From Roky Erickson to Morris Day: Hot haunts for Halloween music

Roky Erickson at Music Under the Star at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on Friday, July 11, 2014. 7/11/2014 Martin do Nascimento/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Roky Erickson at Music Under the Star at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on Friday, July 11, 2014. Martin do Nascimento/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

FRIDAY: Spooky Hoot benefit for George Reiff at the Parish. Since word got out a few months ago that the local bassist and producer had been diagnosed with cancer, friends and well-wishers have contributed more than $125,000 to a crowdfunding effort. Many local clubs have held benefit shows as well, and this latest Halloween-themed version at the Parish features an amazing lineuep that includes the Robert Earl Keen Band, Kelly Willis, Fastball, Shinyribs, Carolyn Wonderland, Monte Warden, Carson McHone, Lincoln Durham, James McMurtry, Joe King Carrasco and Moonlight Towers. Shinyribs’ Kevin Russell tells us there’ll be a special bassists’ salute with all of the low-enders in the house teaming up to play Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom.” $20. 8 p.m. 214 E. Sixth St. — P.B.

FRIDAY: The Pharcyde’s “Bizarre Ride” ATX Halloween at Antone’s. The West Coast pranksters who produced some of the best comedic story raps of the early ’90s headline this hip-hop Halloween throwdown. They’re supported by an undercard loaded with Austin’s top rhymeslingers, Riders Against the Storm, Phranchyze, Zeale and Clemits. $25-$30. 10 p.m. 305 E. Fifth St. — D.S.S.

» RELATED: Brown Sabbath is back for Halloween

SATURDAY: Roky Erickson’s “Celebration of a Family Curse” at Wolfshield Ranch. This third annual event is a family affair, with spooky Roky and his Hounds of Baskerville band as the main attraction. Other performers include Jesse Vain & the Happy Hour Holiness Movement, Dark Palaces, Tennessee Stiffs and Royal Velvetee, plus DJs Fontana and Scissorhans. There are costume contests for both kids and adults, along with other children’s entertainment such as a pumpkin patch, bobbing for apples and trick-or-treating. $25-$30 (ages 13 and under free). 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. 7300 Cooper Lane. — P.B.

SATURDAY: Zombie Ball with Morris Day & the Time at ACL Live. Appropriately enough, proper attire for this year’s undead spectacular will include ruffled blouses and amply sequined smoking jackets as the Purple One’s old cohorts Morris Day and crew headline. Houston’s typhoon of Gulf Coast soul, the Suffers, open. $40.50-$50.50. 8 p.m. 310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd. — D.S.S.

MONDAY: 101X “Homegrown Live” Halloween Ball at Barracuda. The rock station’s recurring series featuring local acts gets into the holiday spirit by presenting the macabre indie-rockers Tele Novella in an event that also serves as a record-release party for the group’s acclaimed new album “House of Souls.” Also playing are Big Bill, Deep Time and Pollen Rx. Plus, this one is actually on Halloween night! $8. 9 p.m. doors. 611 E. Seventh St. — P.B.

» RELATED: More Halloween events in our calendar

SOS Fest releases schedule, ‘Late Knight’ programming

Phantogram performs during the Third day of ACL at the Miller Lite stage on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AUSTIN AMERICAN- STATESMAN
Phantogram performs during the Third day of ACL at the Miller Lite stage on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AUSTIN AMERICAN- STATESMAN

The inaugural Sound on Sound Fest is set to go down November 4-6 at Sherwood Forest Faire with Phantogram, Explosions in the Sky, Beach House and Run the Jewels headlining. Today the festival released daily schedules and also announced special “Late Knight” programming both at the campground and in town with indoor shows at the Mohawk, Barracuda and Sidewinder


The late night campground activities include a lot of comedy and DJ sets as well as special late night sets from SOS artists, Hinds on Friday, Bully on Saturday and a special guest TBA on Sunday. The details on the downtown shows are much more mysterious.  There are three club shows slotted for Friday night with all the headliners slotted as special guests, plus Saturday and Sunday shows at the Mohawk featuring more special guests. Entry to all SOS Fest ‘Late Knights’ activities, including the kickoff show next Thursday, is included with your festival pass.

