Aaron Watson isn’t interested in what someone else thinks he should do. Instead of getting lonely as he sidesteps expectations, he’s gaining followers — hundreds of thousands of them. His new album Red Bandana is the next stop in a long, successful musical journey, marked by songs, albums and a career far too vast to detail but that’s made a deep personal connection with the people who matter most — his fans.
With a John Denver grin and mind full of Alabama attitude, Adam Hood knows the beautiful mess of blue-collar love, and everyone on Music Row wants in. Tracks from his critically acclaimed 2011 album The Shape of Things have been cut by Little Big Town, David Nail, Josh Abbott Band, Brian Keane and John Corbett — but nobody can delivery Hood’s songs quite like the seasoned pro himself.
American Aquarium has sold out shows across the United States and Europe on the back of its compelling folk-infused rock ’n’ roll. The band’s 2018 album, Things Change, features the production work of Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter John Fullbright and includes cameos from Americana standouts like Jamie Lin Wilson and John Moreland.
American Aquarium frontman BJ Barham’s debut solo album, Rockingham, was born while Barham was touring Europe with American Aquarium in 2015. Only a few hours from the Paris attacks, Barham wrote the album as a tribute to people he’d known since childhood.
Neither Southern rock nor mainstream country, Cobb’s sound sits somewhere between the two. With a Grammy-nominated album, Shine On Rainy Day, under his belt, he took to the road to share his sound with his lush following of fans.
Originally hailing from Las Cruces, New Mexico, four-time Texas Female Vocalist of the Year Bri Bagwell fell in love with music at an early age. When she turned 18, she uprooted herself and moved to Austin, where she quickly learned the art of live performance in many of the city’s clubs, winning over one live audience at a time. Her albums showcase her songwriting talents, but more impressive is her grueling tour schedule, boasting more than 150 shows per year.
Bruce Robison’s long-standing contribution to country music earned him his spot as the 2018 MusicFest tribute artist. With cuts by some of country’s biggest names (George Strait, Tim McGraw, the Dixie Chicks), Robison continues an impressive solo career while also focusing on his new project, the Next Waltz, a blossoming community of artists, fans and friends gathering both virtually and at his recording studio just outside of Austin.
Casey Donahew fuses genuine, honest lyrics with contagious energy onstage, which makes for an unforgettable show. Celebrating 15 years under his belt and just as many chart-topping singles to his credit. Donahew released 15 Years: The Wild Ride in 2017.
Rio Grande Valley native Charley Crockett has been compared to legends like Bill Withers, Merle Haggard and Gary Clark Jr. His latest release, Little G.L’s Blue Bonanza, pays tribute to Crockett’s busking days, with an album full of his own interpretations of old-school country songs and half-forgotten blues gems. The 15 songs were originally performed by George Jones, Ernest Tubb, T-Bone Walker, Ray Charles and others.
Chris Colston has curated a style all his own that can only be described as “gritty Texas roots combined with rock ’n’ roll.” His honest, relatable lyrics resonate with his rapidly growing fanbase, and, with that, Colston has created a product that can’t be denied.
Click here to check out Chris Colston and his band’s favorite vinyl.
Chris Knight is sometimes dark, often intense and always without compromise — Cormac McCarthy meets Copperhead Road. Reaction to his 1998 debut album, Chris Knight, which included the hit Americana and AAA tracks ”It Ain’t Easy Being Me,” “Framed” and “Love and a .45,” was immediate, with writers nationwide comparing him to everyone from John Prine and Neil Young to Johnny Cash and Nebraska-era Springsteen.
Cleto Cordero is the frontman and chief songwriter of the much-loved Lubbock-based group Flatland Cavalry. Originally from Midland, Cordero moved to Lubbock inspired by musical heroes like Buddy Holly, Josh Abbott and William Clark Green. He formed Flatland Cavalry in 2012 with drummer Jason Albers.
Whether you know Code Canada as the frontman and primary songwriter of Cross Canadian Ragweed or Cody Canada and the Departed, or as founder and teacher at the School of Rock in New Braunfels, Texas, you know music runs deep. In 1994, Canada, originally from Pampa, Texas, and some like-minded friends formed one of the most influential bands the scene had produced, Cross Canadian Ragweed. After the group disbanded in 2010, Canada formed the Departed with CCR member Jeremy Plato and began to introduce new music to his lineup — songs about the good times and the bad, with a recurring theme of finding his happy area. While his focus is on the road ahead, Canada now finds pleasure playing the timeless songs of Cross Canadian Ragweed for his loyal fans. MusicFest will honor Canada, a gentleman and a legend, as the Official Tribute Artist for its 35th anniversary.
