Episode recap: ACL Presents Americana Music Festival 2017

ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2017 | Van Morrison | Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Americana Music

Austin City Limits returns to Nashville for a special broadcast offering performance highlights from this year’s Americana Honors & Awards. ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2017 premieres November 18 on PBS and features a stunning revue of unforgettable performances celebrating the finest artists in American roots music. The spirited hour is filled with standout performances from Americana legends and next generation stars, alongside many of the night’s award-winners and honorees, including: Old Crow Medicine Show, John Prine, Iris Dement, Rhiannon Giddens, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Amanda Shires, The Lumineers, Drive-By Truckers, Graham Nash & The Milk Carton Kids, Margo Price, Jason Isbell, Van Morrison and Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm.

Recorded live at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium on September 13, 2017, The Americana Music Association’s 16th Annual Honors & Awards ceremony is a celebration of music that is authentic, diverse and original from many genres (including alternative country, folk, bluegrass, blues and R&B), both traditional and contemporary.

“Each year this show blows my mind.  If there was an infra-red device tracking creativity, Nashville would be the brightest light on the planet,” says Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association.  “I’m so grateful and truly humbled by the incredible artists and musicians who grace our stage.”

Iris DeMent and John Prine. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Acclaimed string band Old Crow Medicine Show welcome the audience to “the mother church of country music,” Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, leading a marching drumline down the center aisle to kick off the broadcast with a riotous rendition of the Dylan classic “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.”  Artist of the Year John Prine, recently hailed “the Mark Twain of American songwriting” by Rolling Stone, is joined by this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award honoree for Trailblazer, country-folk pioneer Iris DeMent, for a sparkling version of their legendary duet “In Spite of Ourselves.”  Album of the Year nominees give stellar performances including Rhiannon Giddens, who receives a standing ovation for her riveting “Julie,” a powerful meditation on slavery from her Freedom Highway.  Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers also sing for social justice, showcasing their protest anthem “What It Means,” a politically-charged statement named one of the Top 10 songs of the year by NPR, from their acclaimed album American Band.

The night’s Emerging Artist of the Year honoree Amanda Shires stuns in a solo debut and returns for the slowburning duet “If We Were Vampires” with her partner and creative collaborator, singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, one of the genre’s top stars.  The spectrum of Americana’s range  is in full view as chart-toppers The Lumineers light up the stage with the title track from their recent album Cleopatra and longtime country icon Marty Stuart and his band the Fabulous Superlatives, awarded Group of the Year, deliver a dose of blazing,  road-tested honky-tonk with crowd-pleasing new gem “Time Don’t Wait.”

Graham Nash & the Milk Carton Kids. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images.

In true Americana style, the broadcast is packed with musical moments and one-of-a-kind collaborations from a diverse, multi-generational slate of roots luminaries: rock legend Graham Nash joins acoustic duo The Milk Carton Kids in sweet three-part harmony on The Everly Brothers classic “So Sad”.  Last year’s Emerging Artist winner Margo Price returns with a show-stopping new number, “Do Right By Me,” backed by the soaring vocals of gospel greats The McCrary Sisters.  The night’s Lifetime Achievement Honoree for Songwriting, rock icon Van Morrison, performs a soulful new song “Transformation” joined by his daughter Shana Morrison.  Famed bluesman Robert Cray and legendary Memphis soul sidemen Hi Rhythm, both Lifetime Achievement honorees, deliver a supercharged performance with a blistering blues/soul cut, “You Must Believe in Yourself,” from their acclaimed 2017 collaborative album.

The hourlong broadcast is hosted by esteemed songwriter and Americana wagonmaster Jim Lauderdale.  Multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell leads the ace house band and joins the host on vocals to salute late country giant Don Williams with a stirring rendition of his timeless hit “Tulsa Time” as the all-star cast returns for the singalong finale, bringing the hour to a moving close.

Americana Music Festival 2017 finale. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images.

Americana Music Festival 2017 finale. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images.