Here’s the SOS Fest ‘Late Knight’ schedule in town and at the campground:


FRIDAY NIGHT, NOVEMBER 4: 12:30 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.: Disco Dungeon: Outdoor Dance Club with DJ sets from Applied Pressure and The Range, 12:40 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.: SOS Knights Comedy Club with Todd Barry, Johnny Pemberton, Sandbox with Rob Gagnon, 2:00 a.m. – 2:40 a.m.: Hinds (late knights performance)

SATURDAY NIGHT, NOVEMBER 5: 12:30 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.: Disco Dungeon: Outdoor Dance Club with DJ sets from Pleasure Escape and Jono Ma (Jagwar Ma DJ set), 12:40 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.: SOS Knights Comedy Club with Tim Heidecker, Joe Mande, Yusef Roach, Allie Amrien, and Vanessa Gonzalez, with Danny Goodwin and Andrew Clarkston hosting, 2 a.m. to 2:40 a.m.: Bully (late knights performance)

SUNDAY NIGHT, NOVEMBER 6: 12:30 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.: Disco Dungeon: Outdoor Dance Club with DJ sets from Learning Secrets and Baio (of Vampire Weekend), 12:40 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.: SOS Knights Comedy Club with Ever Mainard, Avery Moore, Pat Dean, and Maggie Maye, with Sam Harter hosting, 2:00 a.m. – 2:40 a.m.: TBA

Downtown Austin


MOHAWK LATE KNIGHT: 11:00 – 11:45 p.m.: Brandon Can’t Dance, 12:00 – 12:45 a.m.: Lvl Up, 1:00 – 1:45 a.m.: Special Guest

BARRACUDA LATE KNIGHT: 10:00 – 10:30 p.m.: Razorbumps, 10:45 – 11:15 p.m.: Krimewatch, 11:30 – 12:00 a.m.: Big Bite, 12:15 – 12:45 a.m.: Angel Du$t, 1:00 – 1:30 a.m.: Special Guest

SIDEWINDER LATE KNIGHT: 12:15 – 12:45 a.m.: Boudain, 1:00 — 1:30 a.m.: Special Guest


MOHAWK LATE KNIGHT: 12:00 – 12:45 a.m.: The Gotobeds, 1:00 – 1:45 a.m.: Special Guest, 2:00 – 2:45 a.m.: Special Guest 


MOHAWK LATE KNIGHT: 12:00 – 12:45 a.m.: TBD, 1:00 – 1:45 a.m.: Special Guest

UPDATE: This blog has been updated to reflect a Sunday late night lineup change.

Did Usher and the Roots turn it up at F1? Yeah!

Usher and The Roots perform during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Usher and The Roots perform during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Erika Rich for American-Statesman

By Kayleigh Hughes, special to the American-Statesman

In a last minute substitution after the Weeknd’s cancellation, Usher and the Roots proved they can be counted on, putting on a stellar, energetic Sunday night set at Circuit of the Americas. The Formula One closing show felt less like a highly choreographed event designed to be flawless and more like the results of over a dozen performers whose level of experience and comfort with their craft beget natural, precision and top-caliber musicianship.

The atmosphere throughout was casual and relaxed. After all, at the end of the three-day event, the races had been won, Taylor Swift had brought the mega-star power the previous night, and everyone was in the mood to loosen up and enjoy themselves one last time before the weekend was over.


The Roots are a surefire hit in the wide-open environment of the Circuit of the Americas Super Stage. The band members, wearing coordinated all-black outfits, strolled onto the stage close to 7 p.m. and immediately made the venue their home, bursting right into a jazzy, celebratory medley of hits and classics, including a playful rendition of “Jungle Boogie.” Lead MC Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, though not the vocalist most in the crowd showed up to see, is a star performer in his own right, and he and the band got the tentative, mellow crowd worked up before the man himself, Usher, strolled onstage and owned it in a white button-down shirt.