CODY CANADA & THE DEPARTED
A road warrior and prolific songwriter, Cody Canada formed the Departed in 2011. With their latest studio album, 3, he nods to the glory days of his former band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, brewing up a sound that’s inspired by outlaw country icons of the 1970s and rock bands of the 1990s. He also found inspiration in his bandmates: bass player Jeremy Plato (who’s played alongside Canada for decades, beginning with Cross Canadian Ragweed’s first album) and drummer Eric Hansen (a longtime friend celebrating his third year with the band). 3 represents the Departed’s most uplifting album to date — a result of Canada’s own attitude toward his life and his band. “I’m a fan of love,” he says unapologetically. “I love my wife. I love my kids. I love my friends. These songs come out of the good times and the bad times, but the recurring theme is me finding my happy area. I’ve finally found comfort in who I am. My band is where it needs to be. I don’t need to fight it.”
An award-winning singe-songwriter from West Virginia, Coley McCabe counts several performances at the Grand Ole Opry and film appearances to her credit. She and her husband, Thom Shepherd, currently travel the world together, telling their stories and singing their songs that make people laugh and cry.
Copper Chief is a central Texas band with deep roots and an even deeper brotherhood. Consisting of artists Mike Valliere, Rio Tripiano, Justin Lusk and John Jammall II, their passion for music is undeniable — one of the members even gave up pursuing a law degree to pursue this dream. The quartet had a big year, winning New Band of the Year at the Texas Regional Radio Music Awards and finishing as runner-ups on the nationally televised show Real Country.
Singer-songwriter Cory Morrow was born and raised in Texas, and he’s become a local legend in the Lone Star State, producing a handful of self-released albums and playing an endless string of shows from Amarillo to Corpus Christi that have made him a major attraction in the Southwest. Morrow has sold over 200,000 albums independently.
Soulful storyteller Courtney Patton’s third album, What It’s Like to Fly Alone, is her most successful yet, peaking at No. 4 on the iTunes country charts and making a mark across four different Billboard charts. Along with her exceptional acoustic shows, Patton and friends will present another captivating and riveting specialty show presentation at MusicFest, plus the new “Married to Music” performance in the Grand Ballroom.
For fun-loving personality Dale Brisby, who sometimes refers to himself as the greatest cowboy on earth, it’s always Rodeo Time. Commanding an audience of, he claims, hundreds of thousands across the country, you’re guaranteed to laugh a lot and learn a little with Brisby.
Dalton Domino honed his songwriting craft at Lubbock’s venerable Blue Light Live. He gained notoriety with his album Corners, and just put out follow-up Songs from the Exile.
Doug Moreland is the host of “Doug Moreland & Friends: Fireside Songs,” a nightly song swap with friends in the Steamboat Base Club. He’ll also perform swing shows throughout the mountainside. From Western swing and cowboy poetry to the humorous “Toast with Doug,” Moreland brings variety to the diverse MusicFest stages.
After leaving Sons of the Desert, Drew Womack has focused on creating his own music and has collaborated with many of the leaders of the Texas Red Dirt movement, co-writing, producing and singing with artists including Pat Green, Cory Morrow, Robert Earl Keen, Josh Abbott and others who’ve since become Womack fans.
Lubbock outfit Flatland Cavalry first impressed with its 2016 debut album, Humble Folks. In January 2019, the band turned heads again with its sophomore album, Homeland Insecurity, providing an appreciation for all the sharp detail and high-spirited emotions of today.
GIOVANNIE & THE HIRED GUNS
Hailing from Stephenville, Giovannie & the Hired Guns formed in 2015. They released their first album, Bad Habits, in August 2017, and released a new single, “Lover Boy,” in early 2019.
Grant Gilbert is a young, hustling singer-songwriter who embodies the spirit of the Lubbock musicians who’ve preceded him. Like Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Josh Abbott Band and the Dixie Chicks, Gilbert is ostensibly country but really so much more. Classic rock, the blues, Southern rock and, yes, country are all ingrained in an energetic, powerful package that’s become a major part of the club circuit. That spirit is evident in Gilbert’s forthcoming EP, Loud & Clear, an intense musical workout that mirrors his college-town beginnings.
Throughout a recording career that’s spanned more than 20 years, Jack Ingram has maintained a reputation for personally charged songcraft and charismatic performances, earning him prominent stature in a prestigious tradition of singer-songwriters. Ingram’s prior work has won him both a fiercely devoted fanbase and critical acclaim.
