Music

Various Artists: Austin City Limits Music Festival: 2003 Collection

Andrew Gilstrap

Various Artists

Austin City Limits Music Festival: 2003 Collection

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2004-07-27
UK Release Date: 2004-08-30
Amazon
iTunes

Austin City Limits. The very name conjures up memories of many a Saturday night spent nestled on the couch while some band I'd scarcely heard of sent me scrambling to update my tattered "Must Buy" list. I think (but can't be entirely sure) that in my early days of watching the show, that it was decidely Texas-centric. Whether that was true or not, the show has definitely become one of the places to catch quality music from both established acts and rising stars from every geographic region. That spirit of openness definitely applies to the show's younger sibling, the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Seeing as how the Austin City Limits is in the midst of celebrating its 30th birthday, it's hard to believe that the festival itself is only three years old. But there you go. At any rate, it's remedied now, with this year's lineup boasting over 130 acts. Naturally, the accompanying samplers can't even begin to address that breadth of talent, but the 2003 Collection is a slightly curious beast anyway. All at once, it seemingly wants to say that there's more to the festival than the big names, and that even with the big names there are songs worth hearing that you might not be familiar with. For the most part, it works.

Overall, the performances found here are strong, and the producers of the disc manipulate the crowd noise to make sure one song flows pretty seamlessly into the next. Obviously, though, some performances stand out over others. Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals settle into "Diamonds on the Inside" like it's a warm, comfortable coat, while Robert Randolph & the Family Band sail for jam-band nirvana on "The March". Bright Eyes' "Spent on Rainy Days" clocks in at barely over two minutes, but more than makes up for its brevity with Conor Oberst's insistence and troubled lyrics. And while there's not a whole lot to Jack Ingram's "Keep On Keepin' On" other than its roadhouse groove, there's a lot to be said for that groove. Martin Sexton evokes every fading porch light and every snaked-out stretch of asphalt he's ever seen on his heartfelt "Freedom of the Road".

Of the odd choices, it's really a matter of degree -- nothing comes remotely close to sucking. "Outfit" is one of the Drive-by Truckers' finer songs on disc, but I've yet to hear it even come close to dominating one of their blistering live sets. Kings of Leon, for their part, seem a bit out of place; fine performance aside, they don't seem to hold the same sort of promise as some of the disc's other fledgling acts. On the other end of the age scale is Steve Winwood, who released what was actually a fairly decent album this past year, so what initially seems like a wasted nostalgia track actually hits its stride pretty well.

In the end, Austin City Limits Music Festival: 2003 Collection probably serves as a fine souvenir for anyone who was there, and as a decent enough appetite-whetter for upcoming festivals. Completists of various stripes will rightly get excited at the prospect of unreleased live recordings of their favorites, but in all honesty, there aren't performances that strike this listener as particularly transcendent or essential, enjoyable though they all are. Still, a cozy listen.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.