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Bruce Springsteen works his magic in unscheduled appearance at the Austin Music Awards

This year’s SXSW keynote speaker makes a splash during Alejandro Escovedo’s star-filled set in Austin, Texas

Garland Jeffreys (left) and Bruce Springsteen perform "Beast of Burden" during Alejandro Escovedo's Austin Music Awards set at Austin Music Hall in Texas on Wednesday evening. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Garland Jeffreys and Bruce Springsteen_small version_by Chris M. Junior

By Chris M. Junior

When Joe Ely put out the call for another guitarist, any number of capable players could have answered. After all, Ely uttered his request Wednesday night in Texas while standing on the Austin Music Hall stage during the Austin Music Awards, a centerpiece event each year as part of the South by Southwest conference/festival.

Mere seconds later, Ely’s request was answered by Bruce Springsteen, who was the last in a string of guests during Alejandro Escovedo’s set, which closed out the Austin Music Awards in fine fashion.

Springsteen chipped in occasional vocals and some crisp lead breaks (much better than anything he played during the guitar showdown that wrapped up the 2012 Grammy Awards) on songs such as Escovedo’s “Always a Friend” and a long cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden.” (Springsteen is scheduled to deliver this year's SXSW music keynote today -- March 15 -- as well as perform an official showcase at an undisclosed location.)

Garland Jeffreys also participated in Escovedo’s set, and former Animals singer Eric Burdon made a brief appearance during an award segment, but Austin-associated talent both familiar and fresh ruled at Austin Music Hall throughout the night. Hall of fame inductees Joe “King” Carrasco and the Crowns, Sixteen Deluxe, Christopher Cross and Patty Griffin all performed, as did Quiet Company, a winner in multiple Austin Music Awards categories, including Band of the Year.