Artists Who Made Big Impressions at SXSW 2024

South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin last week was an opportunity to scout for talent, see some important up-and-coming bands, and gauge who is on the rise. Nobody needs to be told that Silverada or the Red Clay Strays are red hot at the moment, or that Tyler Childers is at the top. They’re all great of course, but here are some of the artists from the country and roots world who made major impressions over the week as personally witnessed by Saving Country Music.

Kaitlin Butts

Kaitlin Butts and her band are out there murdering it at the moment, both figuratively and literally. Not only is this becoming one of the best live shows in country, a Kailin Butts set list has a higher body count than a Quentin Tarantino flick. Don’t let the smile fool you, she’s a modern murder ballad queen who will shoot a man and cut a bitch post haste.

Kaitlin’s got a bunch of new bullets in the gun loaded up for 2024 if her set during The Dance at Sam’s Town Point on Tuesday was any indication. New songs sound great. And yes, people die.

Her latest single “Hunt You Down” is out now.

Ellis Bullard

Ellis Bullard is like a gold Pontiac Trans-Am Firebird blowing through the border checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, TX with a load of cheap cocaine and illegal uzi ammunition. He walks out on stage with his chin up like a Von Erich brother ready to suplex a sumo wrestler twice his size before submitting him with The Claw.

Ellis Bullard and his band are the honky tonk sound of Austin incarnate, and are quickly catching on nationwide. His new album Honky Tonk Ain’t Noise Pollution is out now through Feels So Good Records, who hosted their SXSW party at headquarters on Saturday. Bullard and the boys burned down the stage.

Summer Dean

Just gonna put it out there, and it’s shared knowing it might cause some disagreement or dissenting viewpoints. But according to this set of eyes and ears, Summer Dean is the current queen of Texas country music.

There just isn’t anyone else that is more country, more Texan, and more committed to being both and at a high level at the moment than Summer Dean. Some who haven’t seen her live recently may disagree. Those who have probably won’t.

Every second, every square inch of the Summer Dean live show is dripping with entertainment value, from humor, to sorrow, and of course tons of Twang. It’s one of the best things going on in live country music at the moment, thanks in part to what she called her “Hot Shit Texas Band!”

Summer slayed during SXSW, including on the Fort Worth stage at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion, as well as at the legendary Arlyn Studios as part of the Keystone Artist Connect Texas launch party on Friday.

Rattlesnake Milk

Austin’s Rattlesnake Milk is just as much an enigma as it is music. They’re like a dream that feels truer than reality, but when you wake, you can barely remember it, leaving you with a haunted feeling.

You’re rendered gobsmacked trying to define it. You’re a fool if you try to quantify its properties and explain its contours. It’s better to just close your eyes and surrender to it, allowing the music to take you to somewhere far away in space and time beyond the reach of the physical stasis, but strangely warm and the most real thing you’ve ever experienced.

And perhaps more than anything else, Rattlesnake Milk might the purest, most unadulterated expression of music you will ever find.

Pictured here playing at Feel So Good Records on Saturday.

Daniel Donato

If you’re looking for the country version of Billy Strings—meaning a guy that positively shreds but is still grounded in the roots—Daniel Donato is your guy. He’s like a cross between Don Rich and The Grateful Dead, and soon he could be selling out arenas like Billy Strings too.

Daniel Donato started out on Lower Broadway in Nashville as a busker, graduated to the stage of Robert’s Western World where he slayed and studied all the great classic country songs, and is now setting the world on fire. See this dude in small venues while you still can.

He slayed at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion in Luck, TX.

Emily Scott Robinson

Emily Scott Robinson is one of the truly stunning artists of our era, with incredible songs, and a voice to deliver them with emotive brilliance that borders upon the unparalleled. In 2019, she won Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year for “The Dress.”

Performing at Willie Nelson’s 2024 Luck Reunion, Robinson told the story of living in an RV parked just down the road from Luck, dreaming of a day she would actually get to play the revered fest. 2024 was that year thanks to a showcase that featured many of the artists signed to John Prine’s Oh Boy Records.

With all due respect to Will Ferrell’s character in the iconic comedy “Step Brothers,” to this set of ears, Emily Scott Robinson is the songbird of our generation.

Low Gap

Singer and guitar player Gus Johnson, and guitar/mandolin player Phin Johnson are only 19 and 17 respectively, but they have already made waves with their song “Mockingbird” that YouTube critic Grady Smith helped blow up in 2022. Since then the songwriting, singing, and playing has only become sharper, and this brother band is definitely one to have on your radar.

From the Eastern Kentucky / Southeastern Ohio region, their songs are beyond their years. At a SXSW event at Arlyn Studios in Austin, they played a song they co-wrote with the legendary and recently-deceased Ketih Gattis. Word is they’ve also been recording with Adam Odor in Texas of Mike and the Moonpies fame.

Jeff Crosby

Jeff Crosby is a guy who never gets enough fuss made about him. All he’s done is assembled a killer catalog of songs, while also being an auxiliary member of Reckless Kelly over the last few years, and doing other stuff to make good music happen.

If you want to know what Jeff Crosby means to music, just ask his fellow musicians.

Crosby was all over the place during SXSW. On Tuesday at Sam’s Town Point he sat in with Reckless Kelly who let him sing a few of his own songs. Then on Friday he performed at the legendary Arlyn Studios as part of the Keystone Artist Connect showcase.

Sour Bridges

Sour Bridges out of Austin, TX are an excellent, multi-faceted band that play what they characterize as “browngrass,” which is a combination of country, bluegrass, rock, and even Celtic influences. They specialize in dazzling runs, crooked hats, and curly mustaches.

With great composition and instrumentation, and a unique approach to roots music, they impressed at Jonathan Tyler’s “The Dance” party at Sam’s Town Point in Austin on Tuesday.

Sour Bridges is really great live, and they just released a brand new album called Down and Out. The addition of fiddle player Camille Schiess really sets them off.

The Droptines

The Droptines are quickly becoming one of the most buzzed about bands out there thanks to their new self-titled album. They are true alt-country from Texas, meaning Americana with guts.

Behind Connor Arthur’s songs, the Droptines explore impulse control and the facing of moral conundrums, and often falling in the wrong side of these decisions. In the midst of of directionless and beatnik-like itineraries of a lost soul’s activities, glimmers of poetic brilliance emerge.

They also happen to be killer live as they displayed during multiple performances at SXSW.

Kermit the Frog

Though he sings with a bit of a croak in his voice and has the audacity to perform entirely naked, Kermit The Frog nonetheless impresses with his primitive roots music springing from the banjo, with songs that brighten your life and speak to the anxieties and inadequacies we all feel on a daily basis.

Sharing the stage with Willie Nelson at the 2024 Luck Reunion to sing “Rainbow Connection” was not too big of a moment for the muppet. It’s not easy been green, but Kermit pulled it off with flying colors.

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