Best of Austin Music, October 2016: ACL Fest, and the rest


Willie Nelson performs to an adoring crowd at The Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 9, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)
Willie Nelson performs to an adoring crowd at The Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 9, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

As usual, October was dominated by the Austin City Limits Music Festival. The 15th annual event sprawled across Zilker Park for the month’s first two weekends, with headliners Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead and Mumford & Sons helping to draw huge crowds every day. Great weather greeted festgoers all six days, but the final Sunday was something special, as hometown hero Willie Nelson made a rare ACL Fest appearance.


Oct. 12: “Austin City Limits” Hall of Fame Ceremony at ACL Live. It’s not part of the festival, but the seminal TV show’s big annual event was moved this year to a date right after the Fest. Inductions of Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson and B.B. King drew an all-star cast including Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Rodney Crowell, Gary Clark Jr. and Taj Mahal, but it was Bonnie herself who gave the night its most memorable musical moments. — P.B.

Oct. 22: Taylor Swift at Circuit of the Americas. The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, but that didn’t stop Taylor Swift from pulling record crowds at COTA. An estimated 80,000 people attended her performance on the Saturday night of this year’s Formula One event. She packed a good selection of current hits and old faves into a tightly structured set that clocked in at about 80 minutes. The most amazing part?  She somehow managed to make the massive event feel like a intimate party with her closest friends.  — D.S.S.

Also: Margo Price “Austin City Limits” taping, Oct. 3: Big Head Blues Club at the Belmont, Oct. 11; Insane Clown Posse at Empire, Oct. 14; Spooky Hoot benefit for George Reiff, Oct. 28.


Eric Johnson, “EJ.” Long renowned for his electric guitar prowess, Johnson turned toward a much more intimate means of expression on this 13-track mix of vocal and instrumental tunes that spotlight his acoustic guitar and piano playing. — P.B.

Brownout presents “Brown Sabbath, Vol. 2”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 is back for a second go-round. This time the band digs into Sabbath’s mid-’70s era and includes “some of the more epic Sabbath stuff from ‘Masters of Reality.’” — D.S.S.


“January 9” by Nina Diaz. Technically, Nina Diaz is from San Antonio, not Austin, and technically, this song was released as a single this summer. But the Girl in a Coma lead singer’s debut solo album “The Beat is Dead” dropped this month, and the haunting chorus in this real life ghost story, that recounts Diaz’ struggle to become sober after over a decade of drug and alcohol addiction is perfectly suited to the season. — D.S.S.

Croy & the Boys, “Hey Come Back.” We’ll have more in November on this up-and-coming country band, which released its first album over the weekend with a release party at Hotel Vegas. The title track to that record, produced by Adrian Quesada, is like a grand summation of everything they do well: leader Corey Baum’s passionate singing, creatively left-of-center arrangement, and a songwriting structure that throws out the rulebook in favor of simply chasing the emotion at the heart of the matter. — P.B.


Keeper and Applied Pressure perform a live rendition of Keeper’'s upcoming EP “'Corners'” at The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, on Sunday September 18, 2016. Erika Rich For American-Statesman
Keeper and Applied Pressure perform a live rendition of Keeper’’s upcoming EP “’Corners’” at The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, on Sunday September 18, 2016. Erika Rich For American-Statesman

Keeper. Downtempo and brooding, the new release from Austin’s synth soul trio has the ominous atmosphere of a fractured fairy tale. It’s a turbulent dreamscape where imminent heartbreak lurks in the shadows as slow moving chords linger over sparse beats. It’s an emotionally weighty release, a lost innocence tale, a lyrical meditation on separation and letting go. It’s also the strongest work yet from one of the most promising acts on Austin’s blossoming electronic music scene. — D.S.S.






Premiere: Riders Against the Storm ‘Bulletproof’ (inspired by Luke Cage)

We’re still a ways out from the next full-length from Riders Against the Storm, but Jonathan Mahone a.k.a. Chaka Mandla Mhambi Mpeanaji, promises new music is on the way from the ATX hip-hop powerhouse. For now the husband/wife duo is focused on putting out a series of new singles starting with this hard driving fighter’s anthem, “Bulletproof,” inspired by the excellent Netflix series “Luke Cage.”

