Originally starting as a two-day festival highlighting Americana and alt-country’s finest acts, Austin City Limits Music Festival is now a huge, sprawling festival spread over two full weekends with a lineup boasting top artists from nearly every genre imaginable. With so much diversity, it can be hard to sift through everyone and find the rootsy diamonds in the rough. Lucky for you, we did just that!
If you’re a fan of bands that are more in the Americana/Country/Folk realms, artists that would’ve populated ACL’s original lineups, we’ve picked out 10 of ‘em that should top your list this year. Some have been around for years, while others weren’t even born when those bands formed. We’ve got acts with a little more rock, with a little more jazz, with a little more soul, and some with a little more dirt and gravel — everything you could possibly want!
So, check out these 10 amazing artists, and then let us know which ones you’re checking out.
10. Imelda May
Who says American music can’t be done exceptionally well by foreigners? Irish singer-songwriter Imelda May is one of the freshest voices in rockabilly at the moment. Her soulful delivery and whiplash guitar playing is retro-cool and makes for some damn good songs. If it weren’t for the hi-fi recording quality, Tribal, her latest album, would feel like a time capsule straight from the 1950’s, vintage diner and greaser music for leather jackets, cigarette smoking, and moussed hair. If you’re looking for that sort of vibe, her show is one that can’t be overlooked. –Josh Terry
9. Los Colognes
Shades of Bob Dylan gone electric permeate throughout the Chicago-bred, Nashville-based band Los Colognes. Originally called The Clones (see what they did there?), lead singer Jay Rutherford’s delivery matches the legendary songwriter’s nasally hum while the arrangements have the luscious feel of something out of ‘70s soft-rock, like the Eagles or Flying Burrito Brothers. With songs as strong as “Working Together”, a noodling jam that gets better every time you spin it, these relative-unknowns are well worth a discovery at this year’s festival.–Josh Terry
8. Robert Ellis
Live, Nashville’s Robert Ellis is a charming and disarming presence. Both funny and pitch-perfect, even when he might be a little drunk, Ellis’ distinctive twang in his voice serves as a welcome force for his lovelorn country songs. Offerings from his The Lights From The Chemical Plant reference his home state of Texas, Mad Men, sticking it out in relationships, and a nice “Bottle of Wine”. Armed with the traditions of country music and a solid backing guitarist, Ellis is a must see for those who love a little Willie Nelson. –Josh Terry
7. Parker Millsap
Combining a little train yard Tom Waits, rambling John Prine, and drinking choirboy Hank Williams, Parker Millsap is a captivating Oklahoma singer/songwriter. At only 20-years old, Millsap has already been opening for Old Crow Medicine show at places like Ryman Auditorium, and touring with old rockers like Jimmie Vaughn. When you hear his weathered voice in songs like “Old Time Religion” or his impressive word play in “Quite Contrary”, you find a young man far ahead of his time, and a sound to keep an eye on for years to come. –Nick Freed
6. Asleep at the Wheel
When it comes to Americana and folk music, there’s a standard at which all other acts get marked, and that standard is Asleep at the Wheel. Formed in the late ’60s, Asleep at the Wheel has toured and played with Dolly Parton, George Strait, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, etc. etc. Any country star you can imagine has requested Asleep at the Wheel, and they have the awards and love to back up every devoted fan, famous or not. They were featured during the festival’s inaugural run in 2002, so check them out this year to see how perfection is done. –Nick Freed