Usher and The Roots perform during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Usher and The Roots perform during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Perhaps considered an “elder statesman” of the R&B and hip-hop world, Usher proved Sunday that he’s a performer who can’t help but be great. The R&B artist is closing in on a career defined by two decades of sensual club hits and full-on radio bangers, and he can make the most stripped-down set look and sound good. But with the energy and skill of the Roots behind him, he put on a show that was able to pull in elements from rock, jazz, soul, hip-hop and even electronica, bringing a joyful, sultry attitude — he was all flirtatious grins and naughty eye contact — to a band that was already having a ball.

Usher danced almost constantly during the show, sliding and strutting up and down the stage through a collection of hits from his entire career, including a warmly received dip into the late-’90s with “U Make Me Wanna …” and “Nice & Slow.” The artist, impossibly smooth at all times, dictated the vibe of each moment with the way in which he inhabited his body, just as much an instrument for him as his voice.

The Roots lent a crackling energy to Usher’s most booming radio hits, such as “U Remind Me,” “Yeah!”— during which he strolled out into the audience — and “OMG,” as well as newer song “Missin U,” which somehow makes a trap-inspired sound out of a Steely Dan sample. During his most slow-burning, seductive songs, such as “U Don’t Have to Call” and the devastating and brilliant “Let It Burn,” the band pulled back, allowing Usher’s emotive voice, still in beautiful form, do the work.


The whole experience was of watching a group of iconic, experienced performers with natural chemistry having a blast: Usher and Black Thought traded verses together, and at one point the Roots’ percussionist Frank Knuckles (who wore a shirt that read “All lives can’t matter until black lives matter”) bounded away from his drum kit and ran in gleeful circles with Usher’s trio of backing vocalists. There were also a number of “jam band” moments, such as when the Roots’ guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas brutalized his guitar in a glorious solo and their touring DJ Jeremy Ellis somehow used glowing white buttons to shred on a sample of “Freeze Frame.”

Still, Usher was the main event, with many in the crowd grasping the air and singing along to every word. He is effortlessly personable and soulful, and his joy kept the night moving (and sometimes thrusting) along. When he left the stage — seemingly to end the show — without playing “Climax,” it was all just a well-done tease for the audience members who were desperately waiting for that final song. The man delivered, and after “Climax” reached its climax, the audience left the venue satisfied and perhaps, as one starry-eyed fan noted, “so pregnant right now.”

Brown Sabbath is back with a new collection for Halloween


With blistering horn blasts, searing guitar licks, and an onslaught of polyrhythmic percussion, Brown Sabbath, the Black Sabbath tribute project from border funk outfit, Brownout was a surprise sensation that took the country by storm in 2014. Now, by popular demand, the nine-piece is back with a second collection of Sabbath covers, “Brown Sabbath, vol. 2” due out on Friday. They celebrate the release on Saturday, Oct. 29 with a party at the Scoot Inn.

» RELATED: The face-melting metal fusion of Brown Sabbath

“We’ve been touring for the last two years on and off and we’ve gotten such a great response,” guitarist Beto Martinez said about the band’s decision to take a second dip in the dark well of Sabbath songs.

The positive reaction to Brownout’s revisionist metal extended beyond the mid-sized clubs they packed touring the first collection of covers. As Brown Sabbath-mania spread across the country, a friend of the band passed along an audio clip of Sabbath lead Ozzy Osbourne and his wife Sharon raving about  “some Mexican guy who sounds just like (Ozzy)” on Sirius XM. Martinez called it “a huge validation” for the project.

To flesh out their live show for the tour, the band worked up a series of covers that weren’t on the original album. So when management, fans and their label began clamoring for more Brown Sabbath, they were ready.

While the first Brown Sabbath album focused primarily on early material, the new eight-song collection digs into the band’s mid-seventies era and includes “some of the more epic Sabbath stuff from ‘Masters of Reality.’” Most of the songs clock in around the seven-minute mark.

