Janelle Monáe delivers a show-stopping Season 44 episode

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents one of today’s most celebrated artists, Janelle Monáe, in a thrilling new hour of euphoric funk.  The award-winning singer, songwriter, performer, producer, activist and actor showcases songs from her widely acclaimed Dirty Computer in a must-see episode.

Monáe stole the show at this year’s namesake ACL Festival; now the visionary funk songstress delivers a show-stopping master class for her Austin City Limits debut, featuring songs from her third solo album, Dirty Computer, one of 2018’s most lauded releases.  Performing with a predominantly female ensemble, including a four-woman dance team, the Kansas City native slays in a breathtaking, eight-song set packed with exuberant choreography and elaborate costumes.  “I come in peace, but I mean business,” the powerhouse proclaims to the Austin audience. She performs Dirty Computer gems, singing the funky “Django Jane” refrain “Black girl magic, y’all can’t stand it,” atop a golden throne; the sizzling “Pynk,” a cleverly costumed celebration of female empowerment, and the sensual “Make Me Feel,” opening in silhouette to showcase her Michael Jackson and James Brown-inspired dance moves.  Saying “We love you, Prince,” Monáe pays tribute to her late mentor and collaborator with “Primetime,” from 2013’s The Electric Lady, as her guitarist evokes the unmistakable coda of the icon’s “Purple Rain.” She dazzles with back-to-back highlights from her Grammy-nominated 2010 debut The ArchAndroid, including her smash “Tightrope,” then wraps up her stunning ACL debut with a climactic “Come Alive.”

“The artistry of Janelle Monáe is stunning,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “She can do it all. There’s nobody else out there like her. I’ve never seen anybody like her on Austin City Limits – in over three decades, and that says a lot!”

photo by Scott Newton

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for an encore episode featuring singer/songwriters James Bay and Rhiannon Giddens.

The modern Americana of Kacey Musgraves and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real on ACL 44

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases left-of-center country with Kacey Musgraves and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real in a new episode. Two-time Grammy Award-winning Kacey Musgraves returns for the first time since her 2014 appearance and roots rocker Lukas Nelson and his band Promise of the Real make their ACL debut.

One of country music’s most critically acclaimed singer-songwriters, Kacey Musgraves returns to the ACL stage with songs from Golden Hour, her third album, and a career highlight. The release has generated glowing reviews and recently earned a coveted Album of the Year nomination from the Country Music Association for the upcoming CMA Awards (on November 14), along with a nod for Musgraves as Female Vocalist of the Year. With a sequin-studded saddle suspended over the stage, the boundary-pushing country artist delivers a radiant seven-song set showcasing Golden Hour, opening with the lush “Slow Burn,” an introspective stunner reflecting the more personal direction of her latest collection. The East Texas native made a name for herself with her piercing observations and irreverent brand of country and reaches back to her 2013 breakthrough for the fan-favorite “Follow Your Arrow,” letting the crowd take over on the final verse. “Get on your roller skates Austin,” she instructs the rapt audience for the disco-fied set-closer “High Horse,” as Musgraves treats the crowd to some smooth moves, turning the ACL stage into her very own dance floor.

After more than a decade on the road barnstorming across the U.S.A. and around the world, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have developed into one of music’s most impressive live acts, earning a 2018 Group of the Year nomination from the Americana Music Awards. The band’s sound draws on many of Nelson’s influences including his own father, outlaw country icon Willie Nelson, and Neil Young, with whom the band has regularly toured and recorded in recent years. In their ACL debut, the six-piece outfit delivers on their promise with a powerhouse set filled with songs from their acclaimed self-titled album. Opening with the fierce rocker “Something Real,” the band showcase their bona fides segueing seamlessly into country heartbreaker “(Forget About) Georgia.” The Austin-born Nelson performs a sterling solo acoustic “Just Outside of Austin,” a crowd-pleaser steeped in the Texas singer-songwriter tradition, before closing out the set with the stirring social anthem “Turn Off the News” for a memorable ACL debut.

photo by Scott Newton

“Both Kacey Musgraves and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real represent the new generation of Country and Americana music,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “but their talents really transcend those traditional labels. What they both have in common is attitude – and lots of it!”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for a brand new episode featuring progressive soul artist Janelle Monáe.

Miguel and Alessia Cara spotlight contemporary R&B and pop in ACL’s 44th season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents an uplifting hour showcasing two standouts from the worlds of contemporary R&B and pop: Grammy Award-winning R&B phenom Miguel and hitmaker Alessia Cara in their ACL debuts. Miguel performs cuts from his acclaimed album War & Leisure and Alessia Cara, the 2018 Grammy Award-winning Best New Artist, shines with mega-hits and new songs.  

