Music festivals nearby are one of the best benefits of city living, but sometimes they could stand to be a bit more rural — even if they’re not country festivals. OId Settler’s Music Festival fills that niche without sacrificing relevance; the festival, taking place this year from April 20-23, brings in some of the best names in folk, Americana, and Southern traditions. As announced on January 25, this means 31 groups and solo artists across four days of camping and enjoying the outdoors in Dale, about 45 minutes southeast of Austin (near Lockhart).
Old Settler’s Homestead, a 145-acre ranchland, has been hosting this barn dance, so to speak, for 36 years. Over time, it’s succeeded in drawing some major talents, but stayed grounded. While the lineup will excite many yearly attendees and fans of similar artists, these approachable sounds are great for visitors new to the fray without pandering with crossover names.
- Yola sounds like the American South but hails from the United Kingdom. The powerful singer is known for her emotional rawness over smooth instrumental arrangements, both leaning into genre conventions (country, soul, disco, and beyond) and floating stoically above them.
- The Wood Brothers bring the poetry to the festival, and that’s saying something in such a lyric-heavy genre. The trio has stuck together for nearly two decades and been in the industry even longer, and the wisdom comes through the introspective acoustic-electric jams.
- Shovels & Rope play with chemistry, abundant between Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, whose weathered, twangy voices bring a frankness to dramatic songwriting. This duo could play their own festival as moods and styles change from track to track.
- Shinyribs is a warning from Austin to anyone who thinks folk music is always reserved. Frontman Kevin Russell, initially from Beaumont, is known for his performance antics — a force to be reckoned with, or otherwise, willingly swept up in.
- Buffalo Nichols is turning the green venue blue with twangy slide guitar and a rich, nearly gravelly voice. The singer commanded a small, but dense crowd at his first year at Austin City Limits Festival in 2022, with a mellow tone amid the madness.
- Matt the Electrician represents more country than many on the lineup, and has been active in the Austin music scene since 1998. His songwriting comes from cerebral origins, but sounds welcoming and promises easy listening as the festival rolls on.
- Ley Line, also from Austin, is a standout for its comparatively exotic style. The four women sing in English, Portuguese, Swahili, and more, reminding fans in attendance — mostly seeking Americana — that the sphere of folk music extends far beyond our own borders.
In addition to the main attraction — the music — there will be food and artisan vendors, music workshops, and a youth talent competition. The camping, powered with renewable energy, sprawls around the active performance area, and the festival prides itself on the atmosphere away from the stages. Old Settler’s is a 501(c)(3) organization staffed by volunteers, so in addition to providing a good time, it aims to foster a lasting appreciation for Americana and the human connections available through it.
"This is one of the greatest festivals I've ever been a part of,” said Kevin Russell of Shinyribs in a press release. “In fact, I think of this as my home festival."
Tickets (starting at $35, kids under 12 free) to Old Settler’s Music Festival 2023, from April 20-23, are currently on sale at prekindle.com.