» RELATED: More Halloween events in our calendar

Sabbath songs are structurally complex and the additional instrumentation requires detailed arrangements, but don’t worry, heads will still bang. Hard.

“Since the beginning of this we’ve always been wary that we’re gonna go out there and potentially bring out these metal guys who are coming out just because they see Sabbath and maybe they would never in their lives be caught listening to a band with horns and percussion…, so we go out there and give it our all, and you know really try to maintain the heaviness of the whole thing,” Martinez said.

In their early shows, they’d often see the crowd begin the night segregated, with Brownout fans up front and “then you’d see the guys in the back with their arms crossed in the metal shirts looking kind of pissed, like, ‘What’s this?’” Martinez said.

But even the hardest of metalheads tended to come around.

“By the end of the show, they were in the front singing along, head-banging throwing up the horns.”

This week’s music picks: Forecast calls for Celtic Thunder, followed by six nights of Heat

Monday: Celtic Thunder at ACL Live. The players change with some regularity, but the mission of this Irish collective always remains the same — presenting the traditional music and culture of its home country with lively and dramatic flair. The current tour centers on the two-volume “Legacy” series of CD and DVD releases. $49-$72. 8 p.m. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. — P.B.

Monday: Clifford Antone Foundation benefit with Buddy Guy at Antone’s. A late add after Guy’s performance last week at ACL Live, this show is exclusive to members of the Foundation, a nonprofit “dedicated to preserving our music culture and community by caring for our elders and investing in our youth,” per the Foundation’s website (details on signing up are available there). Annual dues are $1,000 but come with benefits such as this rare chance to see a Grammy-winning living legend inside the city’s home of the blues. 7 p.m. 305 E. Fifth St. — P.B.

Tuesday through Sunday: Reverend Horton Heat two-night stand at Continental Club. The Continental has been known to give solid-drawing road acts extended residencies, most notably Southern Culture on the Skids during the city’s annual hot rod roundup. But six full nights of long-running Dallas rockabilly revivalist Reverend Horton Heat might set a new bar for South Congress’ most historic and vital music destination. Each show includes a special guest: Jello Biafra on the first two nights, El Vez on the next two, and Deke Dickerson on the last two. $35. 11:30 p.m. 1315 S. Congress Ave. — P.B.

Thursday: Jayhawks, Folk Uke at Scoot Inn. Trends in musical styles and formats have come and gone over the Jayhawks’ three-decade run, and Gary Louris and his bandmates have kept churning out memorable records of rootsy pop music through it all, including this year’s “Paging Mr. Proust.” Opening is Austin duo Folk Uke, whose joyously catchy but not-fit-for-family-newspapers tune from their new EP won them new fans when it was featured on Netflix’s show “Orange is the New Black.” $20. 6 p.m. doors. 1308 E. Fourth St. — P.B.



  • Dance Gavin Dance at the Mohawk
James McMurtry (Photo by Jay Janner)
James McMurtry takes part in Tuesday’s Waterloo Records in-store celebrating the new Adam Carroll tribute CD. Jay Janner/American-Statesman 2012


  • Adam Carroll tribute CD release at Waterloo Records with James McMurtry, Gordy Quist (from Band of Heathens), Jamie Lin Wilson, Noel McKay & Brennen Leigh
  • Elle King, Paul Cauthen at Stubb’s outdoor
  • Aida Cuevas and Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles at Long Center
  • Kikagaku Moyo at Hotel Vegas


  • Epistrophy Arts presents Nohband at North Door
  • Third annual Goblin-A-Go-Go with Basketball Shorts at Mohawk indoor
  • Warren Hood at ABGB
  • Nakia & the Blues Grifters at C-Boy’s


  • Nina Diaz (of Girl in a Coma) record release at 3Ten
  • Blue Healer record release, Ballroom Thieves at Parish
  • The Well in-store at Waterloo Records
  • Jack Ingram and Texas Heritage Songwriters Association finalists at Saxon Pub
  • Clifford Antone’s birthday with Jimmy D. Lane (Jimmy Rogers’ son) and guests at Antone’s
  • Sip Sip closes “Siptober” residency at Empire
  • El Ten Eleven and Bayonne at Mohawk
  • Rebelution at Stubb’s

