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CLAIRE SMALL Claire Small was born and raised in Nashville (and still lives there, too), but don't make the mistake of judging her or her music by any prejudices you might have against that town's rep for churning out mainstream country radio fodder. The looser "Americana" tag doesn't really do her justice either, even though Small was running with a hip crowd of anti-country-music-establishment mavericks like Greg Garing and BR549 when she was still in her teens. While there's certainly a rootsy, acoustic singer-songwriter layer to her impressive full-length debut, Ledger, the album also finds her exploring elements of bossa nova, klezmer and gypsy melodies. What it all adds up to is a promising new artist unafraid to color outside genre lines - and talented enough to pull it off.
THE GREYHOUNDS From Tyler, Texas, comes the Lone Star State's latest contribution to the jam band scene, Greyhounds, who can kick out the jams like the best of them and also bring some deep, old-school grooves into the mix from the funk, soul and blues legacy. This three-piece outfit features organ and guitar upfront weaving a melodic spell and paving the groove with ear candy, and their frequent touring has won them rabid fans across the nation through their club and festival appearances. This will be their first appearance at the Austin City Limits Musical Festival.
JOY DAVIS Texas native Joy Davis comes by her dedication to music honestly, having grown up surrounded by the craft. Davis' father, uncle and sister are all performers, so when at 13 Joy decided music was her path, she was met with little resistance and loads of encouragement. The singer-songwriter has supported fellow artists on various studio albums and live shows, but only began work on her own debut album this year. Davis has called upon friend and Vallejo frontman AJ Vallejo to produce her EP, which promises to introduce a delicate songstress now emboldened, ready for the spotlight.
DANIELIA COTTON As one of only seven black children in rural Hopewell, N.J., Danielia Cotton grew up an outsider. So like many an outsider before her - but maybe not so many young black girls - she turned to rock 'n' roll. After she got her guitar and vocal chops together - the former self-taught, the latter no doubt picked up in part from her jazz-singer mother - Cotton moved to New York City, began gigging at intimate rooms like the Bitter End, and released her self-titled debut EP in 2004. But it was the following year's Small White Town album that launched her career in full, with Philadelphia's WXPN picking her as one of its "artists to watch" in 2005 and putting her song "It's Only Life" into heavy rotation. With a powerful, bluesy voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin and Tina Turner, and tunes that carry the "swagger of Let It Bleed-era Rolling Stones" (as the Philadelphia Daily News put it), Cotton is anything but just another "chick singer with a guitar." Which of course means she's still an outsider - and a proud one, too.
TRISH MURPHY Trish Murphy began her music career in her native Houston, performing with her brother Darrin Murphy as the popular duo Darrin & Trish, but she really took off after moving to Austin 10 years ago and launching her solo career with her debut album, Crooked Mile. A sparkling mix of rootsy, singer-songwriter fare and killer pop hooks, the album netted Murphy a major-label deal for her follow-up, 1999's Rubies on the Lawn. But her strongest work was yet to come, after she returned to the D.I.Y. route for 2001's live Captured and 2003's ultra-assertive (and catchy) Girls Get In Free. Live, Murphy comes off like a natural-born rock star, whether she's fronting a rock band on a or playing unplugged. Outside of her solo career, Murphy divides her time between working with GenAustin, a non-profit outreach program that helps middle-school girls develop strong self-esteem, and cranking out the best AM pop tunes of the '70s as part of Austin's rockin' all-star covers band, the K-Tell Hit Machine.
MELISSA REAVES North Carolina's Melissa Reaves has been delighting audiences throughout the U.S. for more than a decade with her rock, funk and rhythm & blues-based sound. Reaves is a powerful vocalist and guitar player whose style ranges from driving rock 'n' roll to a funk and groove sound that lends itself to a diverse repertoire of originals as well as some occasional choice covers. With four independently released CDs under her belt - including 1999's Sentimental Anthem and the recent Rough Cuts - Reaves has built up a loyal fanbase both nationally and internationally, which she maintains by performing more than 200 shows per year. Whether touring as a solo act or with members of her band, the Willys, the response is invariably the same; as Charlotte, N.C.'s Creative Loafing put it, "Reaves will electrify any audience and send chills down your spine."
TROY CAMPBELL Possessed of arguably one of the finest male vocal instruments in the live music capital of the world (and beyond), Troy Campbell is one of the rare singer-songwriters who can genuinely sing their butts off. He's no slouch of a writer, either, as proven both on his three superb solo albums (Man vs. Beast, American Breakdown and this year's Long in the Sun) and on the trio of albums the Ohio-born, Austin-based artist made with his old band of shoulda-been-a-contender, Loose Diamonds (an outfit that also featured a fledgling guitarist named "Scrappy" Judd Newcomb who grow up to be one another of Austin's finest). Solo acoustic, Campbell casts a helluva spell; backed by a killer band (in his case, a talent-seeking-its-own-level guarantee), he's a revelation - and a riveting reminder of American rock 'n' roll at its finest.
