Austin City Limits Music Festival 2003 Collection

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2003 Collection

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2003 Collection

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2003 Collection

New West Records

As a young music lover growing up without cable TV (yes, that means without MTV back when they actually played music videos), I had few resources for learning about new and different musical acts. One of those resources was Austin City Limits, aired on PBS every week. Sure, a lot of the acts leaned a little more towards country than I would have liked, but none of that mattered when Stevie Ray Vaughn hit the stage. ACL has been on the air for thirty years now, and for the past few years there has been an annual music festival in Austin that shares its name.

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2003 Collection offers thirteen tracks from the September 2003 festival. All of the performances are well done, but very few capture the live feel of a festival. Rarely does an artist interact with the crowd, beyond a cursory “thank you” at the end of a song. Robert Randolph & the Family Band are an exception, as “The March” gets a nice intro as he talks to the crowd. Other highlights include Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, whose “Diamonds on the Inside” manages to capture a moment, sounding more soulful live than in single format. Bright Eyes spend just over two minutes on “Spent on Rainy Days,” but they paint such a vivid picture, anything longer would seem like a waste. “Outfit” by the Drive By Truckers is a fine enough song, but from everything I have read about them, this is nowhere near the standout of their live sets. And Steve Earle is still the consummate storyteller with “Jerusalem.” Unfortunately, tracks by R.E.M., Steve Winwood and Jack Johnson, while not bad by any means, simply don’t jump out as anything special.

I have a feeling that there are the makings of a killer 2-disc set in this festival, but with only one track per artist, we end up with more of a sampler feel. “Try this! If you like it, come to the festival next year” – which is kind of the point, I guess. But in the end, I think you’ll end up with a lot of completists tracking down this album to fill in the live cuts from their favorite bands, and not much else to garner interest.

New West Records: www.newwestrecords.com

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