MORE MUSIC: Monday-Thursday events

‘Sparks Fly’ at Taylor Swift’s only 2016 concert at Formula One Austin

Taylor Swift performs her only full concert of 2016 during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin on Oct. 22, 2016. (Suzanne Cordeiro/For American-Statesman)
Taylor Swift performs her only full concert of 2016 during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin on Oct. 22, 2016. (Suzanne Cordeiro/For American-Statesman)

In a tightly packed 80-minute set that covered all the current hits and a host of back catalog faves, pop sensation Taylor Swift did not debut any new material as fans speculated she might at her Saturday night Formula One closing performance. But with fantastic vocal chops, perfectly choreographed stage routines that were artfully crafted to convey a sense of spontaneity and an uncanny knack for transmitting intimacy across a massive crowd, she deftly demonstrated exactly why she’s one of the biggest stars of her generation. This was Swift’s only performance of 2016, her first show since her “1989” tour wrapped last year, and it was ecstatically received.

» PHOTOS: Taylor Swift at Circuit of the Americas

“Oh hi, Austin, Texas… Welcome to F1 weekend,” Swift said, addressing the screaming masses with casual charm after opening with “New Romantics.” Backed by a five piece band and a trio of backup singers, she segued into “22” unleashing the first of several increasingly explosive fireworks displays that would augment her set. Then she dropped a bombastic rendition of “Blank Space” that began with a surprisingly lovely harmonized intro and an enthusiastic audience singalong.

She encouraged the audience to “Let go of anything that’s stressing us, sing at the top of our lungs and scream when we need to scream,” and the crowd happily obliged throughout the show.

Swift said the crowd for the show numbered 80,000 and gazing out across the massive throng that filled the field in the middle of the track, the figure seemed entirely plausible. Unlike past years when the Formula One musical entertainment has been a side attraction to the main event, many fans clearly shelled out for $150 three-day race passes specifically to see Swift. (There were no single-day Saturday general admission tickets sold.) Around 3:30 p.m., as the days’ race activities were beginning to wrap up, distinctively Swiftian crowds, loaded with young girls aplenty, were boarding shuttle buses headed toward the track.

The process of converting the grounds from race track to concert venue took somewhat longer than anticipated, and the gate to enter the lawn in front of the Superstage where Swift performed opened 35 minutes late. The crowd became restless and a demanding chant, “Taylor! Taylor! Taylor!” broke out at the front of the line shortly before the gates opened.

Once the lawn section started to fill out, families who opted to spread blankets in the middle to back section of the lawn fared better than those who attempted to navigate the crush of people in the front section where sight lines and breathing room were both tough to come by.

The stage was flanked by a pair of massive screens with a third screen as the backdrop. Visual effects on the screens were relatively minimal throughout the show. Primarily, they served a practical purpose: to transmit the detailed gestures and expressions Swift uses to conjure the many sides of her character, from sex pot to goofy homegirl-next-door, to the huge crowd.

The secret to Swift’s star power rests in how effectively she draws the audience in, with blown kisses and conspiratorial winks and sincere declarations about exactly how meaningful it is to spend her life “opening her journal and letting you read it.”

At one point, she strapped on an acoustic guitar and dipped into her back catalog, playing songs she said she usually leaves off her setlist including one of her earliest hits “You Belong With Me.” Later she sat at the sparkliest piano in the world for a suite showcasing her raw talent as a musician and songwriter that included passionate renditions of “Sparks Fly” and “Enchanted.”

She mashed up “We Are Never Getting Back Together” and “Bad Blood” in a furious one-two punch that made you shudder for anyone forced to face her withering wrath, but she saved the best message for her haters for the end.

“Do you want to dance?” she asked the audience, before taking the set out with an exhilarating rendition of “Shake It Off” accompanied by an astounding fireworks display that literally lit the night on fire.