The story behind the song, as told by Mahone:

Basically, we binge watched “Luke Cage” in a 48 hour period, and I came up with the idea to do a song dedicated to the themes that were jumping out from the show. A few days later we went to Reggie Coby’s house, and the lyrics to the hook came as soon as he laid the drum foundation. Then, we sent it to Zander (Holiday Mountain) to give it a little more shine. He basically took the initial demo track, and remixed it with new sounds.

We had also just watched “Birth Of a Nation” around the same time, and just felt the time was now to share something. Between Donald Glover’s show “Atlanta,” “Luke Cage,” Issa Rae’s show, Ava Duvernay’s work, the upcoming Black Panther movie, we are inspired by the direction of the art we see and hear. The song is a little rebellious and strong. It’s time for strength and love to rise.

» Related: Watch: Hip-hop and headling at RAS Day

We just really hope people around the world that like Luke Cage get a chance to hear it, and get inspired. We are not powerless. We may not be bulletproof, but we our collective power is infinite. Be bulletproof in your determination to move forward, and make a difference.


This week’s music picks: Pet Shop Boys, Pretenders and SOS Late Knights

Tuesday: Pet Shop Boys at the Long Center. In 2014, the last time they were in town, the Pet Shop Boys supplemented their music with an immersive, Tron-like visual spectacular. Yes, they made the audience sit politely through their new music, but the electropop duo slipped in enough enduring hits like “Money” and “West End Girls” to keep the crowd from getting restless. $39.50-$79.00. 8 p.m. 701 W. Riverside Drive. — D.S.S.

Tuesday: “TuneCore 101” with Migrant Kids and Keeper at Emo’s. Music business company TuneCore, which has an office in Austin, is teaming with the Austin Music Foundation to present this night of education and live entertainment. At 7 p.m., TuneCore will discuss their distribution, publishing administration and YouTube services. Next is a 9 p.m. double bill featuring two of Austin’s promising young acts: Migrant Kids made waves earlier this year with their EP “Primordial Soup,” while Keeper’s recent record earned them Austin360 Artist of the month honors for October. Free. 2015 Riverside Drive. — P.B.

Thursday: Sound on Sound “Late Knights” Kickoff Shows. Might as well get all those bad puns started a day early, right? SOS Fest mostly will be at Sherwood Forest east of town, but some of the bands will arrive early for a handful of sneak-preview shows at five clubs in the Red River District. Highlights include Guided by Voices and Diet Cig at the Mohawk, Cursive at Sidewinder, Empress Of at Empire, Shannon & the Clams at Barracuda and American Sharks at Beerland. All of the venues have several acts on the bill, some spread between indoor and outdoor stages. Admission is free with an SOS Fest wristband, and limited only to those festgoers. Show times vary; check individual venues’ websites, with further details at — P.B.


Chrissie Hynde brings the Pretenders to ACL Live on Monday. JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2009
Chrissie Hynde brings the Pretenders to ACL Live on Monday. JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2009



READ MORE: Brown Sabbath is back with a new collection for Halloween



One Night in October: More than a dozen bands in one Spooky Hoot

The seventh installment in our monthly series takes a curveball approach. Typically the procedure is to catch one act in six different venues across town, but Friday night’s “Spooky Hoot” to benefit local bassist George Reiff offered an opportunity to flip that on its head: Instead, we caught more than a dozen different acts in one venue.

The place was the Parish, the upstairs Sixth Street showcase room that’s one of Austin’s best venues for original music. The ringleader was Shinyribs’ Kevin Russell, one of Reiff’s many longtime friends and collaborators in the local community. The players, in order of appearance: C. Mac & Mo’ Debly, Lincoln Durham, Carson McHone, Fastball, Monte Warden, Joe King Carrasco, Kelly Willis, Robert Earl Keen’s backing band, John Fullbright, Moonlight Towers, James McMurtry, Carolyn Wonderland and Shinyribs.

Oh, and one very special guest. Reiff, who hadn’t performed since he was diagnosed with cancer three months ago, received a warm welcome when he took the stage early in the show to accompany McHone and Fastball for two songs each. Reiff has undergone surgery as well as radiation and chemotherapy since then, so it was no surprise that played sitting down.

