SXSW: South Austin Saturday afternoon

Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis at Yard Dog.

The music in Austin gets rootsier and twangier when you turn your back on the Texas state capitol and head south over the Congress Avenue bridge where the world's largest urban bat colony lives.

All SXSW long, there's free music going on outdoors at Mexican restaurants, coffee shops, and roadhouses like the Continental Club, where James McMurtry and Jon Dee Graham played Saturday.  It's good for the soul to get out of downtown and get away from all the badge wearing entitled weasels like myself and check out the thrift shops, boot stores and art galleries, and maybe eat half a chicken at Mrs. P's Electric Cock, where deejay Electrolatino was providing the music.

On Saturday afternoon I caught up with one old favorite act and came across an excellent find. Kelly Willis and her husband Bruce Robison were playing the Yard Dog art gallery, where punk-country heros the Waco Brothers had slayed, as usual, the night before. Willis and Robison have a fine new album of duets out called Cheater's Game, and the one-time would-be mainstream country starlet still possesses a powerful honky tonk angel's voice. Robison is a fine songwriter, but it was the covers that killed: Dave Alvin's "Border Radio," Robert Earl Keen's "No Kinda Dancer" and a winningly unrehearsed version of Tom T. Hall's  "Harper Valley P.T.A."

The Whiskey Sisters.

A couple blocks down the hill I ran into the Whiskey Sisters, the six piece band pictured above fronted by Barbara Nesnitt and Teal Collins Zee, the latter formerly of the Austin band the Mother Truckers. Zee (on the right)  in particular, is an impressive, big voiced singer, and the outdoor setting at the Lone Star Music Stage was pretty much idyliic, as headphone-protected tykes hula-hooped in the late afternoon light, and garage rock organ met biting barroom guitar. I'll miss you, Austin, Texas.

Previously: SXSW: Terakaft and Red Baraat Follow In The Mix on Twitter