There was no surprise album drop, no special guests and no encore, but it didn’t matter. The mood was ebullient as thousands made the long slog across the racetrack to the fleet of shuttles waiting to efficiently ferry them home.

Nicole Villalpando and Kristin Finan contributed to this report. 

Austin360 On The Record: Kevin Fowler, Hickoids, Madeline Jennings


Kevin Fowler, “Coming to a Honky Tonk Near You” (Thirty Tigers). Not quite a full-length album but not quite an EP either, this eight-song collection clocks in at 26 minutes, as Fowler churns through three-minute Texas country twangers given a close polish by producer Trent Willmon. It’s all pretty predictable stuff, which means longtime Fowler fans should love it, even the corny lyrics of “The Bouncer” (“karate moves”?) and the bro-country parody “Sellout Song” (featuring Zane Williams and released earlier this year as a single). Fowler hits a more sentimental note on the ballad “Livin’ Proof” and kicks out a sure-fire boot-scooter on “Honky Tonk Near You.” Playing Dec. 30 at Wild West Cedar Park. Here’s the video for “Texas Forever,” the highlight of a short acoustic Facebook Live set Fowler played in front of the Texas Capitol on Thursday:

hickoidsalbumcoverHickoids, “The Out of Towners” EP (Saustex). The last sessions featuring colorful guitarist Davy Jones, who died of cancer last year, comprise covers of six songs by Texas artists that illustrate the long-running corn-punk outfit’s culture-clash identity. Rambling from Roky Erickson’s “I Have Always Been Here Before” to Willie Nelson’s “Night Life” to the Dicks’ “Dead in a Motel Room,” the Hickoids manage the uneasy feat of making all those disparate influences feel compatible. Doug Sahm’s “At the Crossroads” is an ideal closing statement, given how Sahm’s work remains the greatest testament to the crossbred spirit of Texas music. The inclusion of Rich Minus’ “Cans” is a welcome salute to an oft-forgotten Lone Star legend, and Terry Allen’s “I Just Left Myself Today” seems a fitting final word for the beloved Jones. Here’s their take on the Willie classic:

Madeline Jennings, “Trouble” EP. Five songs that touch on each corner of the Americana singer-songwriter’s foundation, from twangy folk (“Mary”) to swinging blues (“Long Gone Blues”) to rowdy country (“Green Eyes”) to different shades of rock (the bookending tracks “Crows” and “Trouble”). Release show Oct. 21 at Grizzly Hall. Here’s “Green Eyes”:


OCT. 28: Brownout, “Brown Sabbath, Vol. 2,” release show Oct. 29 at Scoot Inn, in-store Nov. 1 at Waterloo Records.

OCT. 28: Rick Broussard’s Two Hoots & a Holler, “Time Has Shown Me,” release show Oct. 29 at ABGB.

OCT. 28: Croy & the Boys, “Hey Come Back,” release show Oct. 29 at Hotel Vegas.

OCT. 28: Major Major Major, “PG-13 Movie” (Punctum), release show Oct. 28 at Cheer Up Charlie’s.

OCT. 28: Bonnie Whitmore, “(Expletive) With Sad Girls,” playing Nov. 10 at One-2-One Bar.

OCT. 28: “Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll” (Eight 30). In-store Oct. 26 at Waterloo Records with James McMurtry, Gordy Quist (from Band of Heathens), Jamie Lin Wilson, Noel McKay & Brennen Leigh.

NOV. 4: Bright Light Social Hour & Israel Nash, “Neighbors” EP.

NOV. 6: Gary Frank Taylor, “Man Sitting in Chair Playing Guitar,” release show Nov. 6 at Hyde Park Theatre.

NOV. 18: KP & the Boom Boom, “The Brave.”

NOV. 18: Churchwood, “Hex City.”

NOVEMBER: Jonathan Terrell, “Color Me Lucky” EP.

DEC. 6: David Halley, “A Month of Somedays.”

JAN. 20, 2017: Matthew Squires, “Tambaleo.”

Gone Country: 13 spooky songs to get you ready for Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner, and whether you’re just handing out candy at home or you’re headed to a spooky party of your own, it’s nice to have a soundtrack to the evening.