George Reiff, second from right, sits in with Fastball during the "Spooky Hoot" at the Parish on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman
George Reiff, second from right, sits in with Fastball during the “Spooky Hoot” at the Parish on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

For the hundreds who attended, it was a special moment just to see him back where he belongs, lurking in the shadows and holding up the low end. “You know you’ll always have friends in low places,” Russell promised with a smile as he followed Reiff’s cameo appearance by corralling a bevy of bassists onstage for a cheeky dedication: Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom.”

The music began at 8 p.m. and rolled on for nearly four hours, with KGSR’s Andy Langer serving as emcee. When we departed at 11 p.m., McMurtry was deep into his epic “Choctaw Bingo,” with Wonderland plus Shinyribs’ closing set still to come. Check out the video above for some the night’s highlights. In keeping with the “Spooky Hoot” theme, most of the performers dug out covers that fit the occasion, including:

Carson McHone, “Psycho” by Leon Payne: With Reiff and Fastball among her backing crew, McHone put a cool country spin on legendary Texan’s haunted honky-tonker.

Fastball, “Up Jumped the Devil” by Nick Cave: Guitarist Miles Zuniga set down his axe in favor of stalking the stage to deliver one of the melodramatic Australian’s most Halloween-appropriate numbers, with Tony Scalzo’s keyboards keeping the spook-factor high.

Joe King Carrasco and Shinyribs ham it up during the "Spooky Hoot" at the Parish on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman
Joe King Carrasco and Shinyribs ham it up during the “Spooky Hoot” at the Parish on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Joe King Carrasco, “Wooly Bully”/”La Bamba”/”Twist & Shout” medley: If it wasn’t so much holiday-specific, Carrasco’s wild energy, given an extra spark by the Shinyribs horns and some guitar-duel clowning with Russell, helped kick the party into full gear mid-show.

Kelly Willis, “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon: Straying well beyond her country comfort zone, Willis got the audience howling along with delight as she and Robert Earl Keen’s band put on their best Zevon.

Rich Brotherton, “Time Warp” from “Rocky Horror Picture Show”: After Willis departed, the rest of Keen’s band (sans Keen, who’s currently on an acoustic tour with Lyle Lovett) played a couple more, including Richard O’Brien’s gem from the iconic movie. Brotherton took the lead but got big assists from Shinyribs backup singers Alice Spencer and Sally Allen.

John Fullbright, backed by Shinyribs, plays the "Spooky Hoot" at the Parish on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman
John Fullbright, backed by Shinyribs, plays the “Spooky Hoot” at the Parish on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

John Fullbright, “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball” by Shel Silverstein: The Oklahoma singer-songwriter not only traveled the most miles for the show, he also chose the coolest cover by far, smoking the house with Shinyribs behind him on this Silverstein classic that Dr. Hook recorded. He might even have had the next-best cover too, as he followed up with a glorious vamp on the Kinks’ “Apeman.”

One Night, By the Numbers: The usual miles-driven metric obviously doesn’t apply here, since we stayed at one venue this time. The big numbers, then, are these: $7,000, which is how much the event raised for Reiff, according to Russell’s Facebook post on Saturday morning. That included the tally of $20 tickets plus a silent auction for a framed Spooky Hoot poster. Add that to the $126,000 that has been raised via crowdfunding since Reiff’s diagnosis, and it’s clear how much he’s valued by his friends, fans and peers. Especially those in low places.






Jennifer Houlihan steps down as director of Austin Music People

houlihanJennifer Houlihan, one of Austin music’s most powerful champions, announced Friday afternoon that she is stepping down as executive director of Austin Music People to accept a position at Nomad Sound. Houlihan has spent her four-and-a-half-year term at the advocacy-based nonprofit working as a crucial liaison between key interests in Austin’s music industry and City Hall.

“AMP would not be what it is today without Houli’s leadership over the last 4+ years.  She’s been at the center of so many vital conversations, and we are extremely thankful for her service to our community,” Bobby Garza, executive board member for Austin Music People, said in a statement about the announcement.

Garza said Houlihan’s departure gives the organization an opportunity to “review our service to this community, engage in the current policy conversations surrounding music, and create a new path forward in our advocacy.”

