Americana

Scott Ballew: “Mutiny”

Austin may be a metropolis, but it’s still smack dab in the middle of Texas, football fanaticism, Western legends, vast landscapes, and all. There are a lot of artists who embody that Lone Star aesthetic, but today we’re tippin’ our hat to Scott Ballew.

After his initial acts as football star and filmmaker, this central Texas troubadour is now living middle age to the fullest as a songwriter. Scott’s quick to point to his documentary work with Terry Allen as a pivotal moment in his career, and sure, you can see similarities in just comparing album covers , like the cresting scenery of their respective debuts Juarez vs. Talking to Mountains or the minimalist interiors of Lubbock (On Everything) vs. Middle Age Crazy. But that said, there’s something especially cinematic-minded about his cosmic Americana compositions that he couldn’t have simply copped from Allen’s outlaw country repertoire.

And that Western aesthetic really comes to a head on Scott Ballew’s third LP, Rio Bravo, out March 29th. Down to its already iconic title (Cat Ballou would’ve been too on the nose, right?) Rio Bravo is shaping up to be a ten-scene saga of survival, less in the realm of gunfighter ballads and more so contemporary confessions, like if Ennio Morricone brought his timeless Spaghetti Western magic to a newly-unearthed Townes Van Zandt album. Ballew started saddling up for Rio Bravo last month with “Suicide Squeeze” and galloped further today with “Mutiny”. Safe to say we’ll spend this next month patiently awaiting the rest of the stragglers, whose full posse of songs could’ve only been made in Texas, plain and simple.

Paige Hill: “Go West”

Last May we took a gander at a real Good Woman, Austin-born-and-raised and now Dallas-based singer-songwriter Paige Hill, who shared her debut EP of the same name last year. Pious yet uninhibited, motherly without hovering, and faithful to her state but enticed by adventure, Hill embodies those personal complications often overlooked in the Americana-country-folk-rock realm.

She’s the type of artist who soaks up inspiration wherever she goes and from whoever she meets, so it’s no huge surprise that she’s settled on People & Places as the title for her upcoming first full-length. Chronicling ten tender years over the course of nearly as many tunes, People & Places is set to showcase a seasoned sense of wisdom that can only come from a modern Texas woman.

So as we move towards People & Places – out later this Spring – we join Paige Hill on the journey she took from her native Austin out to the California coast way back when. Aptly “Go West”, this lead single makes us want to get up and move, plain and simple. While its instrumental arrangement is pretty tight, Paige’s soulful, reverberating vocals round out the song’s sense of space like a cross-country snow globe. And with an expert sense of dynamics that tracks Hill’s heeding of westward advice, “Go West” will encourage you to take the leap and make the changes you’ve been meaning to do from its first full-band downbeat through its final, optimistic chord.

The Lonesome Heroes: “Placebo Sun”

It’s nifty how different sorts of sporty recreation mingle with specific subgenres of music; think surf, skate punk, or yacht rock. But since you can also just longboard down the access road, sippin’ Ocean Spray to some classic Fleetwood Mac without a care in the world, the rules clearly aren’t hard and fast. What’s most important is the meditation in motion, a flow state inspired by the movement of the music itself.

So even though roller skating may be most closely associated to disco (at least historically speaking), there’s an Austin outfit putting those trucks on a whole new set of wheels. That’s The Lonesome Heroes, who’ve endured the rinks of the local live scene (and far beyond) for nearly twenty years now, weaving between the best parts of indie, country, and Americana. Most recently, this veteran quintet scored another milestone with their sixth LP Seasons Change, which has already racked up some impressive streaming numbers in the short time since its November release.

