ACL Fest 2016 review: Maren Morris plays a short but sharp set

Maren Morris performs at ACL Fest on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Maren Morris performs at ACL Fest on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

[Updated with a statement from ACL Fest: Artist Maren Morris’s set was delayed by 20 minutes on ACL Fest Day 1 due to a miscommunication by the festival organizers.  ACL Fest takes full responsibility for the error and wants to acknowledge that this was the fault of the festival, not the artist.]

Starting a set at the Austin City Limits Music Festival 20 minutes past its scheduled time slot could cause problems, as everything is carefully set to avoid conflicts on other stages. But once rising country star Maren Morris and her three-piece band were allowed to take the BMI stage at, uh, 4:20, they knew exactly what they were doing.

Playing about 35 minutes instead of her full allotted hour (she ended at 4:56 p.m.), Morris exuded confidence delivering 10 songs taken largely from “Hero,” her first album on Columbia Records but fourth overall. A Metroplex native who relocated to Nashville to pursue her country music dreams — a move she documented in her song “Second Wind” — the 26-year-old singer seemed thrilled to be playing in front of a crowd that was much larger than what usually gathers on the comparatively small BMI Stage.

“Austin, y’all look good!” Morris exclaimed early on, later adding, “It is so good to be back in Texas, I cannot tell you.” Many of the locals clearly were big fans; some sang along boisterously to her set-closing numbers “80s Mercedes” and “My Church.”

Seems like I stumbled upon @marenmorris biggest fans at #ACLFest

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Morris falls somewhere between the current camps of chartmaking country music. If she’s not trying to be a bro-country femme, she still happily adapts a bit of hip-hop flavor to her pop and twang. And she isn’t really in the Americana vein of Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, but she has a hand in writing all of her material, which helps set her apart as her own artist.

A longer set may await her at a future ACL. Here’s hoping she gets to use the entire time slot next time around.

 


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