Wynonna Judd Reinvents Herself on Small SXSW Stage - Rolling Stone
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Wynonna Judd Reinvents Herself on Small SXSW Stage

Superstar looks back on her career, muses about Dave Grohl and Kanye West to crowd of 200 in Austin

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Wynonna Judd speaking on a SXSW panel a few days before her show Friday night in Austin.

Amy E. Price/Getty Images

“Raise your hand if you’ve never seen me in concert before,” Wynonna Judd 
told the crowd of about 200 at Bethel Hall in St. David’s Church on Saturday. A few
 dozen hands went up. Judd nodded. “About frigging time.”

Judd confessed, “Tonight’s a big fat hairy deal for me.” She rolled in to 
the show with a lot of baggage: not just a checkered personal life
 (divorces, arrests, etc), but her mega-successful career (she’s scored 20 Number One singles, both solo and with her mother Naomi in the Judds). At age
 50, she’s incredibly famous, but has the cheesy sheen that adheres to
 many mainstream country stars of the Eighties and Nineties. The antidote: playing
 with a stripped-down three-piece band of stone Nashville pros and telling 
stories about her own life between songs. The audience, a mix of
 superfans and skeptics, watched Judd reinvent herself in the space of an 

She noted that her musical career began in Austin, when she hung out at 
the club Antone’s at age 13 with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Vaughan of
 the Fabulous Thunderbirds, cracked jokes about how it was appropriate for
 her to be playing a church as Saturday night turned into Sunday morning,
 and said of her dysfunctional family life, “If you had to share a bus
 with your mother for 10 years, wouldn’t you be that way too?”

Speaking of Dave Grohl, she said affectionately, “He’s like a
 tenth grader with cash.” Speaking of Kanye West somewhat less
 affectionately, she said, “I could take him with one hand tied behind my 

But most of all, Judd played music, both her old hits and three new tunes
 from a forthcoming, unfinished album. Without overblown production, the
 emphasis was on her big, bluesy voice — she said that at an early age, she 
wanted to be known as “Shelvis,” and her Presley roots came through as
 she took control of her own music, and her own story.

Judd was clearly nervous about the show: She noted that it was strange to
 be able to see an audience up close, and when a few members departed as 
the hour grew later, she visibly glared at them. After an anemic
 singalong to the 1986 Judds hit “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ol’
Days),” she noted that the last time she had played that song, she had
 50,000 fans singing along. But she shouldn’t have worried: Judd
 demonstrated that she had talent and personality to relaunch her own
 career, and have enough left over for three other acts.

In This Article: SXSW, Wynonna


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