Billed as the live-music capital of the world, it’s no surprise that Austin is considered one of America’s great musical cities. From blues to jazz, country to R&B, Austin has every genre covered. While it’s impossible to cover the full scope of everything that makes music in Austin great, this playlist hopefully shines a light on the established, and the up-and-comers that make Austin the musical mecca that it is.
1. Pride and Joy – Steven Ray Vaughn – 1983
Universally considered one of the greatest guitarists of all-time, Stevie Ray Vaughn is a true blues rock legend. He has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the Blues Hall of Fame. He revived blues rock in the 80’s and helped push the genre into more musically adventurous territory. Musicians as diverse as Mike McCready to John Mayer have cited him as an enduring influence.
2. Keep On – Jackie Venson – 2019
One of Austin’s youngest rising stars, Jackie Venson brings Berklee schooled expertise to an R&B based alternative sound. Classically taught on the piano and in composition, Venson picked up the guitar in college and melds both blues and soul into her pop inflected music.
3. Bright Lights – Gary Clark Jr – 2010
Already an Austin legend at the age of seventeen, Gary Clark Jr is one of the region’s most successful stars. Incorporating hip-hop, soul and R&B into a classically styled Texas Blue sound, Clark Jr has one of the most diverse repetoires around. Combine this with an insatiable work ethic and you get one of Texas’ most beloved musicians.
4. Suffocation Blues – Black Pistol Fire – 2015
Canadian born and Austin bred Black Pistol Fire bring an old school Southern rock and rock and roll vibe in a modern setting. They have released five studio albums and are a common fixture in Austin’s live music scene.
5. Must Be The Whiskey – Carrie Rodriguez – 2015
Texan singer-songwriter Carrie Rodriguez is as known for her use of interesting instrumentation (she plays the fiddle, four-string guitar and mandobird) as she is for her songwriting and live performances. Rodriguez is also one of the hardest working women in music, with eight studio albums and an incredible live performing schedule.
6. Green Lights – Sarah Jarosz – 2016
Austin seems to grow musical sensations on trees, with Austin raised Sarah Jarosz one of the latest rising stars. At age twenty eight, Jarosz has won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album along with many other nominations. Equally adept on the guitar, banjo and mandolin, Jarosz injects folk, bluegrass and country into her unique take on Americana.
7. Harder to Lie – David Ramirez – 2015
With four studio albums, Ramirez is certainly not overlooked. But he lacks some of the star stature as others on this list. But one listen to his songs will show that while he may lack in buzz, he certainly doesn’t lack in talent. Ramirez is making some of the most exciting new Americana music today.
8. Tall Walkin’ Texas Trash – Jesse Dayton – 2004
Primarily known for his guitar work on albums by Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, Jesse Dayton also makes his own songs and music and has released almost a dozen studio albums. His songs trend towards country and Americana with significant rock influences.
9. Big Sweet Life – Jon Dee Graham – 1999
The 2006 Austin Musician of the Year, Jon Dee Graham is a guitarist and songwriter from Austin who continues to produce music well into his 60’s. His music has been featured on television and movie soundtracks in a variety of genres.
10. Soul Shake – Angela Strehli – 1988
A noted Texas Blues historian and successful blues musician herself, Angela Strehli is a cornerstone of the Austin music community. She has released six studio albums over a career stretching multiple decades.
11. Just to Hear Your Voice – Toni Price – 2012
An Americana blues singer-songwriter from Pennslyvania, Toni Price stopped in Nashville on her way to success in Austin. However she felt the Nashville musical community to be too rigid and stodgy and after stopping in Austin for a music festival, she permanently established herself in the city. She has released seven studio albums and is one of the city’s most popular and sought out performers.
12. Getting By – Kathy Valentine – 2005
One of the original members of the Go-Go’s (the first female led band to go number one in the United States), Kathy Valentine has an impressive musical pedigree that includes over a dozen albums and a career spanning over forty years. She operates within the landscape of blues rock and pop rock.
13. Follow Your Arrow – Kacey Musgraves – 2013
Before she was a glamorous Grammy winner, Kacey Musgraves was one of the most insightful songwriters known for a biting criticism of traditional country and Southern norms. Her song Follow Your Arrow was critically acclaimed and universally praised as one of the most important country songs for drawing attention towards negative Southern cultural norms, as well as mistreatment of the LGBT community. Follow Your Arrow’s 2014 CMA Award for Song of the Year is often cited as one of the most pivotal moments in country music history.
14. Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys – Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings – 1972
A country music legend, Willie Nelson is best known for essentially originating outlaw country. Outlaw country is a counter cultural country genre focused on the folk and rock traditions of the 60’s and 70’s. For his anti-authoritarian views and behaviors, Nelson was banished by the established Nashville community, however in Austin Nelson would grow to mythical status. He is now considered by many to be one of the most influential country artists of all-time.
15. Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin, The Big Brothers Holding Company – 1968
One of the original flower children of the 60’s, Joplin’s flame didn’t burn long, but it did burn bright. One of the most influential blues and folk singers of all-time, Joplin paved the way for generations of other female singer-songwriters to choose their own paths in music and performance.
16. Manhattan – Eric Johnson – 1996
One of the most respected living guitarists on the planet, Eric Johnson is an Austin all-time great. He’s released nine studio albums, several of which were certified platinum. Johnson is also critically acclaimed with several Grammy nominations in several categories.
17. My Texas Home – W.C Clark – 2004
The godfather of Austin blues, W.C Clark has been an active player in the blues scene since the 60’s. He is an accomplished guitarist and singer-songwriter with six studio albums and countless tours.
18. Speed of the Sound of Loneliness – Nanci Griffith – 1993
Raised in Austin, Texas, Nanci Griffith is a country folk icon with over a dozen albums. She’s been awarded a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album as well as awards from the Americana Music Association.
19. Stay – Johnny Goudie – 2005
Multi-instrumentalist, producer, recorder, singer-songwriter Johnny Goudie has been creating music for over forty years. He is the recipient of multiple Austin music awards and is a fixture in the Austin live music scene.
20. Harder Way – Jamestown Revival – 2019
Jamestown Revival is a rock duo that combines elements of Southern rock, folk rock and rock and roll to create a unique Americana sound that is one of the most popular emerging duos in the country. They have been profiled by major publications such as the Wall Street Journal and performed at major festivals such as South by Southwest in Austin.
Follow us on Spotify for more great destination playlists