Stagecoach Festival, Coachella’s Budweiser-drinking, flag-waiving, boot-stomping cousin, starts tonight in Indio on the same grounds that jorts-wearing hipsters overran last weekend and the weekend before. As per usual, your typical pop country artists are headlining Stagecoach (Eric Church, Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan); but also as per usual, the side stages will offer up some of the best — and some of the most legendary — country acts around today.
Even if you’re not going to the festival, these artists are worth a listen. Put them on, crack open a Coors, and have yourself a nice little Stagecouch right there in your own home.
Billy Joe Shaver
Shaver is one of the original outlaws. His 1973 classic, Old Five and Dimers Like Me, helped define the genre, and he’s played with everyone from Waylon Jennings to Kris Kristofferson to Willie Nelson to Elvis.
Stapleton blew up last year when he won New Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Album of the Year at the Country Music Awards for his debut solo album, Traveller. But he’s been in the game for decades; Stapleton has written songs for Adele, Alison Krauss, and George Strait, to name a few.
If you ever found yourself at a basement party in Texas hill country, Jinks is who you’d hope to see (and would likely find) playing there. He’s still relatively unknown outside of Texas, but Jinks is raw Red Dirt, representing the best the genre has to offer.
No explanation needed.
Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay live in L.A. now, but their sound is straight out of Austin. This is pure road-trip, what-the-fuck-is-going-on-with-my-life, fuck-it-I’m-going-to-keep-drinking music. Catch them before you can’t afford to see them anymore.
Almost in spite of her Hollywood upbringing—Qualley is the daughter of Andie McDowell—the 26-year-old’s soulful alto conveys all the pain and toughness you want from Stagecoach. Check her out on Saturday afternoon.
Robert Earl Keen
Another Texas legend, Keen has released 18 full-length albums featuring his signature gritty sound. Keen was honored for his songwriting— which some have credited with bringing poetic lyrics back into country music—in 2012, with his induction into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame alongside Lyle Lovett and Townes Van Zandt.
This five-piece band from Oklahoma is gaining steam around the country, with their self-released, self-titled album hitting number three on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart in October of last year. Their sound is all down-home, fiddle-backed realness, and their shows are often capped with a rousing performance of “Whiskey In My Whiskey.”