SXSW Friday: Dawes, Ashley Monroe, Caitlin Rose
American Songwriter favorite Luke Winslow-King will release his new album, The Coming Tide, this April on Bloodshot Records. Winslow-King, originally from Michigan, will bring a New Orleans flavor to the Chicago label’s eclectic roots roster. On Friday afternoon at Bloodshot’s annual Yard Dog party on S. Congress, Winslow-King sat on a bill with Bobby Bare, Jr., Ohio country-rocker Lydia Loveless, and Chicago soul champs JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. Winslow-King, along with singer “sweet” Esther Rose and bassist Cassidy Holden, treated the crowd to originals like “So Tired” (from 2009’s Old/New Baby) and interpretations of blues like Beaumont, Texas sanctified singer Blind Willie Johnson’s “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning.” Rose led the band through a spirited version of “Crazy Blues.” After the set, Winslow-King and Rose noted the song is often considered the first blues record released (by Mamie Smith in 1920). That version went on to sell over 100,000 copies, opening the door for blues singers like Bessie Smith. While it can sometimes be hard to break through the noise at South By Southwest, for this talented young band, the Austin trek seems sure to pay off. They’re one of the most professional, staunchly original, and true-to-their-core bands working today.
Ashley Monroe has been kicking around Nashville’s Music Row for many years, but the Knoxville-born country singer-songwriter has just released her fine debut record, Like A Rose, on Warner Nashville. At Vice Bar on Friday evening, Monroe played songs from the new album like “Weed Instead of Roses,” which takes quite a contrarian stance for a mainstream country-pop artist. “Used,” a song Monroe wrote at the age of 16, is one of the standouts on Like A Rose, and was rendered with heartfelt feeling in the din of the 6th St. club. “Heart Like Mine,” which Monroe co-wrote with Miranda Lambert and became a Number 1 hit for Lambert in 2011, wouldn’t be out of place on a Shovels & Rope record. “Cause I heard Jesus he drank wine / And I bet we’d get along just fine,” Monroe sang on Friday night. Thanking the crowd and acknowledging the diverse range of artists at South By Southwest (which has a noticeable dearth of mainstream country acts), Monroe underscored what makes her special. Namely, that her songs are powerful enough to stand well above any traditional barriers of genre or style.
Though we’ve probably cooed enough already about Caitlin Rose, the Nashville singer and her band were in top form on Friday night at their official Paradigm/Coda Agency showcase at Bar DeVille. A slight change of pace from the rest of the night’s bill, which included UK post-punk outfit Savages and reached capacity for Youth Lagoon’s headlining set, Rose held her own, walking a fine line between psych-country (“I Was Cruel” and “Dallas”), punchy pop (“No One to Call” and “Silver Sings”), and tender story songs like “Pink Champagne.” Rose, whose career has a head start across the pond, will begin a U.S. tour later this month to support The Stand-In (ATO Records), including a package run with Canadian country phenom Daniel Romano this spring, before heading back to the UK to play festivals like End of the Road at the end of the summer.
Ducking into the alley between Bar DeVille into the Mohawk next door, I was able to catch the end to an impossibly epic Dawes performance. The Los Angeles rock quartet, who will support Bob Dylan’s upcoming U.S. tour, were stretched into the furthest reaches of country-rock on a long jam on “Peace in the Valley,” from their debut album, North Hills. Sounding more like Radiohead or Steely Dan, the California band’s musicianship was stunning, with intricate, off-kilter parts that showed much more than a Laurel Canyon influence. Singer and songwriter Taylor Goldsmith led the band through the road journal “Time Spent In L.A.” before bidding the packed house adieu. Stay tuned for more good things from your new favorite band.