Robert Plant brings “Southern Journey” tour to ACL Live March 20

Robert Plant. 2012 photo by Ashley Landis for American-Statesman
Robert Plant. 2012 photo by Ashley Landis for American-Statesman

Robert Plant brings his Sensational Space Shifters band to Texas in March as part of an 11-date tour titled “Blues…Roots and Hollers (A Southern Journey)” that will include four Texas dates, culminating with a March 20 show at ACL Live.

Legendary Northwest garage-rockers the Sonics will open all of the shows. Tickets, $51-$86, go on sale Jan. 15 at 10 a.m. via

March 20 is the final Sunday of South by Southwest, which suggests the possibility of a Plant appearance at SXSW this year. His other Texas dates are Tuesday, March 15, in Dallas; Thursday, March 17, in San Antonio; and Friday, March 18, in Midland. An SXSW representative said Monday that there was “nothing to report” regarding Plant and SXSW at this time.

In a press release, Plant said: “I’m always eager to return to the hospitality of the Southern states. Towns and cities that hold fond memories for me personally, places that gave birth to so much of the music I love. Our recent travels have taken this wild whirlwind of a band though many incredible and inspiring places. Having just begun work on our new album, we thought we’d take time out to raise a little sand and welcome springtime with one more adventure, another celebration of life and song.”

Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban and more aboard for iHeart Country Fest April 30 at Erwin Center

Florida Georgia Line. 2015 photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Florida Georgia Line. 2015 photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Austin will once again play host to the iHeart Country Festival, with acts including Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, the Zac Brown Band and Florida Georgia Line set to play the third annual one-night extravaganza April 30 at the Erwin Center.

Presented by radio conglomerate iHeartMedia, the marathon event generally runs at least four hours, with acts generally playing three to five songs each. Also on the bill this year are Brett Eldredge, Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell, Lee Brice and Chris Young, with more to be added.

Tickets go on sale Jan. 15 at 10 a.m. via or by phone at 512-477-6060; prices have not yet been announced.

The previous iHeartCountry shows at the Erwin Center featured a 2015 lineup that included Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town and more, and a 2014 inaugural bill with Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum and others.

“We created our first Country festival with the goal of giving iHeartMedia’s millions of Country listeners an extraordinary night of music,” Tom Poleman, President of the iHeartMedia National Programming Group, said in a press release. “The iHeartCountry brand is extremely important to iHeartMedia and we couldn’t be more excited about its growth and success.”


Monday’s music picks: Darkbird, Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Jimmie Dale Gilmore performs during the SIMS Foundation's 20th Anniversary Star Party at KLRU Studios on December 5, 2015. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore plays Mystery Monday at El Mercado Backstage. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Darkbird at Hotel Vegas. Kelly Barnes’ vocals bleed with urgency and raw emotion, occasionally restrained, but more often unleashed with formidable fury on “I Remember Feeling My Fingers Flip,” the solid debut EP from the indie rock five-piece that dropped late last year. The band is coming off a big run of Free Week shows and we expect to hear much more from them in the coming year. A. Sinclair, Obscured by Echoes, Dreamboat and Kississippi also perform. $3. 9 p.m. 1502 E. Sixth St. — D.S.S.

Also: Joining regular hosts Christine Albert and Bill Kirchen for Mystery Monday at El Mercado Backstage is country-folk singer Jimmie Dale Gilmore. … The new Antone’s gets the blues with the Moeller Brothers. … Cheer Up Charlie’s welcomes indie band Ghost Wolves plus Nilo Bronco, Ex-Legionnaires and New China.

Dave Rawlings Machine lights up Paramount with nearly 3 hours of acoustic bliss

The Dave Rawlings Machine takes a bow at the end of their Paramount Theatre show, Jan. 9, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock
The Dave Rawlings Machine takes a bow at the end of their Paramount Theatre show, Jan. 9, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock

For David Rawlings and Gillian Welch, obviously some difference of concept or approach informs their decision as to whether any given album or tour will be billed under her name or his. But for their fans, any delineations ultimately evaporate. The crowd comes for exactly the same reason — to hear the couple deliver some of the finest Americana music ever made.