ELI YOUNG BAND With roots firmly planted in the fertile musical soil of Texas, the Eli Young Band is a little bit country and a lot of guitar-driven rock 'n' roll. The band was co-founded by namesake members Mike Eli and James Young (lead vocals and lead guitar, respectively), who met while attending the University of North Texas in Denton and initially performed as a duo before bringing bassist Jon James and drummer Chris Thompson into the fold. After independently releasing their self-titled debut, the band landed a deal with the Nashville-based Carnival Recording Company, which recently issued the band's sophomore effort, Level. Drawing on influences ranging from classic country to the Jayhawks to the Black Crowes to Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Eli Young Band is poised to bust out of the Lone Star State and bring their brand of music to a wider audience.
ELVIS PERKINS Singer-songwriter Elvis Perkins grew up surrounded by celebrity: his father was actor Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame), his mother was model/photographer/actress Berry Berenson, and his older brother, Oz Perkins, is also an actor. His family has also been marked by tragedy - his father died of AIDS in 1992, and his mother was one of the airplane passengers killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. So it's little wonder that his debut album, Ash Wednesday, is a document of intense mourning and profound beauty - both of which are conveyed live with the help of his band, Dearland.
SOUTH AUSTIN JUG BAND Since appearing at the debut Austin City Limits Music Festival as the latest buzz band from the Live Music Capital of the World, the five-man South Austin Jug Band have gone on to conquer North America and Europe with a sound that San Francisco's East Bay Express describes as "a joyful noise that seems made of pure sunlight and moonshine." With two albums of sly and witty country-folk songs mixed with zesty bluegrass-style breakdowns to their credit, SAJB has won such honors as Best New Band at the 2003 Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Best Bluegrass Band at the 2005 Austin Music Awards. Playing some 200 shows a year, the boys return to their home turf to deliver some of the most charming and eclectic acoustic music to ever emerge from this city.
PETER DAWSON Though he's still a relatively fresh face on the regional country scene, Dallas-native Peter Dawson has already scored a No. 5 hit on the Texas Music Chart with his debut single, "Willie Nelson for President." He recorded that song and the rest of his first album, Do You Don't or Do You Do, while living in Nashville (where he attended Belmont University), but his burgeoning success on the Texas dancehall scene prompted him to return back to his home state. Now based in Austin, Dawson and his band recently released their second album, Coupland Live - the perfect snapshot of a rising Lone Star caught halfway between promising newcomer and certified next-big-thing.
ROBYN LUDWICK It's almost extraneous to mention that Robyn Ludwick comes from what has become the First Family of Texas music. The sister of Charlie and Bruce Robison and sister-in-law of Dixie Chick Emily Robison and Kelly Willis, Ludwick has proven herself a talent of the same order and made her own name for herself with her debut album of last year, For So Long. Produced by master of anything with strings Danny Barnes, it marks Ludwick as a truly poetic songwriter with a luscious and loamy voice carving out her own brand of Lone Star back road country. Her debut appearance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival will introduce music fans to a talent sure to make her mark in years to come.
RODNEY HAYDEN Rodney Hayden is nothing less than what the title of his 2001 debut CD seemed to boast: The Real Thing. That record, released when Hayden was just 21, made it clear that the young artist wasn't just another rabble-rousing yahoo, but rather an honest-to-God country singer. Country, as in cut from the same classic-country cloth as fellow Texans George Jones and George Strait. Moreover, ratio of originals to covers proved he was already a compelling writer, too - not the kind of tunes typically traded on Music Row, but songs either of the aforementioned legendary Georges could really sink their teeth into if given the chance. Hayden's second album, 2003's Living the Good Life (produced by long-time Robert Earl Keen guitarist Rich Brotherton), proved that his first volley of straight-up honky-tonk perfection was no fluke.
WHITE GHOST SHIVERS Ever wonder what was so great about the Great Depression? Not a damn thing, really, except for maybe the music. You know - campy Vaudeville, hokum blues, hillbilly swing and all that sexy hot jazz? That was fun stuff. Given that the state of the country and world as a whole can be kind of depressing these days, too, don't we deserve some of that good stuff, too? Austin's White Ghost Shivers sure seem to think so, which is why the talented young band has spent the last six years dishing out their wildly inventive take (through both covers and cheeky originals) on the music that rocked their great-grandparents' world. With lead vocal duties split between a 7-foot-tall, banjo-playing beanpole named Shorty Borgasm and the sultry, ukulele-packing Cella Blue (likened by Fort Worth Weekly to "a one-woman burlesque revue"), well, you just know you're in for a good time at a Shivers show.
NEW MONSOON If you thought the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead, both with a pair of drummers, were lacking in percussion, New Monsoon is your band. The San Francisco-based septet brings the drum and then some with a trio of percussionists who help the band craft its groove-centric, improvisational sound. Founded in 1997 by former Penn State classmates (and guitarists) Bo Carper and Jeff Miller, New Monsoon quickly began to define itself as a band without definition. Using an inclusive jazzy foundation, the group is a multi-cultural extravaganza, incorporating elements of African, Indian, Latin, Australian and other international sounds into a soulful funk groove with nods to blues and bluegrass. New Monsoon has issued a pair of studio albums - 2003's Downstream and last year's The Sound - that capture the tighter aspects of their songcraft, but the group shines brightest live, where the varied sets have become a favorite among fans and tapers in grand jam band tradition.