Photo from Flickr user Peter Kelly. Shared with Creative Commons License.
Photo from Flickr user Peter Kelly. Shared with Creative Commons License.

Country music has a long tradition of creepy tunes, so the genre lends itself easily to All Hallow’s Eve. Ghosts, ghouls and redneck urban legends abound.

If the supernatural isn’t your thing and you prefer a more human scare, there’s myriad songs about lovers killing cheaters, men killing children and songs with thinly veiled threats of murder. If you thought some rap music was bad, you clearly haven’t heard “Delia’s Gone.”

On that note, I’ve put together a playlist of 13 creepy country music songs, just in time for Halloween. The following list goes in order from harmless to straight-up sinister. Read the descriptions, and then check out the playlist at the bottom.

1. Midnight in Montgomery — Alan Jackson

It’s become country tradition to write about the ghost of Hank Williams. Here, Jackson sings about feeling the cold presence of the father of modern country while on a stop in Montgomery, Ala., where Williams was buried after his death. Another song that isn’t as creepy, due to the instrumentation, is David Allan Coe’s “The Ride,” about a hitchhiker who gets picked up by Williams’ ghost while traveling through Montgomery.

2. Phantom 309 — Red Sovine

Another ghost story, this time about a man who has a run-in with the selfless ghost of a truck driver out on the West Coast. When he gets out of the car and stops for coffee, the ghost drives off, and the man relates his story to the townspeople, who have seen the ghost before.

3. “(It’s A) Monster’s Holiday” — Buck Owens

The country version of “Monster Mash,” from one of the genre’s best humorists. Maybe the only country song to mention Frankenstein and the Wolf Man.

4. “Better Dig Two” — The Band Perry

Sticking with their early-career motif of songs about death, this song finds The Band Perry frontwoman Kimberly Perry promising her lover that the grave digger “better dig two” if said lover ever leaves her. It’s catchy, but it’s creepy.

5. “You Are My Sunshine” — Morgane Stapleton with Chris Stapleton

Most people only know the first verse to this rhyme. The full song gets morbid, and Morgane’s vocals highlight the gravity in each line. It’s also amazing to hear live, too.

6. “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” — Charlie Daniels Band

Everyone knows “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” but this guitar-driven fright fest about a hillbilly Ebeneezer Scrooge who kills three “white trash” kids who tried to steal his money, is the CDB’s scariest song.

7. “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” — Johnny Cash

Cash could have had a lot more entries on this list. “Delia’s Gone,” “25 Minutes to Go,” “When the Man Comes Around” and “Ain’t No Grave” are plenty haunting in their own right. But “Riders” is the most outlandish, complete with cows from Hell.

8. “Dig, Gravedigger, Dig” — Corb Lund

Canada’s favorite Hurtin’ Albertan examines the spooky side of the gravedigger life. Watch out for the full moon.

9. “Marie Laveau” — Bobby Bare

Another urban legend a la “Wooley Swamp,” this voodoo-themed Louisiana romp was co-written by Shel Silverstein.

10. “Far From Any Road” — The Handsome Family

This one is most famous for being the theme song for the first (and best) season of “True Detective.” It’s easy to see why HBO picked this for the show’s Southern Gothic-by-way-of-Lovecraft mood: “When the last light warms the rocks and the rattlesnakes unfold/Mountain cats will come to drag away your bones/And rise with me forever across the silent sand/And the stars will be your eyes and the wind will be my hands” just gives you the creeps, right?

11. “Knoxville Girl” — The Louvin Brothers

Gather ’round, everyone, and listen to this playful ditty about killing your girlfriend and throwing her into the Tennessee River. Not appealing? Well, with how happy this song sounds, it almost disguises the fact that it’s about a sinister murder.

12. “Psycho” — Eddie Noack

In the same vein as “Knoxville Girl,” except this one’s got mass murder, plus a puppy death. It would win the award for most sinister, if it weren’t for…

13. “Dueling Banjos”

Anyone who’s seen “Deliverance” knows why this is the epitome of country fright.

