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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Rita Coolidge
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Lorne Thomson/Redferns24/25

Rita Coolidge

Seventies country-pop singer Rita Coolidge never retired, but she did go 12 years without recording an album of new material. Safe in the Arms of Time, her first LP since 2005's And So Is Love, arrives in May and she used her SXSW set to plug the record. Coolidge unveiled the new tunes by inviting Austin-based guitarist David Grissom to the stage – he's also on the record – and bringing her Blue Elan labelmate Chelsea Williams to sing on three songs, including "Walking on Water," which the singer co-wrote with Keb' Mo'. His presence as a collaborator suggests Coolidge has ventured into rootsier territory for Safe in the Arms of Time, which is somewhat true: apart from the smooth sailing of "Doing Fine Without You," a song co-written by Graham Nash and Russ Kunkel, the songs are moody, subtle affairs that lean into Coolidge's position as a veteran who has seen and done it all. While she closed her with a triptych of crowd-pleasers – "(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher," "We're All Alone" "The Way You Do the Things You Do" – the heart of her set belonged to her new album, making it a pleasure to see her engage with the present, not the past. S.T.E. 

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