And in line with frontman Rich Russell’s decision to open up the record’s writing process to a few Austin friends, these hometown heroes are lookin’ a little less lonesome in the album opener “Placebo Sun”‘s new music video…as a matter of fact they rounded up a whole roller posse to kick off their boots and strap on some skates! To fully soak up the authentic cosmic Americana radiance of “Placebo Sun”, you’ll have to keep The Lonesome Heroes company 10PM tonight at Hotel Vegas ahead of Alien Eyelid at 10:45, Shinglers at 11:30, and Automatic Weekend half past midnight, no paddling, skiing or interstellar travel required…maybe just a show-stealing, shot-bombing pooch.

Creekbed Carter Hogan: “If I Was”

In the past half decade, we’ve witnessed some surprisingly progressive turns in the historically conservative field of folk and country music; be it Orville Peck eclipsing his contemporaries in the mainstream, a Tracy Chapman cover dominating charts, Kacey Musgraves’ ongoing expansion of the genre’s inclusiveness, or Lil Nas X making people debate what even constitutes a country tune. It’s beyond refreshing to watch these tides shift, and thankfully for us Austinites, it’s not just a national trend.

So while we can certainly point to Pelvis Wrestley’s Benjamin Violet as a force for the androgynous queer cowboy visual aesthetic, when it comes to clear-cut alt-country and folk music, we gotta give kudos to Creekbed Carter Hogan. See, in the short time since Hogan shared their debut 2021 Good St Riddance, we’ve seen huge leaps not just in terms of musical maturity, but indeed through major milestones like legally changing their name, having their uterus removed, and publishing their first book. And through this transition, CCH has created a powerful advantage that makes him stand out in the crowded world of Americana-country-folk, and that’s his unique vocal register, much higher than the majority of men but not necessarily feminine in character.

Well, following up last Spring’s Split EP, Creekbed Carter Hogan is taking things to the next level with their eponymous sophomore full-length Creekbed Carter, out March 22nd. Style-wise it maintains the same blunt, clever, and intrinsically queer twist on roots music we’ve come to adore. But strictly speaking to audio quality, it’s a huge step up from the CCH’s relatively lo-fi discography thus far, with glistening sonics that’ll fill a stereo just as well as it could the Grande Ole Opry. Based on what we’ve heard so far, we’re even willing to wager that Creekbed Carter could challenge Golden Hour when it comes to the finest mixes in acoustic music. So as these Texas temps slowly creep up, crawl into the Creekbed with Hogan for a single release show 8PM this Saturday at Radio/East alongside Large Brush Collection, Kind Keith, and Leila Sunier. Until then, show Hogan some love in the streambed by giving a spin to the record’s first offering, “If I Was”. Because at five-and-a-half minutes, bordered by the prettiest instrumental string arrangement we’ve heard all year (which includes Pelvis Wrestley’s Zach Wiggs on pedal steel and Little Mazarn’s Lindsey Verrill on bass), and joined by Large Brush Collection’s Nora Predey and Grabiela Torres in its climax, “If I Was” marks a melancholy beginning for trans folk’s next generation.

Emily McLoud: “Nothing Ever Keeps”

With Free Week behind us and SXSW still a way’s out, we’re officially filling up our radar with a ton of promising releases for 2024. And that of course includes a wealth of Austin talent.

For example, last weekend we got another glimpse at some new material from Austin’s Emily McLoud. An addict for the outdoors, a loving mother, attentive caregiver, and veteran of the local live scene for the past decade and a half, we prefer to think of McLoud’s surname less like “loud” and more like “cloud”, thanks to her airy vocals and delicate country-folk sensibilities. Emily’s solo career first emerged for many in the fall of 2022 with her debut EP Sugar Shine, and recently she’s been plugging away at its sophomore follow-up.

Well last Friday Emily McLoud picked up where last November’s “Caroline” left off with that latest record’s second lead single, “Nothing Ever Keeps”. An Americana treat throughout its four-minute runtime, “Nothing Ever Keeps” ushers in this new season of vulnerable songwriting for McLoud with gentle harmonies, a tastefully-light rhythm section, and personal lyrics that ain’t too proud to admit to the temporariness of it all.