The show was co-produced by Two Talented Cats Entertainment’s Martin Fischer and Edie Hoback, Michelle Aquilato and ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona.

Tune in this weekend for this special, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the show 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 the electrifying ACL debut of R&B superstar Ms. Lauryn Hill.

Episode recap: The Head and The Heart & Benjamin Booker

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases two standout acts featured on this year’s namesake ACL Festival: The Head and the Heart and Benjamin Booker. Both acts are highlights on the touring circuit, drawing raves for soulful live performances.

Seattle folk-rock band The Head and the Heart make their second ACL appearance with a luminous performance featuring songs from their newest release Signs of Light. The indie favorites are one of live music’s biggest draws, with high-profile 2017 festival appearances including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk in addition to Austin’s own ACL Festival. The sextet deliver an uplifting, singalong set filled with new musical touchstones including “All We Ever Knew” and “City of Angels.” A moving cover of “Hunger Strike” honoring late Seattle icon Chris Cornell is a set highlight, rich with three-part harmonies. The band bring the passionate set to a glorious close with the soaring “River and Roads” from their 2011 self-titled debut, a fan favorite.

Florida-raised, New Orleans-based guitarist and singer-songwriter Benjamin Booker delivers a raw, impassioned ACL debut packed with songs from his acclaimed 2017 album Witness and his 2014 self-titled breakout debut. Opening with his rocking radio hit “Violent Shiver,” the twenty-eight year old phenom draws on soul, blues and gospel, showcasing stirring soul-rockers “Carry,” “The Slow Drag Under” and “Believe” backed by a gospel choir. A powerful performance of his Civil Rights anthem “Witness” combines Booker’s husky, soulful voice with a profound message on racism in America. 

photo by Scott Newton

“The Head and the Heart and Benjamin Booker are prime examples of artists who just keep getting better,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Rather than finding a groove and just staying with it, they are constantly searching for new ways to express their voices, and new sounds to go along with them. The end result can be surprising but always inspiring.”

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 ACL Presents special, featuring the 2017 edition of the Americana Music Festival.

Episode recap: Miranda Lambert

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a Season 43 highlight, a brand new hour with one of country music’s most celebrated entertainers, Miranda Lambert. The multi-platinum, award-winning singer-songwriter is at the top of her game in a 13-song tour de force.

For her third appearance on Austin City Limits, Lambert delivers a magnetic performance and proves why she’s the reigning queen of country, leading the pack with 5 nominations for this year’s 51st CMA Awards (on November 8) and being named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music for a record-breaking 8th year in a row. The native Texan performs songs from her sixth album, The Weight of These Wings, sharing many of the personal stories behind the songs in a sparkling set. Lambert and her 8-piece band open with a fire-starter, “Kerosene,” the title track to her 2005 breakout debut. The country star’s relaxed persona charms and disarms the Austin crowd: “So that’s what we’re gonna do here tonight, as a big family…we’re just gonna be us, and own it…all the good, and all the bad. Are y’all in?” The crowd’s definitely in as she shines on new songs ““Vice,” and “We Should Be Friends,” road-tested fan-favorites, and a show-stopping cover of Little Feat’s classic “Willin’” that she makes her own.

A solo acoustic rendition of her new marvel “Tin Man” (nominated for two 2017 CMA Awards, including Song of the Year) is a set highlight, showcasing the vulnerable, open-hearted lyrics and grit that are her trademark; Lambert explains that she wants to perform the number alone because “That’s where it starts—with a song and a guitar and a girl and some emotions.” The stunner demonstrates her vast emotional range with the blistering set-closer “Gunpowder and Lead,” turning her hell-bent on revenge fantasy’s razor sharp lyrics into magic.

“Miranda is one of Country music’s brightest stars,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “but she’s a quintessential Texas singer-songwriter at heart. True to her roots, she writes powerful songs that leave no stone unturned.”

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 the return of indie rockers The Head and The Heart and the debut of rocking soul man Benjamin Booker.

