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Just another Mystery Monday at El Mercado

Peter Blackstock

If you think you can stop by El Mercado’s original South First location on Monday evening to get a quick plate of enchiladas and maybe catch a few songs from the ever-changing Mystery Monday ensemble, don’t be surprised if you end up staying for the whole two hours.

It’s hard to pull away from a show that just keeps cranking out first-rate songs delivered by quality hosts and a constant stream of guests. Since the death in December of original host Sarah Elizabeth Campbell – whose weekly Monday “Bummer Night” was the genesis of this series – Christine Albert and Jimmie Dale Gilmore have helped keep Mystery Monday’s spirit going strong, though they’ve had lots of help.

On this night (April 21), the help included Butch Hancock, Colin Gilmore, Bob Livingston, Susan Gibson and Bill Kirchen, who will take over for Jimmie Dale as co-host in May, Albert announced. Anchoring the low end as usual was upright bassist David Carroll, with Bryan Paugh sitting in as featured instrumentalist on fiddle and mandolin.

The set list veered toward Texas country-folk classics, with tunes by the likes of Hancock, Al Strehli, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams and David Halley among the selections. Albert added a nice outside touch with a sweet rendition of Karla Bonoff’s “Home,” while Hancock stirred things up with the Carter Family’s “Wabash Cannonball.” As always, the show kicked off with Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner,” and as is often the case, it concluded with the spiritual “I’ll Fly Away,” with most of the evening’s cast joining in.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m., with two sets of about 45 minutes each, and is free (a tip bucket is passed around). If there are better ways to spend most Monday nights in Austin, it’s a mystery indeed.