Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit led off the rootsy lineup at Rolling Stone's SXSW 2011 day three showcase on March 18th. "We're from Providence, Rhode Island," Isbell joked in between songs shortly after noon. "No, I'm just kidding. We're from Muscle Shoals, Alabama!" Anyone with ears could have said as much after hearing his soulful country-rock set. Ohio singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield, a protegée of the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, followed Isbell with a set of dark, vulnerable country-rock tunes.
The afternoon continued with a special performance by L.A. folk-rockers Dawes, who debuted most of their upcoming album Nothing Is Wrong to an enthusiastic crowd. Next up, Nicole Atkins added some psychedelic flair to the lineup, performing with a full band as well as a few solo acoustic numbers.
Sardonic Texan singer-songwriter Hayes Carll closed out the party around 4 p.m., playing songs from his recent album KMAG YOYO. (The title, he explained after the show, is a military slang acronym for "Kiss My Ass, Guys, You're On Your Own.") "Most of my stuff's about alcoholism and drugs and depression and sex and travel," Carll noted dryly before one tune, drawing a laugh from the crowd.