By S. Pulse
It’s that time of year when we gear up for one of our favorite annual music events, the Luck Reunion. Held on Willie Nelson’s ranch just west of Austin, Luck is known as one of the most intimate music festival experiences in the country. Ticket sales are capped at around 2,000 tickets, so the experience is more akin to an epic backyard barbeque than a festival. Stages are scattered across the remnants of a wild west film set originally built for Willie’s movie “The Red Headed Stranger”.
You can catch A-list musicians playing in a chapel that seats less than 50, or hop over to the saloon and see a musician dazzle a small housefull, just as they may have done while starting out in an Austin bar. If you are one of the fortunate few to score a ticket, you are in for a treat. If not, you can still peruse the artist line-up or play our Austin 101 Magazine Spotify playlist to hear one of the most thoughtfully curated lists of talent in the music industry.
Willie’s As Hot as Ever
Willie Nelson and the Family, as per usual, headline the event. Coming off his Grammy win for this year’s Best Country Album, Willie remains as relevant and talented as ever. We expect he’ll perform standards like “Whiskey River”, “On the Road Again”, and “Georgia (On My Mind)”. We also hope to see Willie perform two potential collaborations: “Die When I’m High (Halfway to Heaven)” with Particle Kid (aka son Micah Nelson) and “Beyond the Stars” with Tami Neilson. Both songs were released last year, have beautiful melodies, and lyrics that tug at the heartstrings. At almost 90 (a big bash is planned in April in L.A.), this guy doesn’t stop.
Lineup is Strong on Austin Talent
We do live in the “Live Music Capital of the World”, but we believe this year’s Luck line-up may include a record number of hometown musicians. Austin’s own Britt Daniel and his band Spoon are one of the biggest names on the line-up and we look forward to hearing not only their classic hits, but also material from their new album “Lucifer on the Sofa”, largely conceived and recorded here in Austin. Other Austin artists on the bill include Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Bob Schneider, Shane Smith & The Saints, Band of Heathens, Willis Alan Ramsey, Night Cap, Rattlesnake Milk, Sir Woman, and Wild Child (the latter two both feature Austin-based Kelsey Wilson).
Acts You Should See – Our Lucky 7
Many types of music are represented at Luck. We love to hear artists that weren’t previously on our radar. It’s a great fest for expanding your musical horizons; a musical sample platter of the best in the industry, both new and old. If you want some help navigating the diverse line-up, for what it’s worth, here are seven acts on our ‘must see’ list that may be of interest:
- Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band: A true Renaissance man, Allen is a museum-level visual artist, songwriter, and musician. A part of the original “Outlaws” crew, Allen played the first Willie Nelson Picnic, and he is still putting out great music. Give a listen to his latest album, “Just Like Moby Dick”.
- Katie Pruitt: The first thing you’ll notice about Pruitt is her soaring vocals and pitch-perfect voice. Combing that voice with evocative lyrics makes Pruitt a fresh and positive addition to the country music scene. Check out her beautiful song “Georgia” that chronicles her challenge to come out to her religious Southern family.
- Drayton Farley: His voice is raspy, textured and perfectly suited for the graveness of his singer-songwriter story telling. If you have not heard of him, you will soon. He is poised to have a break-out year as he gears up to release his next album “Twenty on High”.
- Sierra Ferrell: This vocalist and multi-instrumentalist has experienced a meteoric rise from her nomadic days of busking across the country. Currently, she resides in Nashville, where many view her as the current ‘it girl’, and for good reason. Ferrell has a traditional country voice that seems to have been plucked from a long-ago era that she mixes with a fresh blend of unexpected ingredients, like jazz and calypso.
- Shane Smith and the Saints: Based in Austin, this band has paid their dues as road warriors and found a huge boost to their audience after having their song “Dance the Night Away” featured on the show “Yellowstone”. Fronted by Shane Smith’s strong, soulful vocals and bolstered by an infusion of driving fiddle licks, this band could be the hillbilly cousin of Mumford and Sons.
- Ethel Cain: Cain (real name Hayden Anhedonia) has received a lot of recognition this year. Florence Welch even tapped her to re-record a live duet version of her song “Morning Elvis”. Ethel Cain has a voice with hints of Taylor Swift layered in a mix of sound that is ethereal, sometimes haunting, and innovative as hell.
- John Baumann: A West Texas native, Baumann is a noted songwriter, solo artist, and member of the Texas supergroup “The Panhandlers”. He is appearing at Luck as part of the BMI songwriter’s circle. His song “Midland” is one of our favorite Texas songs about the West Texas experience.
Luck to Honor Leon Russell and Doug Sahm with Tribute Performances
Epic songwriter and performer Leon Russell will be honored with a tribute featuring Beau Bedford, Robert Ellis, and “special guests”. It’s always exciting to see a “special guest” listing at Luck and Russell’s catalogue is deep with remarkable songs including “This is Your Song” and “Stranger in a Strange Land”.
Doug Sahm will also be honored with a musical tribute delivered by his son, musician Shawn Sahm, along with some of Doug’s friends. Hailing from San Antonio, Doug Sahm made a name for himself in the 1970’s playing clubs in Austin and San Francisco. A master of the steel guitar, Sahm was also a founding member of several noteworthy bands including the Markays, Dell-Kings, and Texas Tornados (with whom he won a Grammy.)
Reunion to be Followed by Two Separate Weekend Concerts.
Another way to experience the magic of Luck is to attend the star-studded weekend concerts. Tickets may still be available for the weekend including the “New Orleans Takeover” on Saturday, March 18th and the “Gospel Brunch and Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe” on Sunday, March 19th. Check out the Luck website for details and tickets.
You can also check out all our photo galleries, previews, and festival reviews on Austin 101 Magazine and search ‘Luck’.
2023 Luck Line-Up
Black Opry Review (Sue Daniels, Aaron Vance, Nikki Morgan, Nicky Diamonds)
BMI Songwriters Circle (John Baumann, Bella White, Poet Hawkins)
Jason Scott and the High Heat
Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the West Texas Exiles
Matthew Logan Vasquez
Michael Martin Murphey
Shane Smith and the Saints
Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band
The Band of Heathens
The GOLDEN Dregs
The Heavy Heavy
The War and the Treaty
Thee Sacred Souls
Willie Nelson and Family
Willis Alan Ramsey