They’ve gone back and forth with the names lately. The new Dave Rawlings Machine album “Nashville Obsolete” follows 2009’s “A Friend of a Friend,” with four prior Welch albums and one in between. But in 20 years of watching them perform, I’ve never once seen Welch onstage without Rawlings, or vice versa, even for a single song.

One thing that does differentiate Dave Rawlings Machine performances is that while Welch-billed shows almost always are just the duo with no backing, the Machine allows other players into the mix. Saturday night at the Paramount Theatre, they brought aboard guitarist/banjo player Willie Watson (formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show), bassist Paul Kowert and fiddler Tatiana Silver Hargreaves.

Though Rawlings and Welch anchored the stage together front-and-center, Rawlings’ featured role meant more diversions down fascinatingly long and winding song paths. “Nashville Obsolete” features new tunes that run 11 and eight minutes – “The Trip” and “Pilgrim (You Can’t Go Home),” respectively – and both were featured in a first set that also included three songs from “A Friend of a Friend.″

A second-set high point was the melding of “I Hear Them All,” a song Rawlings and Old Crow leader Ketch Secor wrote together, onto Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land is Your Land.” Paired up, the two tunes came across like one united and timeless populist anthem.

Rawlings returned to that combo approach in the first encore, weaving Bright Eyes leader Conor Oberst’s “Method Acting” into Neil Young’s epic “Cortez the Killer” for another 10-minutes-plus journey of acoustic epiphany. It recalled nothing so much as the epic suites favored by Austin’s Alejandro Escovedo, who ironically was weaving similar spells with the songs of Leonard Cohen across downtown at ACL Live as the Rawlings Machine performed.

In the end, what left the most lasting impression is just how good Rawlings is as a bandleader. While he couldn’t help but shine in his customary support role with revelatory solos when Watson and Welch took lead vocal turns, he beamed proudly when Watson and Kowert sang out with illuminating emotion on verses of The Band’s “The Weight.” And as he brought everyone together around a single microphone for the a cappella closer “Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby” (made famous by Welch, Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss on the “O Brother” soundtrack), it was as if to say, hey, this isn’t about me. Welcome to the Machine.


  1. The Weekend
  2. Bodysnatchers
  3. Pilgrim (You Can’t Go Home)
  4. Wayside/Back in Time – Welch lead vocals
  5. To Be Young
  6. Keep It Clean – Watson lead vocals
  7. Bells of Harlem
  8. The Trip
  9. It’s Too Easy


  1. Ruby
  2. The Last Pharaoh
  3. He Will Set Your Fields on Fire
  4. Sweet Tooth
  5. I Hear Them All / This Land Is Your Land
  6. Stewball – Watson lead vocals
  7. Short Haired Woman Blues
  8. Queen Jane Approximately


  1. Look at Miss Ohio – Welch lead vocals
  2. Method Acting / Cortez the Killer


  1. Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
  2. The Weight
  3. Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby

Alejandro Escovedo brings the spirit of Leonard Cohen to ACL Live

Alejandro Escovedo Experience: The Leonard Cohen Influence at ACL Live on January 9, 2016.  Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Alejandro Escovedo’s “A Thousand Kisses Deep: The Leonard Cohen Influence” at ACL Live on January 9, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

By Don McLeese
Special to the Austin American-Statesman

Wherever he was, Leonard Cohen’s ears must have been burning with pleasure Saturday night as Alejandro Escovedo and a stellar, varied supporting cast paid tribute to his influence, and to the spirit of romantic poetry in music, at ACL Live.

The Canadian bard surely would have loved the young girls’ choir, serenading sweetly, “Lover, lover, lover, come back to me,” as saxophonist Elias Haslanger channeled some Sonny Rollins calypso. Cohen might have scratched his head at some of the selection, which favored the obscure over the familiar. And his ears might have been ringing as well, when the relentless guitars of Mitch Watkins (one of many Austin musicians who have toured with Cohen) and Escovedo turned “Avalanche” into a raucous rocker.