JADE MARIE PATEK
Granddaughter of polka legend Joe Patek, Jade Marie Patek counts singers like Janis Joplin and Sheryl Crow as influences. Patek brings a unique sound to Texas country radio. Jade was nominated for New Female Vocalist of the Year in 2018 after her first radio single, “Drive,” peaked at No. 28 on the Texas Regional Radio Report, and took home the honor in 2019.
JAMIE LIN WILSON
Wilson broke into the Texas country-folk scene as one of the co-lead vocalists of the Gougers before the band gradually gave way to not only Wilson’s solo work (her 2015 release, Holidays & Wedding Rings, was one of the year’s finest) but also higher-profile musical adventures with the Trishas, an all-female singer-songwriter band founded at MusicFest. Wilson’s latest solo effort, Jumping Over Rocks, was released in 2018.
Now releasing his seventh solo album, I Travel On, prolific songwriter Jason Eady is impressing fans once again. I Travel On is the sound of a deep, restorative breath being taken of wooden instruments pushing air around a room together in real time.
JEFF CROSBY & THE REFUGEES
Born and raised in a sleepy mountain town in northern Idaho, singer-songwriter Jeff Crosby’s songs are like pages ripped out of an intimately personal diary, detailing the rugged beauty of what it means to have loved, lost and kept on.
Hailed as a Texas troubadour on the rise, John Baumann released his fourth studio album, Proving Grounds, to an eager fanbase in 2017. Expect to enjoy exceptional acoustic performances plus a special surprise new “band” (of well-known artists) performing at MusicFest.
John Fullbright’s 2012 studio debut, From the Ground Up, received a Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album. In 2014, he released the critically acclaimed Songs, toured all over America and the UK, and appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman. A true songsmith, Fullbright inhabits his songs’ narrators completely, his old-soul voice fleshing out complex characters and subtle narratives with a gifted sense of understatement.
With 14 straight top-10 singles and a nearly 50-year career to his name, Johnny Rodriguez is one of the true elder statesmen on the MusicFest lineup. Tom T. Hall and Bobby Bare first encouraged Rodriguez to fly to Nashville in 1971, a decision that would lead him through a whirlwind career.
Jonathan Tyler found rock ’n’ roll success with his band the Northern Lights in the early 2010s. Holy Smokes, his first solo release, finds Tyler free of major-label constraints, removed from the guard of his Northern Lights backing band and bearing his soul as a songwriter who’s seen the top of the mountain and now seeks a different kind of climb, one filled less with flash and more with substance.
Josh Abbott keeps one foot in the Texas music scene and the other in the national country world. Abbott won four times during the inaugural Texas Regional Radio Awards with his upbeat brand of country that still leans on classic instrumentation — particularly banjo and fiddle — to affect a raucous, roof-raising attitude.
Josh Ward is country music blood to bone. An anchored mindset has led this rising star from a drifter’s adolescence to the jeopardized game of the rodeo circuit, to the punishing toil of the Texas oil fields to the fickle arms of the music business, where he’s notched nine straight No. 1 singles on Texas radio.
Kaitlin Butts’ self-proclaimed “mess” of curly red hair and an Oklahoma-sunshine-bright smile captures audiences’ attention the moment she steps on stage. A declaration that “We’re gonna get to know each other real quick,” followed by an ornery grin, hints that there are stories to be told. And tell them she does, with a sound that’s fresh, original and rich in the traditions of country music.
A favorite with critics and the alt-country and Americana communities, Willis is a gifted singer and songwriter whose vocals can move from sunny clarity to passionate grit. Her recent album, 2018’s Back Being Blue, was produced by husband Bruce Robison.
Kevin Fowler is one of Texas’ long-standing troubadours, with a knack for entertaining rowdy crowds. His most recent album, Barstool Stories, is an ode to everything that’s kept fans coming back for 20 years.
After a decade of fronting for Uncle Lucius, Kevin Galloway is regarded as one of Texas’ purest and most soulful voices. He debut solo album, The Change, is “a love letter and a promise to my newly formed family.”
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire — and with New Smoke Show, country artist Kimberly Dunn is ready to ignite. The 11-track album, produced by Grammy Award winner Chad Carlson (Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood), should mark Dunn’s entry into the mainstream after several years of burning up the charts in her native Texas.
Kody West’s music is a mix of Texas country and bluegrass with some good-for-the-soul grooves. His 2017 album, Green, has earned West more than 5 million streams on Spotify.
Born and raised in East Texas, Koe Wetzel is rapidly gaining momentum in the Texas scene thanks to a strong mixture of Southern rock energy and East Texas charm. Wetzel just released his sophomore album, Harold Saul High.
