I’ve been living in Austin for close to eight months and I’ve already seen Sahara Smith and her band perform twice just by coincidence. As the seemingly breakout Austin musician of the moment, I find this rather fitting. My introduction to the young singer-songwriter from Wimberley, TX came at the KUT Austin City Limits Festival kickoff on the back lawn at the Four Seasons opening for Portland folksters Blind Pilot and local indie legends Spoon (two of my personal favorites). Then, I saw Sahara play the first of many a spirited set at the Waterloo Records SXSW stage. Though in both instances my attendance was largely accidental, I was impressed not only by the musical maturity of the Texas native, but also the rabidity of her local fan base.
Locals love Sahara, and it’s easy to see why – her songs are rife with Southwestern imagery (“And tonight I’m gonna go downtown / There’s a bar on San Jacinto where the lonely people go to get useless” – “Are You Lonely”) and display the country, folk and Americana roots so tied to the Live Music Capital of the World. Her debut CD, Myth of the Heart, has received praise from the likes of Paste Magazine, the Los Angeles Times and the Austin-American Statesman for its melodic richness, depth and songwriting.
While Sahara and Co. didn’t make the Austin Music Awards’ list of the top ten 2011 bands (all of whom you can check out via our recent AMA features), she did reign supreme in a number of categories including Best Female Vocals, Best folk and Best songwriter. It’s really no surprise considering Myth was produced by recent Hollywood darling and legendary musician/writer/producer T-Bone Burnett. In fact, many of Sahara’s songs sound like lost tunes from the Crazy Heart soundtrack, echoing the soulful spirit and love-laden imagery of country contemporaries like Ryan Bingham and Sam Phillips.
Over the next few weeks, Sahara has a number of shows in Texas, so do yourself a favor and catch her in more intimate live settings while you can. She may just make the move from Austin staple to national star before 2011 is all said and done.Sahara Smith - The Real Thing
Sahara Smith - Are You Lonely
4/13/11 – Under the Volcano Lounge, Houston, TX
4/15/11 – All Good Café, Dallas, TX
4/16/11 – Old Settlers Music Festival, Driftwood, TX