AUSTIN, TEXAS — A cold north wind knocked off Hank Williams III’s beat-up cowboy hat and forced Ray Price’s string players to hold their sheet music in place with clothespins during an outdoor concert here Thursday night.
The South by Southwest music conference has drawn 7,000 registrants and 900 bands to Austin this weekend. Several hundred turned out in threatening weather to see Price, Williams and the Derailers perform.
Price prepared for the elements, wearing a heavy corduroy shirt and wool scarf, but they weren’t enough to insulate him from the fierce wind that frequently plastered his hair back and pinned sponsors’ banners against scaffolding. He commented on the chill only once, as he prepared to close his show.
Beginning his set with “San Antonio Rose,” the Country Music Hall of Fame member visited a number of his career hits, including “Release Me,” “Spanish Eyes,” “I Won’t Mention It Again,” “Night Life” and “For the Good Times.”
“I’m glad you like old country songs like that, because I know a lot of old country songs,” Price said after a medley of “Crazy Arms” and “Heartaches by the Number.”
He featured his string section on Bob Wills’ “Faded Love,” and his pianist and bandleader of 33 years, Moses Calderone, stepped forward for a Tex-Mex number.
Recalling that Hank Williams helped Price boost his early career by hiring him to play in his band, he performed Williams’ “Mansion on the Hill,” then brought Williams’ grandson to the stage to perform “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” The performance offered ironclad proof that the younger Williams has inherited grandpop’s singing genes.
During his set, Williams played songs from his recent CD, including “One Horse Town” and “Nighttime, Drinkin’, Smokin’ Ramblin’ Man.” He told the audience his outdoor set would concentrate on his country side, promising to explore his punk and rockabilly songs during a second show Friday night. Williams defines himself in opposition to Nashville’s current penchant for “pop country.” He performed his grandfather’s “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” complete with the family’s trademark yodel, a stylistic dash that would not find favor on contemporary country radio, but the shivering outdoor audience greeted it enthusiastically.