Born and raised in Palestine, Texas, Cooper grew up riding shotgun in his dad’s cow truck, which is where he first discovered the artists who’d come to be his biggest musical influences — Waylon Jennings, Chris Ledoux and Cross Canadian Ragweed. His new album is Good Ones Never Last.
Kyle Hutton is a self-professed “inspiration junkie.” His music explores the landscapes of hope and regret, redemption and addiction, faith and doubt. His first four albums include Texas music chart-topping singles and collaborations with songwriting heroes like Radney Foster.
Kyle Park has had seven No. 1 singles on the Texas Regional Radio Report and 11 singles on the Texas Music Chart’s top 10; and he’s been direct support for such legendary artists as George Strait, Clint Black, Mark Chesnutt, Gary Allan and more. His most recent album, Don’t Forget Where You Come From, pays tribute to his country roots.
Kylie Frey may have first made her mark as a rodeo champion, but her two Texas Regional Radio No. 1 singles prove she’s destined for an even brighter stage. Her most recent song, “Too Bad,” features Randy Rogers and was produced by the legendary Paul Worley.
Lorrie Morgan, daughter of Grand Ole Opry star George Morgan, made her professional debut at age 13 at the Opry, where her rendition of “Paper Roses” received a standing ovation. She eventually became the first woman in her genre to begin her career with three consecutive platinum albums.
Already known as the leader of the Dallas-based and beloved honky-tonk band Eleven Hundred Springs and the rockabilly flavored Matt the Cat Trio, Matt Hillyer is branching out by focusing on country storytelling, marking the beginning of a new era for him.
Matt Skinner’s lyrics capture the raw human spirit and come to life as he deftly weaves a colorful tapestry of songs and stories. His lyrics of love and danger are tempered with an infectious groove.
MAX AND HEATHER STALLING
While Max and Heather Stalling perform the occasional song they’ve written together as well as a handful of cover songs, the bulk of the show consists of songs Max has written in his 20-plus years as a performing singer-songwriter. Heather is also an award-winning violinist.
MICKY AND THE MOTORCARS
A lifetime of work has gone into getting Micky and the Motorcars to the forefront of Americana. For more than a decade, the Motorcars have been touring the U.S., Europe and Canada, releasing six studio recordings.
MIDNIGHT RIVER CHOIR
One night, four strangers ended up on a late-night float trip. As they made their way down the river singing songs, the harmonies floated into the heads of sleeping campers. The next morning, the boys overheard a man telling a friend he was “awakened by a midnight river choir.” That was all it took.
A respected songwriter and producer, Mike McClure’s songs have been covered by many country and Red Dirt greats, including Garth Brooks (“I’d Rather Have Nothing”) and Cross Canadian Ragweed (“Fighting For”). He’s also produced albums for Stoney LaRue, Jason Boland, Whiskey Myers and Turnpike Troubadours.
MIKE AND THE MOONPIES
On their new album Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, Mike and the Moonpies enlisted the London Symphony Orchestra to create one of the most sophisticated country records to come from Texas in a long time. It’s a notable change of pace from their normal beer-soaked honky-tonk rabble-rousing.
Parker McCollum built a steady fanbase off his 2015 debut album, The Limestone Kid, before 2017 follow-up, Probably Wrong, helped him secure a new deal with Universal/MCA. He counts Randy Rogers among his personal mentors.
Click here to read more about Parker from our Fall issue.
After rising through Texas’ college town and dance hall scene years ago, Green earned himself major-label support in Nashville and became the poster child of Texas music for a whole generation of fans. His list of achievements includes more than 2 million albums sold, three Grammy nominations and a sold-out Houston Astrodome.
Paul Thorn quit his 1980s boxing career to pursue music full-time. He and partner Billy Maddox cut demos for the legendary FAME studios in Muscle Shoals. Now, Thorn returns to his gospel roots on his latest album, Don’t Let The Devil Ride.
Hailing from the Panhandle, Randall King earned the ear of Garth Brooks before eventually co-writing with the country legend. His self-titled 2018 debut album has placed him among Texas’ new wave of neo-traditional country singers.
Randy Rogers has burnt his brand into the Texas country scene deeper than most. The singer-songwriter, along with his band, has been named a “Top 10 Must-See Artist” in Rolling Stone, has appeared on Letterman, Leno and Conan, and been nominated for Top Vocal Group by the Academy of Country Music.
