The biggest takeaway from SXSW 2017 will be that for the first time since the very inception of the idea over 30 years ago, the annual music gathering experienced a palpable draw down in attendance and industry participation to a degree that it fundamentally changed many of the dynamics and rigors one must endure to attend.
A song can change a life, and a song can change the world. And if you’re a real music fan, you know this to be true because you’ve felt it, and seen it yourself. We’re not looking for fanciful ditties that get stuck in your head here. There is a time and a place for those, but that’s not here. We’re looking for songs that barrel you over.
With over 200 artists playing AmericanaFest this third week of September, it can be a little bit intimidating for the folks either looking to attend in person, or experience the gathering vicariously through various social channels and video streams. So here is a curated list of artists battle tested and approved by Saving Country Music.
AmericanaFest, Austin Lucas, Brent Cobb, Caitlyn Smith, Dori Freeman, Jason Eady, John Moreland, Lori McKenna, Luke Bell, Parker Millsap, Sammy Brue, Sarah Shook, Tami Neilson, The Secret Sisters, William Clark Green, Willie Watson
As was said in reference to the Best Albums of 2016 So Far, it has been fairly slim pickings for the first part of the year for finding music that really touches the heart, and has the fortitude to last beyond the calendar year. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions, and 2016 already boasts a number of serious, gut-punching songs.
Austin Lucas, Brandy Clark, Chris Stapleton, Dori Freeman, Dry Up or Drown, Evan Webb and the Rural Ramblers, Heaven Sent, Jeff Shepherd, Lew Card, Lydia Loveless, Parker Millsap, Ryan Scott Travis, Since You've Gone to Heaven, Someday, The Cactus Blossoms, Wrong Side of the Dream
With no disrespect meant to the albums highlighted here, which represent the exception and not the rule, 2016 has begun where the second half of 2015 left off, where it feels like country and roots music across the board is out of ideas, and the search for music that truly enlivens the spirit is becoming harder. Nonetheless, there are still some excellent albums out there worth highlighting.
The Purcell, Oklahoma native has that rich, songwriting blood of the central plains we’ve seen in artists like John Moreland, John Fullbright, Evan Felker of the Turnpike Troubadours, and so many more. And growing up in an evangelical community also imparts that indelible country gospel foundation to his music. But more than anything else Parker Millsap is a blues singer.
It took the death of four people and dozens of others injured after a drunken madman ran his car through a crowded downtown Austin street in 2014, as well as a completely clusterfucked permitting system by the City of Austin so mired in red tape it takes months of dedicated manpower to actually put on a show, but it appears that SXSW has finally reached a point where the annual event has stopped growing uncontrollably.
Aaron Lee Tasjan, Al Scorch, Andrew Combs, Daniel Antopolsky, Heartworn Highways Revisited, Jamie Lin Wilson, Jonny Fritz, Luck TX, Luke Winslow-King, Margo Price, Michaela Anne, Parker Millsap, Possessed by Paul James, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robbie Fulks, Robert Ellis, Sam Outlaw, Sam Quinn, SXSW, The Black Lillies, The Wild Reeds, The Yawpers, Townes Van Zandt