Houlihan joins the team at Nomad Sound, an Austin-based company that specializes in audio production for live events, as director of business development. She also will continue consultant work for Lyft, a ride-hailing company that ended operations in Austin earlier this year after a costly ballot initiative to ease restrictions on ride-hailing companies mandated by an Austin city ordinance failed.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Uber and Lyft in Austin 

Houlihan described her position as “helping to serve as a liaison to Austin’s nightlife economy during this legislative session,” in an email Friday afternoon.

“And of course, I’ll continue my volunteer involvement with great community organizations including Evolve Austin, Black Fret, and ATX Safer Streets. So you can expect that I’ll continue to have (and share) opinions on things like affordable housing for creatives, safe late-night-transportation options, creative workforce development, and much more,” she said.



Austin360 On The Record: Adam Carroll tribute, Brownout, Alejandro Escovedo and more


adamcarrolltributecover“Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll” (Eight 30). If you search for Adam Carroll on Wikipedia, you’ll find an Irish rock singer and British race car driver. In Texas, though, the Adam Carroll of note is a songwriter beloved to many, even if his praises have been largely unsung to the masses. More than a dozen of his peers aim to change that with this collection of his tunes featuring some of Austin’s biggest Americana names plus a few ringers from beyond the region. Fellow Texas troubadours James McMurtry, Hayes Carll and Slaid Cleaves get the record off to a strong start, while contributions from Terri Hendrix, Jamie Lin Wilson and Brennen Leigh help keep the proceedings from being exclusively a boys’ club. Among the outsiders, longtime Guy Clark sideman Verlon Thompson stands out with a sparkling, spoken-sung take on “Lil’ Runaway.” Pretty much everyone does their subject proud, and it seems fitting that they give him the last word, as Carroll concludes the record with the easygoing “My Only Good Shirt.” “I’m not Viva Las Vegas, but I’m Motel 6 famous,” he humblebrags, and that’s good enough for his friends. Here’s James McMurtry’s take on “Screen Door”:

Brownout, “Brown Sabbath, Vol. 2” (Ubiquity). Grafting Latin-funk atop Black Sabbath metal proved a winning combination on Vol. 1 in 2014, enough so to spur a sequel. Check out Deborah Sengupta Stith’s interview with guitarist Beto Martinez about the new record. Release show Oct. 29 at Scoot Inn, in-store Nov. 1 at Waterloo Records. Here’s the track “Symptom of the Universe”:

Croy & the Boys, “Hey Come Back.” Brownout collaborator Adrian Quesada also was involved here, producing his first-ever country record for this eclectic ensemble led by Corey “Croy” Baum. We’ll have more on the band in next week’s Austin360 section of the American-Statesman. Release show Oct. 29 at Hotel Vegas. Here’s the track “Woke Up in Love”:

Bonnie Whitmore, “(Expletive) With Sad Girls.” Often in demand as a bassist with both local and national roots acts, Whitmore also writes and sings her own material, and she deserves greater notice for those pursuits. Equal parts rock ’n’ roll, country, R&B and soul, Whitmore’s third album is a bold and confident step into the spotlight that plays up the remarkable versatility of her voice. From deeply moody on the opening “Wash It Away,” to richly melodic on the pop gem “She’s a Hurricane,” to smartly sassy on the bluesy “Used to Call Me Baby,” to poignantly vulnerable on the lovely “Fighter” and “Stoned,” Whitmore shows a range that suggests she should be mentioned in any conversation about Austin’s finest singers. And that’s before she burns the place down on an album-closing cover of Kevn Kinney’s “Ain’t Waitin’ on Tomorrow.” Drummer Craig Bagby, keyboardist Jared Hall and especially guitarist Scott Davis nail the support throughout. Betty Soo, Wendy Colonna, Jaimee Harris and sister Eleanor Whitmore chime in with backing vocals on several songs, while Chris Masterson and Jon Dee Graham lend guitar support on a couple of tracks. Though Whitmore wrote almost all the songs herself, of special note is “I’ll Make a Living,” co-written with Aaron Tasjan and the late Chris Porter. Playing Nov. 10 at One-2-One Bar. Here’s the track “She’s a Hurricane”:

Rick Broussard’s Two Hoots & a Holler, “Time Has Shown Me.” Mortality is weighing heavily on old-school rock ’n’ roller Rick Broussard’s mind, judging from the dominant subject matter of this 13-song set that, against all age, is bristling with youthful energy. The title track and “The Past Is Gone” tackle the clock head-on, but he’s also looking back across the arc of time on tunes such as “Black Cat Lounge,” which vividly recalls the white-hot 1980s heyday of the long-gone Sixth Street dive, and “Seek Strike and Destroy,” a salute to his father’s WWII-era battalion. This isn’t so much nostalgia as history, well-told and brought back to life through the playing of ace Two Hoots rhythm section Lisa Pankratz and Brad Fordham plus an Austin roots A-list of guests including Casper Rawls, Rosie Flores, Mike Hardwick, John X. Reed and T. Jarrod Bonta. The past is tempered with the present via “Austin Traffic,” a swinging rockabilly number spiked by Bradley Jaye Williams’ accordion that’s a fitting theme song for 21st-century ATX. Release show Oct. 29 at ABGB.

Major Major Major, “PG-13 Movie” (Punctum). Ten tracks from the indie punk-rock duo of Adrian Sebastian and Andrew Torrey, issued on cassette with ditigal download. Release show Oct. 28 at Cheer Up Charlie’s. Here’s the track “All of My Friends”:


Alejandro Escovedo, “Burn Something Beautiful” (Fantasy). The longtime Austinite moved to Dallas last year, but the story with the latest album in his quarter-century solo career revolves around a Pacific Northwest partnership with former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and his longtime sidekick Scott McCaughey, who produced the record and co-wrote all the songs with Escovedo in Portland, Ore. No surprise, then, that “Burn Something Beautiful” follows those two musicians’ shared interests with Escovedo in the gritty outer edges of rock’s golden age. Some of this follows naturally from the glam style and sound of Escovedo’s recent records with renowned producer Tony Visconti, but Buck and McCaughey help him dig deeper into the underground here. The supporting cast also includes guitarist Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks/Young Fresh Fellows), drummer John Moen (Decemberists) and saxophonist Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), plus singers Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney) and Kelly Hogan (Neko Case). In-store Nov. 4 at Waterloo Records; taping “Austin City Limits” at ACL Live Nov. 30. Here’s the track “Heartbeat Smile”:

Nina Diaz, “The Beat is Dead” (Cosmica). Escovedo shares management with this fellow San Antonio native, who first rose to prominence with the femme punk trio Girl in a Coma. She branches out considerably on her debut solo album, setting her passionate vocals into dramatic and inventive arrangements that draw on rock, pop, jazz, electronica and more. In-store Oct. 30 at Waterloo Records. Here’s the song “January 9th” (read more about the song in an excerpt from Deborah Sengupta Stith’s interview with Diaz):


NOV. 1: Jonathan Terrell, “Color Me Lucky” EP, release show Nov. 19 at Indian Roller.
NOV. 4: Tomar & the FCs, “Heart Attack,” release shows Nov. 4-5 at C-Boy’s.
NOV. 4: Jess Williamson, “Heart Song,” release show Nov. 4 at Cheer Up Charlie’s.
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,” playing Oct. 31 at Geraldine’s.
NOV. 18: Churchwood, “Hex City,” playing Nov. 5 at Hole in the Wall.
DEC. 6: David Halley, “A Month of Somedays.”
JAN. 20, 2017: Matthew Squires, “Tambaleo.”

Gone Country: If you’re a fan of traditional country, watch this year’s CMAs

It looks like ABC is trying to win back the older country fan demographic with its televised special of the 50th annual Country Music Awards Nov. 2.

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2015, file photo, country music legend George Strait poses for a portrait in Las Vegas. Strait will honor singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale with a lifetime achievement award at the Americana Honors and Awards Show on Sept. 21, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision/AP, File)
FILE – In this Sept. 22, 2015, file photo, country music legend George Strait poses for a portrait in Las Vegas. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision/AP, File)

The special, which will feature performances from modern country stars like Chris Stapleton, Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves, will also feature a performance lineup full of older stars and Entertainer of the Year winners.

Among those older stars are Charley Pride, George Strait, Vince Gill, Alabama, Reba McEntire, Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Roy Clark and Dwight Yoakam.

Kenny Chesney, whose new album comes out Friday, isn’t on a performance list but is scheduled to receive the CMA Pinnacle Award, which has only been awarded to Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift in the past.

