it’s on won’t be out till May. Whatever the timeline, we dig this track by the trio that draws ’80s new wave influences into its modern indie rock. — P.B.
Tameca Jones, “Head Over Heels.” Before the city was swept up in festival fury, local soul maven Jones, dropped this smoldering heart breaker. The song captures the universally relatable, desperate sensation of futilely fanning the flames of a dying love. — D.S.S.
Are you an Austin artist with new music we should hear and/or videos we should see? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.