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The Austin sound


Although Austin’s folk revival in the 1960s attracted enough attention to propel Janis Joplin on her way from Port Arthur, Texas, to stardom in California, the city first achieved prominence in its own right as the centre of outlaw country music in the 1970s. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, disillusioned with Nashville, spearheaded a movement that reworked country and western with an incisive injection of rock’n’roll. Venues like the now-closed Armadillo World Headquarters, far removed from the more conservative honky-tonks of the Plains, provided an environment that encouraged and rewarded risk-taking, experimentation and lots of sonic cross-breeding. These days the predominant Austin sound is a melange of country, folk and the blues, with strong psychedelic and alternative influences – but the scene is entirely eclectic. The tradition of black Texas bluesmen like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie Johnson, as well as the rocking bar blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan, still lives on, with a top-notch blues club in the form of Antone’s.

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