Check out the playlist below, and let me know if I missed anything in the comments.

Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. For info about album releases and concerts, check out this week’s Country Music Roundup.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at

Two Austin musicians killed in car crash on tour

Chris Porter at SXSW 2015. Sharon Alagna/
Chris Porter at SXSW 2015. Sharon Alagna/

A highway crash in North Carolina took the lives of Austin musicians Chris Porter and Mitchell Vandenburg on Wednesday afternoon, the state’s highway patrol office confirmed Thursday.

A third musician, drummer Adam Nurre, was injured but survived. The crash happened around 2 p.m. Wednesday on Interstate 95 near Smithfield, N.C., just southeast of Raleigh. Trooper Vincent Rivera said that the band’s traveling vehicle was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer and pushed underneath another truck in front of them.

The trio, touring under the name Porter & the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, had played on Tuesday night in Charleston, S.C., and was heading for a Thursday show in Baltimore.

Porter, 34, moved to Austin from his home state of Alabama in 2012 after playing in the Birmingham bands Some Dark Holler and Back Row Baptists. Since relocating, he’d released two albums recorded at Ramble Creek Studios in southwest Austin, working with noted musicians including Centro-Matic leader Will Johnson, former Drive-By Truckers bassist Shonna Tucker and Americana duo the Mastersons.

Austin rocker Jon Dee Graham, who played guitar and did the cover art for one of Porter’s albums, was planning to tour with him in December. “I called him Youngblood,” he said Thursday. “I’m heartbroken.”

Porter moved to Austin for a relationship with bassist/singer-songwriter Bonnie Whitmore, who he’d met at South by Southwest. Though they split up a year and a half ago, Whitmore remembered Porter fondly on Thursday.

“He was a very funny guy, and he was genuinely kind,” she said. “He was the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back.”

Bassist Mitchell Vandenburg, left, played with Carson McHone at ACL Live last year. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman 2015
Bassist Mitchell Vandenburg, left, played with Carson McHone at ACL Live last year. Drummer Adam Nurre, also pictured here, survived Wednesday’s crash. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman 2015

Vandenburg, who played bass and also wrote songs, had been a mainstay recently in singer-songwriter Carson McHone’s band, along with Nurre. He’d also played with Starlings TN, a long-running indie-Americana group that had started in Tennessee before relocating to Austin. The group split up last year, but on Thursday, they paid tribute to him on their Facebook page.

“He was one of the most musical cats we’ve ever known and one of the most amazing people to be around, period. As a band, we grew and expanded our horizons exponentially because of Mitch. He made us all better. I expect that is the case with every one he came in contact with.”

Sound on Sound updates: Mac DeMarco is out, Big Freedia and Deerhunter are in

(Eric Webb/American-Statesman)
Big Freedia has been added to the SOS Fest bill. (Eric Webb/American-Statesman)


Sound on Sound Fest announced a couple of lineup changes this morning: singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco has dropped off the bill because of “a family health issue,” per the fest’s press release, while bounce-queen Big Freedia and indie-rockers Deerhunter have been added.

DeMarco’s departure follows Charles Bradley’s cancellation of an entire tour, including his SOS Fest booking, earlier this month after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Organizers also noted that gates will open each day at 1 p.m., with music beginning at 1:30 p.m. The final acts are set to conclude at 1 a.m., with campers-only sets continuing until 3 a.m. The full schedule for the fest, which makes its debut Oct. 4-6 at Sherwood Forest in McDade about 40 miles east of Austin, has yet to be announced, but the complete day-by-day lineups are available on the SOS website.
Shuttle information also is still to come, but SOS Fest announced that from Oct. 28 to Nov. 2, a will call and box office station will begin operating from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Volcom Garden, 1209 E. Sixth St., with entertainment planned each night. Will call will move to the Mohawk for Nov. 3-4. “The festival encourages all festival goers to pick up their pass early so to avoid any lines at the festival gates,” Wednesday’s press release states.