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

The performance additions seem like the latest move by the CMA to get older viewers to tune in. Last year’s ceremony set an all-time-low in ratings but was still ABC’s highest-rated night of TV in 2015 up to that point, according to Variety.

Another effort by the Academy to bring back older fans: A “Forever Country” music video featuring a Who’s Who of traditional and contemporary stars. The video is a medley of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Dolly Parton’s version of “I Will Always Love You.” It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Chart, becoming only the third song on that chart to do so.

There’s still some questionable appearances on the performers and presenters list, Pentatonix and Elle King chief among them. But the list overwhelmingly skewers towards the older generations that made the CMAs the prestigious awards show that it is today: Pride (1971), Strait (1989 ,1990, 2013), Gill (1993, 1994), Alabama (1982, 1983, 1984), McEntire (1986), Skaggs (1985), Clark (1973), Brooks & Dunn (1996), Jackson (1995, 2002, 2003), McGraw (2010) and Brooks (1991, 1992, 1997, 1998) have all won Entertainer of the Year in the past.

The nominees for this year’s ceremony are decidedly more contemporary. The only old guard member who is nominated for any awards is Tim McGraw. But that’s not a bad thing. This year has seen a huge rise in press and radio traction for traditional and alternative country. The 2017 CMAs might see a nominee list that includes Margo Price, Sturgill Simpson, John Prine, Jon Pardi, Cody Jinks and Brent Cobb. At least, I hope so. George Strait hopes so, too.

But for 2016, if you’re a country fan who wants to see some of the  greats perform, ABC at 7 p.m. CST is the place to be.

Here’s the full list of performers, broken down by demographics:

Older Entertainer of the Year Winners

  • Charley Pride
  • George Strait
  • Vince Gill
  • Alabama
  • Reba McEntire
  • Ricky Skaggs
  • Roy Clark
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Alan Jackson
  • Tim McGraw
  • Garth Brooks

Older Stars

  • Randy Travis
  • Charlie Daniels
  • Dwight Yoakam
  • Martina McBride
  • Trisha Yearwood
  • Clint Black

Contemporary Stars

  • Chris Stapleton
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Jason Aldean
  • Jennifer Nettles
  • Elle King
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Brad Paisley
  • Little Big Town
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Keith Urban
  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line

Maybe Surprise Performers Who Haven’t Been Announced Yet

  • Willie Nelson
  • Dolly Parton

I wrote down my predictions of who I think will win Nov. 2. Let me know what you think, and follow me on Twitter the night of the ceremony. I’ll be live-tweeting.

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

The remarkable ghost story behind the Nina Diaz song, ‘January 9th’

Suzanne Cordeiro/For American-Statesman
Suzanne Cordeiro/For American-Statesman

The Beat is Dead,’ the debut solo album from San Antonio-based Nina Diaz, front woman of the hard rocking trio Girl in a Coma, drops Friday and Diaz celebrates the release in Austin tomorrow night with a show at 3Ten.

» RELATED: Addiction behind her, it’s a new day for Girl in a Coma’s Nina Diaz

The solo project has been in the works for a few years. Diaz first began performing these songs live in 2013, shortly after she became sober following a 12 year struggle with drug and alcohol addiction that began when she was 13.

Her single “January 9” came out in August. The song is a powerful testimonial with the aching chorus, “I don’t want to be the bad one, I don’t want to be the sad one, that you find.” Diaz wrote it in the final throes of addiction, before she bottomed out and became sober in 2013. A year later, she told us this remarkable story about the song:

“January 9,” like many of her new songs, chronicles her battle (with addiction). The date has a special significance. It’s the day her grandmother passed away in 1998. On Jan. 9, 2013, it was raining and Diaz was at her mother’s house, high out of her mind. “When you’re high on some (expletive), sometimes you’ll see shadow people,” she said. “Sometimes you’ll think something’s there and it’s not … you really trip your brain out.”

She was engulfed in a swirl of feelings and she sensed her grandmother’s presence as she began to work on the song. She was recording snippets on her phone when she suddenly felt a “wave of energy” come to her. The sensation was so intense, she was convinced something was in the house. She ran to her mother’s room, freaking out. Later, when she listened to the recordings from that night, she could hear a whisper in the background. She came to think of it as “a muse type of situation,” something trying to push her to the next level.