“I’ve watched many episodes of ACL and to be on this stage, this legendary stage, and share it with you tonight means the world to me,” says Miguel from behind his fringe-covered mic stand.  Los Angeles-raised, with black and Latino roots, the singer-songwriter—born Miguel Jontel Pimentel—is one of the most adventurous voices in contemporary R&B. A magnetic performer, he sends a message of love through a soaring set that inspires sing-alongs to his biggest hits.   Opening with fan-favorite “How Many Drinks?” from his 2012 breakthrough Kaleidoscope Dream, Miguel moves across the stage with style, showcasing his signature falsetto.  He delivers a solo acoustic version of the social consciousness anthem “Now,” saying, “I can’t think of a better time or more fitting place to sing this song…now is the time when we have to stop looking at other people for the answers and every day take a moment to do something ourselves to move things in a positive direction.”  Miguel closes out the thrilling set with his euphoric smash “Sky Walker,” chanting the refrain “You gotta stay up!” as the willing Austin audience is on their feet.

22-year-old pop breakout star Alessia Cara earned the coveted Grammy Award for Best New Artist this year,  and delivers a crowd-pleasing set of her irresistible songs in a sparkling ACL debut. The Toronto native catapulted onto the charts in late 2015 with her spellbinding smash “Here,” from her platinum debut album KNOW-IT-ALL.  Cara performs the number in her ACL set, saying “This is the first song I ever released, and it changed my life, so sing along,” even dropping a bonus new verse on the eager audience.  The vocal stunner performs show-stopping versions of the mega-hits that have earned her legions of fans, including her emotional ode to self-love, “Scars To Your Beautiful,” and “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney blockbuster Moana.  Her band exits the stage as she dons an acoustic guitar for a soulful solo performance of her new song “A Little More”.  With smoke effects and flying confetti, Cara closes the set with an ecstatic rendition of her #1 pop collaboration with renowned DJ/producer Zedd, “Stay,” sparking an instant crowd sing-along as she playfully urges the enthralled ACL crowd to jump along.

photo by Scott Newton

“Miguel and Alessia Cara represent the best of a new generation of contemporary singer-songwriters,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Rather than wallow in self-pity or self-indulgence, their songs aren’t afraid to confront the challenges and realities of life today, but always with hope for a better world.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for a brand new episode featuring Americana stars Kacey Musgraves and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.

Brandi Carlile brings uplift to ACL Season 44

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents acclaimed singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile in a sparkling new hour. Carlile showcases her acclaimed By The Way, I Forgive You, her sixth studio album and a career high point, which has earned “Best of 2018” raves at NPR, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard and more.  The Seattle area native delivers a radiant performance marking her first return to the ACL stage since her 2010 debut in Season 36.  An outspoken social activist, Carlile dedicates her hit anthem “The Joke” to the marginalized, saying “This is a song for anybody that feels unloved or unaccepted or unnatural or illegal.” Joined by her longtime bandmates and songwriting partners Tim and Phil Hanseroth—twin brothers on guitar and bass—and augmented by a string quartet, the hour is an emotional tour de force.  She introduces “Most Of All” saying “We’re gonna sing you a song about your first love—your parents,” in a gorgeous salute to acceptance in family dynamics.  A set highlight is a solo acoustic version of “The Mother,” a poignant song that grapples with her recent entry into motherhood with signature frankness, featuring a surprise onstage visit from her 4-year-old daughter.  Carlile closes the cathartic hour on piano with the declaration of love, “Party Of One;” a blissful show stopper as the strings play her offstage.

“Brandi Carlile has that uncanny ability to channel universal emotions that are part of life’s highs and lows into a song,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Her voice alone is like a salve that soothes. Her performance on this show is nothing short of uplifting!”

photo by Scott Newton

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for a brand new episode featuring contemporary R&B artists Miguel and Alessia Cara.

Sam Smith and Anderson East sing blue-eyed soul on ACL’s 44th season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits has all the feels in a soulful new installment showcasing two gifted vocalists: worldwide superstar Sam Smith and emerging singer-songwriter Anderson East.  