Ray Johnston built a solid foundation over the years based on melodies and lyrics that lean on the positive side of life. The success of his first album, 2014’s No Bad Days, is not only the result of a growing fanbase but also seven singles on the Texas Music Chart, over a quarter of a million streams online and significant national exposure.
READ SOUTHALL BAND
With overdriven guitars and heavy drums, the Read Southall Band aims to deliver a rock ’n’ roll experience at every show. Southall wrote, recorded and independently released his first album, Six String Sorrow, in 2015 and released Borrowed Time with his band in 2017.
Reckless Kelly continues to grow, and with an audience that truly wants to hear the lyrics and appreciate the musicianship in their arrangements, the Texas country heroes have moved on to play performing arts centers and listening rooms that provide more focused and intimate encounters. The group’s latest album, Sunset Motel, is, like its predecessors, a reflection of Reckless Kelly’s attention to craft and continuity.
After moving to Austin in 2013, Shayne was inspired to write more of her own original songs and hit the music scene harder than ever. In no time, she was playing at some of the most iconic venues in Austin, landed a sponsorship with Lone Star Beer and opened for Pat Green, Gary P. Nunn, Walt Wilkins and Cory Morrow.
Roger Creager is an avid adventure-seeker, and all of this finds its way into Creager’s music and live shows. Those who get hooked on his charisma and high energy come back show after show, year after year, record after record.
SHANE SMITH & THE SAINTS
Shane Smith and the Saints unleash a spirited, four part harmony sound that music fans can’t quite put their finger on yet have no trouble putting their hands together for. Hints of folk, rock, country and Americana all shine through an aggressive, rootsy fiddle-beat stew that’s connecting with students, hipsters, bikers, roughnecks and songwriter buffs at every stop.
Stoney LaRue’s album Us Time is a tribute to fans, comprised of some of his most-beloved songs chosen by fans themselves. Independently charged, LaRue has sold more than one million records over his career and plays 200-plus shows a year.
Sum Brothers is a collaboration between Drew, Tim and Tres Womack, along with Luke Adair and Josh Droegemueller (of Chubby Knuckle Choir). The group just released its debut album, Brownwood.
THE BAND OF HEATHENS
What started out as a spontaneous side project soon became a rock ’n’ roll band. The group’s latest album, A Message from the People Revisited, is its own version of the classic Ray Charles album A Message From The People.
THE COLE TRAINS
The Cole Trains’ music mixes high-energy songs with lyrical ballads and everything in between. Its first full-length studio album, Lucky Stars, was recorded with Cody Canada on the legendary Neve console at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 in Los Angeles.
THE TEXAS TRIO
What do you get when you cross a chart-topping sensation, a two-time Grammy-winning fiddle player and a member of George Strait’s Ace in the Hole Band? The Texas Trio. Kyle Park, John Michael Whitby and Jason Roberts have teamed up to bring Western swing and traditional country to MusicFest.
Country Music Association of Texas Songwriter of the Year Thom Shepherd is an Austin-based touring artist who spent many years as a songwriter in Nashville. He’s had 10 singles and more than 100 songs cut by other artists.
Tres Womack performs with the Chubby Knuckle Choir as well as his new band, the Sum Brothers. Womack’s 2008 album, Freak Show, spent 26 weeks on the Americana Music Association chart, and “Gather ’Round” was named Song of the Year by the Academy of Texas Music in 2009.
After nine studio albums and a decade-plus of touring, Bowen has amassed a string of regional hits and awards, as well as a passionate fan base. Since Bowen launched his career at Stubb’s Barbecue in Lubbock, he’s risen from collegiate greenhorn to the top of the Texas music circuit.
Warren Hood is an accomplished classically trained violinist who’s played with everybody from Steven Tyler to Lyle Lovett. He also somehow found time to play with the South Austin Jug Band, eventually continuing as a solo artist.
Will Hoge is a beloved Grammy-nominated songwriter and singer from Tennessee. While Hoge has plenty of songwriting credits to his name, he still spends hundreds of days a year on the road performing for fans across the globe.
William Beckmann was raised on the Mexican border in the town of Del Rio, Texas. The 23-year-old’s blend of Americana and Texas country shines on his latest EP, Outskirts of Town.
WILLIAM CLARK GREEN
William Clark Green is one of Texas’ fastest-rising stars. With four critically esteemed albums already under his belt, he’s impressing with each new project, including his most recent, Hebert Island.
Based in Amarillo, Wilkerson stumbled into a career in music after winning the Blue Light Live Singer-Songwriter contest in 2011. He’s since gained a loyal following in the Panhandle and North Texas, finding favor in the thriving rock and country scenes in Amarillo, Lubbock and Fort Worth.