A few months later, Diaz bottomed out. “You could tell physically that there was something wrong with me because I lost a lot of weight really fast,” she said. She was staying at her parents’ house, and one night she had a revelatory conversation with her brother. They talked about their grandparents and he admitted that sometimes he feels his grandfather’s presence. Diaz shared her own relationship with her grandmother, and invoking her name summoned the elder’s spirit to the room. “I felt my grandmother was there,” she said. “And I felt like she was telling me you have to stop. You have to stop using.”

It was a turning point for Diaz. “I realized how far I was pushing everybody away from me,” she said. “And how I wasn’t really present in everything that I do.” After talking to her brother, she grabbed the heart-shaped box that contained her stash, stuffed it with any remnants of illegal substances and threw it away.

Read more

Country Music Roundup: Carrie Underwood is a multi-platinum ‘Storyteller’

This Week’s News

She’s hosting the entire show and she’s nominated for four Country Music Association awards next week, but Carrie Underwood just racked up a new award to add to her trophy case.

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 19: Singer-songwriter Carrie Underwood performs on stage during CMT Artists of the Year 2016 on October 19, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for CMT)
NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 19: Singer-songwriter Carrie Underwood performs on stage during CMT Artists of the Year 2016 on October 19, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for CMT)

On Monday, exactly a year and a day after its release, Underwood’s fifth studio album “Storyteller” was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, meaning it’s sold more than 1 million copies. All four of her previous albums have also gone multi-platinum, with her debut “Some Hearts” selling more than 8 million copies.

So far, “Storyteller” boasts three Top 5 singles (“Smoke Break,” Heartbeat” and “Church Bells”) and was nominated for Album of the year in two other awards shows besides the CMAs.

Looks like that Entertainer of the Year crown might be hers after all.

This Week’s Best New Song

Kenny Chesney seems to be taking a darker, more grown-up tone on his latest album “Cosmic Hallelujah,” which drops Friday after a pushed-back release date. First, lead single “Noise” thoughtfully (if clunkily) bemoaned our constant state of screen validation. Then, “Setting the World On Fire” found the perennial party boy singing about the end of romance and pondering mortality (again, with some stumbles) with P!nk. The song chases the latest radio pop-country crossover trend, but it’s another move in a more mature direction for the second coming of Jimmy Buffett.

The third single from “Hallelujah” is “Rich and Miserable,” which finds Chesney fully shedding his party persona as he talks about the dangers of coveting excess. Whereas the first two singles stumbled on account of lyrical and musical tones that didn’t quite mesh, this one hits the nail on the head. It still isn’t entirely country, but Chesney’s act was never entirely country. “Rich and Miserable” traffics in some of the same tropes that a lot of pop country uses today, like electronic drum beats and buzzwords. And the lyric video is set in New York, the “big city” enemy of rural America. But hearing Chesney sing “We don’t know what we want, but we want it, and we want it all right now” and “We’re born, we work, we die, it’s spiritual” gives you pause. Sounds like that island boy’s got some Ecclesiastes hidden in that beach chair of his.

This Week’s Worst New Song

Brett Young, a former collegiate baseball pitcher turned Big Machine country bro, somehow got a song about needy young dude into the Top 10 of Billboard’s “Hot Country Songs” chart. Now at No. 9 after 26 weeks on the chart, “Sleep Without You” finds Young singing about how the “babe” he’s dating has him ‘wide awake waitin’ on a goodnight kiss,” waiting for her to come home from a Girl’s Night Out and he’s “countin’ down the hours till it’s 2 a.m.”

Look, if you want to write a song about how that certain someone new you’re dating has you doin’ all sorts of things you never thought you’d be doin’, that’s great. Just know that Brad Paisley slyly cornered the market on that trope in 2001 with “Come On Over Tonight.” And don’t write a song about an emotionally insecure dude who can’t deal with one night of alone time while his girlfriend goes out with her friends. I’m no expert on the ladies, but I doubt being wooed with a song about how needy you are is going to get you any points. Be your own person!