Alejandro Escovedo at ACL Live on January 9, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Alejandro Escovedo at ACL Live on January 9, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Opening with the martial subversion of “Democracy,” Escovedo’s fourth annual birthday concert at the Moody (he turned 65 on Sunday) was best approached with an open mind and no expectations. Anyone hoping to hear his interpretive twists on Cohen staples such as “Suzanne,” “Tower of Song” or “Dance Me to the End of Love” might have been disappointed. Instead, the program titled “A Thousand Kisses Deep: The Leonard Cohen Influence” dug deep into the songbooks of both Cohen and Escovedo, illuminating the material of each through juxtaposition with the other.

Perhaps the most effective segue came when Escovedo followed former Cohen vocalist Julie Christensen’s rendition of “Anthem” (“there is a crack in everything/ that’s how the light gets in”) with his own “She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” sounding like saloon-song Sinatra at his darkest.

Julie Christensen and Robert Patrick with Alejandro Escovedo's "Leonard Cohen Experience" cast at ACL Live on January 9, 2016.  Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Julie Christensen and Robert Patrick with Alejandro Escovedo’s “Leonard Cohen Experience” cast at ACL Live on January 9, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Actor Robert Patrick and Christensen turned “Joan of Arc” into a dramatic duet, and he later performed a monologue in which Cohen’s (too) oft-recorded “Hallelujah” briefly offered almost subliminal instrumental backing. With the superb musicianship. lighting, sound and staging providing a safety net, it was an evening that took risks and challenged listeners to make connections, in an experience that won’t likely be repeated.

“What’s happening here in this room tonight is what I love about Austin, Texas,” said a beaming Escovedo. It is also what Austin loves about Alejandro.

Former American-Statesman critic and columnist Don McLeese has been writing about Alejandro Escovedo and Austin music since 1990. He now teaches journalism at the University of Iowa.

Sunday’s music picks: Riverboat Gamblers, Jewel

Riverboat Gamblers play during Red 7's final night on Aug. 29, 2015. Photo by Daniel Cavazos/Courtesy of Transmission Entertainment
Riverboat Gamblers play a free week show at Sidewinder. Photo by Daniel Cavazos/courtesy of Transmission Entertainment

Riverboat Gamblers at Sidewinder (outside). Because it wouldn’t be Free Week without a rowdy, beer-soaked throw down hosted by the Gamblers, Transmission Events tacked this sure-to-be-packed showcase on as an epic closer. Sweet Talk, who’s driving release “Double Perfect” was one of the year’s best garage rock albums, and Austin music lifers Midgetmen round out the bill. Free. Doors at 7 p.m. 715 Red River St. — D.S.S.

More Free Week: Get your fill of no-frills rock ‘n’ roll with Ex Hex and Flesh Lights at the Mohawk outside; The Dan Ryan and Black Balsam play inside. … Empire Control Room hosts a night of electronic music with Sub Culture, Retrograde and Trouble in the Streets.

Also: Platinum-selling singer-songwriter Jewel performs for the 100th anniversary of the Settlement Home at the Long Center. … Roots-rock singer-songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan, an Ohio native who moved to New York and then Nashville and toured as guitarist with Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, brings the tour for his “Telling Stories to the Wall” EP to Strange Brew.

Saturday’s music picks: Dave Rawlings Machine, Alejandro Escovedo

Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch team up in the Dave Rawlings Machine at the Paramount. Photo by Henry Diltz
Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch team up in the Dave Rawlings Machine at the Paramount. Photo by Henry Diltz

Dave Rawlings Machine at Paramount. Few performers have meant more to Americana music in the past 20 years than Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. So when Welch took a long break between records from 2003 to 2011, a 2009 release that put Rawlings’ name front and center was a welcome arrival. A second Dave Rawlings Machine record, “Nashville Obsolete,” came out last fall, and it’s a fascinating journey, with three songs clocking in past six minutes (including the 11-minute epic “The Trip”). Welch rides shotgun both on record and onstage when the Machine rolls into town for what’s likely to be an extensive performance, with no opener scheduled. $33. 8 p.m. 713 Congress Ave. — P.B.

