Oh hey, the South by Southwest Festival and Conference just started. Remember the fest is a marathon and not a sprint. In that spirit we made you a sampler of soulful SXSW artists to ease you into ten days of music, technology and activation madness just right. (Listen on Spotify)
Once a stomping ground for indie rockers, South by Southwest’s profile as a destination festival for urban music has grown over the last decade, benefiting lovers of R&B as well as their hip-hop head friends. Here’s a selection of smooth crooners and searing wailers who reach deep into their souls to make a mark on your heart.
Tinashe. She don’t want “No Drama” but the sultry R&B star’s second album is expected to drop soon and her new singles smoulder with the same blunted sensuality that made her a star. (11 p.m. March 15, Trinity Warehouse)
SXSW UNOFFICIAL PARTY GUIDE: No wristband? No problem.
R.LUM.R. Once a classical guitar-playing singer-songwriter, these days the “Frustrated” artist also known as Reginald Lamar Williams will sweep you off your feet with his dreamy falsetto crooning and woo you with heart-on-sleeve confessionals that delve into the complexity of modern love. (10 p.m. March 15, St. David’s Historic Sanctuary; 9 p.m. March 16, Lustre Pearl)
Mélat. With airy harmonized vocals and a cascade of white-blonde curls, the Austin native (and former Austin360 Artist of the Month) carries an otherworldly mystique. She coaxes the listener into her clouds on “Move Me II: The Present,” her second collaboration album with L.A. producer Jansport J, which dropped last month. It’s a gorgeous collection of rainy day love songs and it might be the thing that elevates the rising local onto the national stage. (noon March 15, Waterloo Records; March 16: 4 p.m. on the Radio Day Stage and 8 p.m. at Empire Garage)
Sudan Archives. Inspired by Sudanese fiddlers, the singer and violinist layers strains of folk melody and plaintive vocals over electro-tribal rhythms to weave entrancing jams that ache with cross-continental longing. (8 p.m. March 12 at Mohawk Indoor; 4 p.m. March 14, Radio Day Stage; 11:30 p.m. March 16 at Empire Garage)
Lee Fields and the Expressions. If you like your soul big and brassy with a funky backbeat, this big band has the vintage sounds you need right now. Fields is a music lifer with a career that’s almost 50 years deep and his sound is made richer by blood, sweat and real world grit. If you’re nursing a Charles Bradley-shaped hole in your heart, this is the place to ease your pain. (10 p.m. March 16, Clive Bar)
Tje Austin. After a moment in the national spotlight as part of Team Cee-Lo on the first season of NBC’s “The Voice,” the Austin artist seemed poised for a breakout, but in the post-show lull he was dealt a devastating cancer diagnosis. He began three years of grueling chemotherapy in 2013. While in treatment he began to record, and in early 2017, finally healthy again, he released “I Belong to You.” The EP is a rich and varied collection that saunters between singer-songwriter earnestness and classic soul bluster, with Austin’s golden voice shining throughout. (1 a.m. March 14, Saxon Pub)
Kelela. On her critically acclaimed 2017 release “Take Me Apart” the 34-year-old singer unwinds her silky voice into a shadowy echo chamber that pulses with lust, love and regret. (9:30 p.m. March 14, the Gatsby)
Tameca Jones. What’s that? You’re over watercolor R&B and singers who run cool? The Queen of Austin soul burns hot, hot, hot. (Midnight March 17, Palm Door on Sixth Patio)
Tomar and the FCs. Speaking of Austin artists can old school soul the pants off anyone out there, don’t sleep on our recent Artist of the Month, Tomar Williams. He doesn’t sing the rafter-rattling shack shakers and heart-searing serenades that fill his catalog: He inhabits them. (9 p.m. March 17, Palm Door on Sixth)
Alesia Lani. Another Austin artist? Oh yeah. Starting to get the impression the Austin R&B and soul scene is on fire right now? It is! (11 p.m. March 13, Empire Control Room; 11:55 p.m. March 16 Karma Lounge)