The multi-platinum, four-time GRAMMY ® award-winning Sam Smith wowed ACL audiences with his 2014 debut during the program’s milestone Season 40, and the British native returns with songs from his chart-topping, acclaimed sophomore album The Thrill Of It All.  Smith turns his songs about heartbreak into anthems of strength in a sparkling performance, backed by gospel-style vocalists. Smith proudly tells the Austin crowd he wrote “HIM,” the powerful same-sex anthem, “as a message that love is love,” inspiring the crowd to join on the soaring chorus. He performs a thrilling version of his smash “Pray” and delivers the stirring “Palace” as a passionate duet joined by his backing singer, displaying the full range of his vocal prowess.  The magnetic star closes out the set with the mega-hit “Too Good At Goodbyes,” with Smith gamely instructing the Austin crowd to “sing this to your ex.”

Alabama rock-and-soul singer Anderson East dazzles with his staggering vocal power and a firestorm of songs blending rock, blues, country and soul for a mighty ACL debut.  The singer-songwriter performs songs from his acclaimed Encore, produced by longtime collaborator, Nashville it-producer Dave Cobb.  The album’s title is derived from East’s steadfast belief that every song on his new album must be worthy of closing out one of his notoriously epic live shows.  East brings the fireworks for set-opener “Surrender” with his hard-charging eight-piece band, complete with joyous horns and backup singers, laying down the driving beat.  He introduces the tender charmer “King For A Day” saying “here’s a song about how I’m feeling.” The swaggering “Girlfriend” segues directly into the sultry declaration of desire “All On My Mind” for a one-two gut-punch.  Vintage Southern soul-burner “Satisfy Me,” a Stax-worthy R&B gem from his 2015 debut Delilah, has the crowd on their feet and East saves the finest moment for last—bringing the house down with the powerhouse vocal climax of rousing set-closer “House Is A Building.”

photo by Scott Newton

“Sam Smith and Anderson East bare their souls in totally different ways,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “Sam starts with a whisper, then soars; Anderson starts with fireworks. What they have in common is their unabashed honesty and ability to make a powerful emotional connection with their audience.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for a brand new episode featuring rocking singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile.

John Prine’s songwriting mastery enlightens ACL’s 44th season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits proudly presents a Season 44 highlight: a golden hour with celebrated singer-songwriter John Prine. The American original shines in his first ACL appearance since 2005, showcasing beloved classics alongside selections from The Tree of Forgiveness, his first collection of new material in 13 years, and the highest-charting release of his storied five-decade career.

Prine made his ACL debut on Season 3 in 1978 and returns for his eighth appearance during a banner year; he is a first-time nominee for the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and was named Artist of the Year for the second consecutive year at the 2018 Americana Honors & Awards. The 72-year old folk hero captivates with his astute songwriting in this career-spanning hour, introducing many of the songs with his unique humor and wit. Prine dazzles with his singular knack for storytelling on subjects as varied as sticking up for the dwarf planet Pluto, and the rituals of egg farmers in Lincoln, Nebraska.

He opens the show climbing The Tree of Forgiveness with his four-piece band, performing seven selections from the acclaimed release, before taking the stage solo for a singalong of his early career highlight “Illegal Smile,” the opening track on his self-titled 1971 debut. Prine is joined by Kentucky native and rising songwriter Tyler Childers, who duets with his mentor on the musical last will and testament “Please Don’t Bury Me” from 1973’s Sweet Revenge. The fan favorite “Lake Marie” showcases Prine’s masterful way with words before he caps the heartfelt set with a pair of gems: new album closer “When I Get to Heaven,” and his classic “Paradise,” the final track on his ‘71 debut. Bouncing back and forth between spoken recitation and joyful singing on “When I Get to Heaven,” the songwriter offers a good-time singalong about leaving this world on a high note. When Prine gets to heaven, he tells the Austin crowd, “I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock ’n’ roll band/check into a swell hotel/ain’t the afterlife grand?”

photo by Scott Newton

“John Prine is a unicorn,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “a true original among American songwriters, unlike any other. What better way to celebrate his birthday week and his nomination to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame than to show what he does best – sing the songs he wrote, old and new, to an adoring audience and with his devilish sense of humor very much intact.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for a brand new episode featuring blue-eyes soul singers Sam Smith and Anderson East.

St. Vincent kicks off ACL Season 44 with compelling originality

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits launches a new season of must-see performances with an epic hour showcasing one of the most compelling figures in contemporary music: innovative art-rock performer St. Vincent.

