Wynonna Judd Comments on Kanye West at SXSW: 'I Can Take Him With One Hand Tied Behind My Back'

Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW
Wynonna Judd speaks onstage at SXSW Interview: Wynonna Judd during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival  at Austin Convention Center on March 20, 2015 in Austin, Texas. 

"I am a child of God, not just a chick singer," Wynonna Judd said in the wee hours of Saturday morning (March 21).

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So it was appropriate she played her first South By Southwest show ever at the Bethel Hall in St. David's Episcopal Church, where less than 250 faithful -- and some new converts -- witnessed an intimately soulful and soul-baring performance that was loose and heartfelt. The set mixed her irreverent wit with some genuinely poignant commentary.  Judd even seemed close to tears as the mother of two lamented now being empty-nested back in Tennessee.

"I'm just a believer in being authentic," Judd told the crowd. "I'm humble, I'm broken and God uses the broken-hearted."

He apparently likes to use them to take shots at Kanye West, too. "My cab driver told me on the way here, 'They say Kanye's gonna be here.' I'm like (finger in throat). I want to be Kanye. I want to have people talk about me. I can take him with one hand tied behind my back," she said.

She was, however, much kinder toward Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. "There's nobody like (him). He's like a 10th grader with cash," she said.

Judd, who sat for a public interview earlier in the day at the Austin Convention Center, certainly showed plenty of heart during the nearly 70-minute, 14-song show, as well as her lusty, force-of-nature pipes that reverberated with formidable authority around the high, wooden church ceiling.

Part Storytellers, part confessional, part therapy session, it was also a "full circle" moment for Judd, who recalled hanging out in Austin, and particular Antone's as a teenager, learning about the blues from the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

"To wind up back here tonight is a big, fat, hair deal for me," Judd said. "I think it's fitting Im in a church -- not a bar, a church."

Her performance fit the occasion, offering a bit of career retrospection along with the introspection. Backed by a three-pieced band that included multi-instrumentalist husband (and comic foil) Cactus Moser, she opened with her 1994 single "Rock Bottom" and followed with "Change the World," which Judd noted she recorded before Eric Clapton turned it into a Grammy Award-winning hit.

"There's my timing, and there's timing," she quipped.

Judd and company also touched on Judds favorites, including "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Ol' Days)" and her own hit "She Is His Only Need," but the best part for fans was the presence of fresh material slated for her first set of new songs since 2003. Though Judd noted at one point that "I always come back to country," "Cool Ya" was upbeat and rhythmic in more of a contemporary pop sensibility, while the gentle "Jesus and a Jukebox" was indeed country to the core.

And Judd really sunk her voice deep into a gritty and slinky rendition of Buddy and Julie Miller's "You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast."

"That was fun," she said after the three song debuts. "Let's gets this record done!"

She then charged into a ferocious closing triplet of her "No One Else," the Judds' "Give a Little Love" (featuring a long bass solo by Dow Tomlin) and Cream's arrangement of "Crossroads," while the band played her off to "Sunshine of Your Love."

During the show, Judd noted that she'd always avoided SXSW, because "I don't like to be involved in things that are too organized," but that the prospect of playing in a church was too good to pass up.

After this year's performance, however, SXSW will surely want her back, and Judd gave every indication it would be  a welcome invitation.


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