Sixty years of Austin music history is tough to squeeze into one evening, but Alejandro Escovedo managed to accomplish this feat in The United Sounds of Austin. Held at the ACL Moody Theatre, the program featured 30+ numbers representing wildly diverse musical genres: gospel, jazz, blues, country, folk, Mexican-American, rock, and even punk. As musical curator and master of ceremonies, Alejandro pulled together an impressive group of friends—Joe Ely, Terry Allen, Lucinda Williams, Rosie Flores, and more—for this overview of Austin’s music and musicians.
The Bells of Joy started off the evening with their 1951 gospel hit, Let’s Talk about Jesus. Most of the original members were still performing when Bill and I saw them about 15 years ago at a Stubb’s gospel brunch, but now only one of the older generation remains with the group.
Generally, the evening progressed in chronological order. Alejandro and others (such as Jody Denberg from local NPR music station, KUTX) introduced each genre and talked about various Austin musicians who influenced each type of music.
The evening’s musicians performed both covers and their own songs. Joe Ely, Terry Allen, and Rosie Flores all play around Austin quite a bit, and were great as always. I hadn’t seen Lucinda Williams before, but liked her songwriting and singing. Alejandro was having a busy evening as emcee, so he just played two songs. The skills of the talented house band, led by David Pulkingham, were called out in a Rolling Stone article about the event. For me, the highlight of the evening was JT Van Zandt’s moving rendition of “Tower Song,” written by his late father, Townes.
The concert lasted well over three hours. The audience was thrilled to hear Alejandro end the evening with “See you next year!” Let’s hope so!