First appearing on ACL in 2009, the groundbreaking Texas native—born Annie Clark—delivers a thrilling, 13-song career-spanning set in a visually and sonically stunning hour. Dressed in a red vinyl bodysuit and matching thigh-high stiletto boots and set amidst the backdrop of a futuristic production, the singer-songwriter-guitarist is backed by a three-piece ensemble, including two male musicians rendered as faceless mannequins on electronics and drums. St. Vincent’s mesmerizing set draws heavily from her critically-acclaimed fifth album MASSEDUCTION, with highlights including a segue from the guitar-shredding coda of “Pills,” into the vulnerable musical eulogy of “New York.” The album’s hypnotic title track opens with bassist/keyboardist Toko Yasuda chanting “power corrupts” in Japanese, while Clark unleashes furious guitar licks amidst a flurry of strobes. The setlist also reaches back to 2009’s Actor and 2011’s Strange Mercy for back-to-back gems “Marrow” and “Cruel.” Robotic voices signal fan-favorite “Digital Witness” from 2014’s Grammy Award-winning St. Vincent. As she rounds out the hour, Clark offers a pair of highlights from MASSEDUCTION: the defiant anthem “Fear the Future” and the set-closing ballad “Slow Disco,” as the Austin crowd joins in on the soaring chorus, “Don’t it beat a slow dance to death?”

“Originality is one of the most important criteria for choosing artists for ACL,” said executive producer Terry Lickona, “and St. Vincent is one of the most original artists I’ve ever come across. She pushes the envelope musically, so we decided to push the envelope ourselves with one of the most unique Austin City Limits episodes you’ll ever see.”

photo by Scott Newton

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for another brand new episode featuring songwriting legend John Prine.

Encore: Chris Stapleton and Turnpike Troubadours

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a scorcher of an encore: country superstar Chris Stapleton, riding country’s hottest hand with a trio of acclaimed, chart-topping albums and a trio of 2018 Grammy Awards, sharing an episode with one of roots music’s most revered acts, red-dirt country-rockers Turnpike Troubadours.

After years penning hits for some of Nashville’s biggest acts, singer, songwriter and guitarist Chris Stapleton took the country world by storm in 2015 with his multi-platinum, double Grammy-winning debut Traveller. Just three years later, Stapleton is the reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, and a five-time Grammy winner, taking a trio of top honors at this year’s ceremony, including Album of the Year for From A Room: Volume 1. The Kentucky native delivers a powerhouse ACL debut with a blistering six-song set fueled by his show-stopping voice, searing guitar and stellar songwriting. Opening with “Hard Livin’,” from his latest, the companion album From A Room: Volume 2, Stapleton follows with an early hit, the crowd-favorite folk-rambler “Traveller.” Joined by wife Morgane on harmony vocals, the couple wrap their voices around each other for the spellbinding gut-punch “Fire Away,” revealing a powerful onstage intimacy, and the pair dazzle on blowtorch stunner “Second One To Know.” Standing solo and acoustic for “Whiskey and You,” the country outlier brings the room to hushed silence pierced only by scattered whoops from the audience between verses. Stapleton closes out the masterful set with the breakout hit from his debut, Southern soul-burner “Tennessee Whiskey,” unleashing the full power of his scorching vocals and earning multiple standing ovations from the can’t-get-enough crowd.

Road-tested country rockers Turnpike Troubadours topped the red-dirt touring circuit this past decade, earning legions of fans the old-fashioned way, through word-of-mouth for their rousing live shows anchored by frontman Evan Felker’s singular songwriting. Their acclaimed new release A Long Way From Your Heart has launched the Oklahoma sextet onto the national stage, and the band opens their ACL debut with the album’s lead song “The Housefire.” The Troubadours perform a six-song, career-spanning set with Felker’s trademark character-driven tunes exploding behind rowdy strings. Throughout their four albums, the band has used a running cast of characters to weave a narrative for their dedicated fans with songs that chronicle the highs, hangovers and heartbreaks of Middle America. “Tell everyone in Austin I love y’all to death” yells Felker during the blazing crowd-pleaser “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead.” Steel guitarist Hank Early switches to a Dobro for an acoustic duet with Felker on “Diamonds and Gasoline.” Felker calls out to bring the band back for set-closer “Something To Hold Onto,” as the ace musicians ignite in a three-way solo blaze of glory with Early, lead guitarist Ryan Engleman and fiddler Kyle Nix.

photo by Scott Newton

“We take pride in bringing the best of the best of every genre to our audience, and Chris Stapleton is at the top of his game right now,” said ACL executive producer, Terry Lickona. “Few bands on the scene, if any, deliver a better live experience than Turnpike Troubadours, and this show makes you feel like you’re right on the front line.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for an encore episode featuring rap superstars Run the Jewels.