This Week’s Best Country Show in Austin

Sunday: Chris Porter & Mitchell Vandenburg Memorial at Continental Gallery. The loss of singer-songwriter Porter and bassist Vandenburg last week in a North Carolina crash while their band was on tour has hit many in the local music community hard. Some of those who knew and played with the two musicians will gather to play songs in their memory as part of the weekly Lo Jinx Orchestra show with hosts William Harries Graham and Jon Dee Graham, the latter of whom played guitar and contributed artwork to one of Porter’s recent albums. $10. 8 p.m. 1313 S. Congress Ave. — Peter Blackstock

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

This is the Country Music Roundup, a weekly blog where we’ll give you the latest news in country music releases and local country shows. For a more in-depth analysis of the genre and where it’s headed, check back with our weekly Gone Country blog every week.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or by email:


Weekend music picks: Austin artists remember musicians killed in car crash, Questlove, Head and the Heart


Friday-Saturday: The Head and the Heart at Stubb’s. The Seattle/Virginia indie-folk-pop sextet, a highlight of ACL Fest in 2014, moved from Sub Pop to Warner Bros. for “Signs of Light,” released in September. The first night sold out quickly, but an added second show still has tickets available. British singer-songwriter Declan McKenna opens both nights. $37.50. 7 p.m. doors. 801 Red River St. — P.B.

Saturday: Questlove DJ Set at Empire. Ahmir Khalib Thompson, the drummer and musical director for one of the greatest bands in America, the mighty Roots crew, is legendary for his encyclopedic musical knowledge and impeccable taste. He’s down to spin a three-hour set, so expect deep cuts and booty shakers aplenty. $17-$25. Doors at 9 p.m. 604 E. Seventh St. — D.S.S.

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Saturday-Sunday: B-Boy City at North Door. The moves are tougher and the tricks are trickier, but in the modern era, breakdancing is one of the less celebrated elements of hip-hop culture. Go down in the trenches and watch passionate dance crews engage in high stakes battles at one of the biggest competitions in the Southwest. 7 p.m. 502 Brushy St. — D.S.S.

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

Sunday: Chris Porter & Mitchell Vandenburg Memorial at Continental Gallery. The loss of singer-songwriter Porter and bassist Vandenburg last week in a North Carolina crash while their band was on tour has hit many in the local music community hard. Some of those who knew and played with the two musicians will gather to play songs in their memory as part of the weekly Lo Jinx Orchestra show with hosts William Harries Graham and Jon Dee Graham, the latter of whom played guitar and contributed artwork to one of Porter’s recent albums. $10. 8 p.m. 1313 S. Congress Ave. — P.B.

Sunday: King at the Parish. The trio sends tightly woven harmonies cascading over chilled-out grooves in songs that mix the futuristic sensibility of today’s alt-R&B with the sass and swagger of girl groups past. Nick Hakim opens. $15. 7 p.m. doors. 214 E. Sixth St. — D.S.S.



Johnnyswim, Dan Layus at Emo’s

Autograf, Goldroom at Vulcan Gas Company

Earl Klugh at One World Theatre

Of Montreal, Teen at Mohawk

Black Lillies, the O’s at Threadgill’s

Major Major Major album release, Ghost Wolves, Soaked, Magic Rockers of Texas at Cheer Up Charlie’s

Austin Lounge Lizards at Cactus Cafe

Bill Kirchen & Austin DeLone at El Mercado Backstage


Sue Foley, Mike Flanigin & Chris Layton at C-Boy’s


Reverend Horton Heat with El Vez (Friday), Deke Dickerson (Saturday-Sunday) at Continental Club


English Beat, River City Royals at 3Ten

Beats Antique, Thriftworks, Holiday Mountain at Emo’s

Kishi Bashi, Laura Gibson at Mohawk outdoor

Futuristic at Parish

Croy & the Boys album release, Ramsay Midwood, Rattlesnake Milk at Hotel Vegas

Carolyn Wonderland Band, Nakia & the Blues Grifters at Antone’s

Darden Smith at Cactus Cafe

East Cameron Folkcore, The Eastern Sea, Belcurve at Barracuda

‘Get Ghost’ Glow in the Dark Party with DJ Shani, Aquaman Chill at 234 W. Second St.


Nina Diaz at Waterloo Records

The Fray, American Authors at ACL Live

Ringo Deathstarr, UVH, Crooked Bangs, Xetas at Barracuda

Bobby Whitlock & Coco Carmel at Saxon Pub

Soul of a Musician series with Jane Ellen Bryant at Iron Cactus North