SXSW 2018: 25 Best Country, Americana Shows We Saw

From eclectic sets by Devin Dawson and Caroline Rose to star-is-born turns by Billy Strings and Liz Brasher

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James McMurtry
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James McMurtry

Given his lineage – novelist father, English professor mother – it's no surprise that James McMurtry has a flair for writerly, perfectly observed details. But there is nothing the least bit precious or musty about his music, powered by the fiery furnaces of churning blues-rock guitar. Most of the songs McMurtry served up during his Saturday set had a story to go with them, like the one he said he'd written in New Orleans while "just about the perfect amount of drunk and pissed off." And as usual, the apex arrived with his meth-shiner crowd favorite "Choctaw Bingo," which sprawled for 10 glorious minutes of grooving bar-band perfection. "Tip your server, be nice to the doorman and travel safe," McMurtry advised at the end of his set. Later that evening, he turned up to watch his son Curtis McMurtry's gig at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel across town. D.M.

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