Free Week: The Mohawk outside moves from shoe-gazey pop from Moving Panoramas and Ringo Deathstarr to psychedelic sounds from Christian Bland & the Revelators and the totally tripped out art jazz antics of Golden Dawn Arkestra. Indoors the club features Indian Jewelry and Isaiah the Mosaic. … 101X presents a cross-genre power bill with Marmalakes, Riders Against the Storm, Sour Notes, Ruby Jane, Hello Wheels and more at Empire. … Do512 presents the Watters, Modern Medicine and more at the Scoot Inn. … Ringo Deathstarr slides over to Sidewinder to close out a gig with Boyfrndz, Megafauna, My Education, Residual Kid and Think No Think. … Celebrate the release of Haydn Vitera’s new EP “Tequila Rock” at Stubb’s. … Free For Y’all features electro-dub outfit Holiday Moutain, Americana artist Shinyribs and Aaron Behrens Midnight Stroll at Fair Market. — D.S.S.

Also: The fourth annual Alejandro Escovedo Musical Experience concert at ACL Live focuses on the influence of Leonard Cohen in Escovedo’s work, with Cohen tour veterans Julie Christensen and Mitch Watkins joining in along with saxophonist Elias Haslanger’s jazz quintet. … Elvis Presley would have been 80 this weekend, and the Continental Club is marking the occasion with its 30th annual “Tribute to The King.” Performers include Ted Roddy & the King Conjure Orchestra and Shaun Young & the New Blue Moon Boys. … Dallas soul man Bobby Patterson plays Antone’s with his backing band the Disciples, a nine-piece group that includes Derek O’Brien on guitar. … Townsend co-owner Kathy Valentine celebrates her birthday by playing the bar’s back room with her band the Bluebonnets. … It’s a busy night at Strange Brew, with a 9 p.m. show by English rocker Arthur Brown following a 7 p.m. show with percussionist and singer-songwriter Mike Meadows plus guests including Amy Cook.

Austin360 On The Record: Harvest Thieves, Lew Card


HarvestThievesAlbumCoverHarvest Thieves, “Rival.” From our first Austin360 Artist of the Month feature in today’s American-Statesman: “‘Rival’ heralds Harvest Thieves’ arrival as a contemporary heir to the hard-twang sounds pioneered two decades ago by the likes of the Old 97’s and the Jayhawks. Their sound reflects what can happen when a bunch of small-town Texas country folks immerse themselves in Austin’s vibrant indie music scene.” Read the full story at, and check out our Austin360 live video for the album track “The Least of These” above. Release show tonight (Jan. 8) at Scoot Inn.

Lew Card, “Follow Me Down” (Monomer). The third album from the Austin-via-Tennessee singer-songwriter traverses a broad range of Americana terrain, from the old-timey acoustic folk of the opening “Walkin’ Shoes Blues” from the easygoing ramble of “Do My Own Thing” to the funkier topical tune “Condo Town Rag.” Brass accents from the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns help to broaded Card’s palette beyond his country-folk base. Playing Feb. 11 at Buzz Mill.


JAN. 14: Emily Wolfe, “Atta Blues” single, release show Jan. 14 at Stubb’s.

JAN. 15: Randy Rogers Band, “Nothing Shines Like Neon” (Tommy Jackson/Thirty Tigers), in-store Jan. 18 at Waterloo Records.

JAN. 15: Reed Turner, “Native Tongue” EP, release show Jan. 15 at Stubb’s.

JAN. 16: Matt the Electrician with Little Brave, “Mountains”/“20/20” 7-inch, release show Feb. 5 at North Door.

JAN. 22: Will T. Massey, “The Weathering,” release show Jan. 24 at Strange Brew.

FEB. 19: Carrie Rodriguez + the Sacred Hearts, “Lola” (Luz/Thirty Tigers), release show Feb. 13 at Texas Union Theater.

