Alejandro Escovedo, Terry Allen, Poi Dog Pondering: If you’re a longtime fan of local music, you have some tough choices to make this weekend — even though none of these three acts is technically an Austin artist. But all of them have deep ties to the city, and those ties are at times intertwined between them.
Escovedo, who moved to Dallas in 2016 after more than three decades as an Austinite, has played a showcase concert at ACL Live almost every January since 2013. He took last year off after taping an “Austin City Limits” episode a few weeks prior, but he’s back this year for Saturday’s concert spotlighting his 2001 album “A Man Under the Influence.”
North Carolina musician Chris Stamey, who produced that record, will serve as musical director. The album will be performed in its entirety in the first set, with a second set featuring an unusual variety of special guests including Craig Finn of the Hold Steady, Cindy Wilson of the B-52s and singer-songwriter Jesse Malin. Richard Patrick of the band Filter and his brother, actor Robert Patrick, also will take part.
Musicians in Escovedo’s band will include Stamey’s longtime guitar cohort Mitch Easter, pedal steel ace Eric Heywood, pianist Christine Smith, saxophonist Elias Haslanger, bassist Mike Luzecky, drummer Hector Munoz and percussionist Tristan Boyd. A string section will feature violinist Warren Hood, cellist Brian Standefer and viola player Ames Asbell, with vocal backing from Karla Manzur, Gina Holton and Brent Baldwin’s Panoramic Voices choir.
The concert is being presented in partnership with the Prevent Cancer Foundation as part of Escovedo’s “Think About the Link” tour, aimed at underscoring the link between cancer and viruses such as hepatitis C. Escovedo recently was cured of hepatitis C after two decades with the disease. Escovedo says the show also will be “in memory of Joe Eddy Hines,” his longtime guitarist who died of cancer last year.
Escovedo’s ACL Live appearances always have been special theme-based concerts, including 2014’s “United Sounds of Austin” local-history overview, 2015’s dramatic account of his Hurricane Odile experience, and a 2016 show focused on the late Leonard Cohen. This year’s version was inspired in part by an October performance in Carrboro, N.C., that coincided with his recent signing to North Carolina label Yep Roc Records.
All of these ACL Live shows grew from Escovedo’s initial 2013 career-retrospective marathon, which is where some of the connections to this weekend’s other events come in. Among the special guests on that night was Terry Allen, the legendary Lubbock songwriter and sculptor who’s performing Saturday at the Paramount Theatre. And Escovedo’s violinist for much of that 2013 show was Susan Voelz, who’ll be playing downstairs from ACL Live this Friday and Saturday at 3Ten as a member of Chicago-via-Austin outfit Poi Dog Pondering.
Allen, who was raised in Lubbock but now lives in Santa Fe, N.M., may have his own January tradition in the making with the Paramount. This is the second year he’s done a special gig at the historic downtown theater. His 2017 concert focused on his classic 1970s albums “Juarez” and “Lubbock (on Everything).” This year’s is a bit less specific in its intentions, bearing the title “Terry Allen & the Mystery Panhandle Band: For All Reasons.”
READ MORE: Our 2017 interview with Terry Allen
A short description on the venue’s website indicates he’ll play songs from across his career and hints at some special guests still to be named, perhaps including those whose music plays on his current “Road Angel” art installation at the Contemporary Austin, Laguna Gloria. His Panhandle Mystery mates will include his sons Bukka and Bale Allen plus steel guitarist Lloyd Maines, guitarist Charlie Sexton, violinist Richard Bowden, bassist Glenn Fukunaga and drummer Davis McLarty.
Meanwhile, back on Willie Nelson Boulevard, ACL Live’s sister club 3Ten presents two nights with Poi Dog Pondering on Friday and Saturday. The shows were inspired by a similar and remarkable night at the same venue last summer.
Native Hawaiian Frank Orrall brought the eclectic oversized band to fruition in Austin in the late 1980s, teaming with the likes of Voelz (who also recorded and toured extensively with Escovedo), trumpeter Max Crawford, bassist Bruce Hughes and percussionist John Nelson to create a sensational group that got a deal with Columbia Records.
Crawford and Voelz, along with fellow Hawaii native Ted Cho, followed Orrall to Chicago in the early 1990s. Others remained here, including Abra Moore, who’d been part of the original Hawaiian lineup and became a Grammy-nominated solo artist in 1990s Austin. All of them will take part in this show, blending with Chicago-era mainstays Rick Gehrenbeck on keyboards, Paul Von Mertens on saxophone and flute, Ryan Murphy on drums and sparkplug backing singers Charlette Wortham and Kornell Hargrove.
Moore will play a short set of her own before joining the group, and there’s also an opening set by local band Night Glitter, which includes Loulou Ghelichkhani, who joins Orrall in the touring lineup of electronica act Thievery Corporation.