FEB. 26: Bill Carter, “Innocent Victims & Evil Companions” (Forty Below), playing Jan. 12 at Saxon Pub.

FEB. 26: Kathryn Legendre, “Don’t Give a Damn” EP, release show Feb. 26 at White Horse.

APRIL: Michael Fracasso, “Here Come the Savages.”

EARLY 2016: Calliope Musicals, “Time Owes You Nothing.”

EARLY 2016: A Giant Dog, title TBA (Merge).

EARLY 2016: White Denim, title TBA.

SPRING 2016: Hayes Carll, title TBA.

Are you an Austin-area act with a new record coming out? Let us know at

Friday’s music picks: Matthew Logan Vasquez, Quiet Company

Matthew Logan Vasquez plays a Free Week show at the Mohawk. Photo by Stephen Spillman for American-Statesman
Matthew Logan Vasquez plays a Free Week show at the Mohawk. Photo by Stephen Spillman for American-Statesman

Free Week: Matthew Logan Vasquez at the Mohawk. In 2015, popular indie rock band Delta Spirit took a break and frontman Vasquez returned home to Austin with his wife in time for the birth of their first child. Late in the year he released the “Austin EP,” a poignant collection of slowly unfolding poetic reflections and muscular stabs at psychedelic fuzz. His new full-length is due out later this year. The Nine Mile Records show also features Sweet Spirit, Sounds del Mar, A. Sinclair, Tinnarose, Lowin, Abram Shook, Ben Ballinger and Modrag. Free. 7 p.m. doors. 912 Red River St. —D.S.S.

More Free Week: Austin360 Artist of the Month Harvest Thieves celebrate the release of their new album at Scoot Inn with Leo Rondeau, Star Parks and Greg Loftus. … Popular rockers Quiet Company and Calliope Musicals play Empire. … Darkwave outfit Knifight and electro crew GOBI are outside at Sidewinder while a very promising bill of dreamy electropop featuring Technicolor Hearts, Orthy and Stilleto Feels plays inside. … Flamingo Cantina hosts Barrio Bash VI with Los Callejeros de San Antonio, Kiko Villamizar and Afrofreque. … At Lamberts Shivery Shakes and Sour Notes play variations on indie pop. … Over at the Swan Dive the Blind Pets play with Wildcat Apollo, and the party starts early at Fair Market’s Free For Y’all, which presents Bird Peterson, Body Rock ATX, Toddy B and more in an all-day affair with visuals and performance art that kicks off at noon.

Also: Still soulful well into her 80s, Miss Lavelle White takes her show south to Strange Brew. … In a perfectly mismatched bill, Afropop band Bamako Airlines and Americana artist Carson McHone play ABGB. … This is Austin, Not That Great Fest, a massive punk blowout kicks off three days of night shows at Spider House and day gigs at Hotel Vegas. … The resurrected Antone’s connects to its Muddy Waters roots with Paul Oscher & His All-Star Austin Blues Band.

Willie Nelson, the Mavericks and more to play Rodeo Austin

Willie Nelson performs at his annual Fourth of July Picnic in 2015. (Erika Rich/American-Statesman)
Willie Nelson will open Rodeo Austin March 12. Photo by Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Willie Nelson & Family once again will play the opening night of Rodeo Austin, running March 12-26 at the Travis County Exposition Center.

Rodeo organizers announced about half of this year’s musical performers on Thursday. In addition to Nelson’s March 12 show, they include the Mavericks (March 13), Gary Allan (March 15), the Josh Abbott Band (March 17), Turnpike Troubadours (March 18), Mel Tillis & Pam Tillis (March 20), Smokey Robinson (March 22), Brett Eldredge (March 23) and Kevin Fowler (March 26).

Mainstage performances are in Luedecke Arena, with additional acts (still to be announced) appearing on the secondary KASE/KVET Stage.

Tickets start at $20 and are available beginning Friday, Jan. 8, via or by phone at 512-477-6060.