ACL Season 43 presents Norah Jones and Angel Olsen

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases two of today’s most acclaimed singer-songwriters in a new installment. ACL veteran Norah Jones and indie breakout star Angel Olsen share the episode, with distinctive performances demonstrating the extraordinary range of the genre.

Norah Jones made her first appearance on Austin City Limits in 2002, just prior to the release of her landmark debut Come Away With Me, which propelled her to the world stage. Since then, Jones has sold 50 million albums worldwide and is a nine-time Grammy-winner. She returns for her fourth appearance on the series performing new songs from her sixth album Day Breaks, a kindred spirit to Come Away…and a return to her piano and jazz roots. Seated at her grand piano, the native Texan delivers a stately performance featuring new gems, including the stunning originals “Flipside” and “Carry On,” and gorgeous renditions of Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied” and Horace Silver’s jazz standard “Peace.” Jones closes out the set on acoustic guitar surrounded by her bandmates as they gather around a single microphone for an inspired cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple,” reimagined as a folk classic.

A unique voice in indie music, Angel Olsen shares songs from her widely-acclaimed release My Woman in a compelling, confident ACL debut. “I have a couple things I’d like to share with you tonight. A couple of feelings and a couple of songs,” says the dynamic singer-songwriter-guitarist. Her powerful vocals anchor her longing, demanding love songs as the Austin crowd sing along rapturously. Olsen’s five-piece band, sharp in matching powder blue suits, join in soaring harmonies to breathtaking effect. The indie stunner has the crowd in her pocket as she closes with a highlight, the reverb-shrouded poetic swoon of “Shut Up Kiss Me,” an anthem for the ages.

photo by Scott Newton

“Norah and Angel are very different singers, but they share that special ability to convey deep personal feelings in a way that connects with you,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Norah continues to surprise with each new musical offering, and Angel is just amazing.”

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 the return of country star and our friend Miranda Lambert.

ACL’s Season 43 welcomes superstars Zac Brown Band

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a heartwarming hour with Southern country-rock act Zac Brown Band. The multi-platinum, three-time Grammy Award-winning group make their series debut with a career-spanning performance.

The acclaimed Atlanta octet showcase career highlights alongside new songs in a spirited, 11-song triumph. The country-rockers claimed Best New Artist at the 2010 Grammy Awards with their breakthrough release, The Foundation (now five-times platinum) and today are one of music’s biggest live acts. “We’re super-proud to be on the ACL stage,” says bandleader Zac Brown as he welcomes the crowd to pull up a seat at the “Family Table,” a gem from the band’s latest release Welcome Home. Brown shares the heartfelt stories behind many of their songs including the chart-topping ballad “Colder Weather” and the power-of-music testament “Day That I Die,” from 2012’s Uncaged, the Grammy Award-winning Best Country Album. The band cap the soaring set with a masterful hat-trick showcasing the musical range that has made them a fan-favorite; starting with “The Muse,” originally recorded with the Foo Fighters’ ubiquitous Dave Grohl, followed by their stirring cover of songwriting legend John Prine’s “All the Best,” and ending in tribute to their Southern-rock roots with a roof-raising finale of the Allman Brothers’ classic “Whipping Post.”

“To call them ‘Country’ or ‘Southern Rock’ doesn’t begin to describe the breadth and depth of what Zac Brown Band is really all about,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Singing songs that tell great stories and playing music that just plain makes you feel better is definitely a big part of who they are and where they’re from.”

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 the return of our old pal Norah Jones and the debut of new friend Angel Olsen.

 

ACL’s Season 43 welcomes legendary rock band The Pretenders

The Pretenders on Austin City Limits ©KLRU photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits Season 43 rocks on with a hit-filled hour starring the great Pretenders in their first-ever appearance on the ACL stage. The legendary rock band sends a message of love to viewers with an eleven-song hit parade.

Influential punk new-wave veterans the Pretenders are in fighting form as they kick off an electrifying hour with new classic “Alone,” a swagger-fueled gem that fits right into the band’s canon, and the title track from their first album in almost a decade. Iconic bandleader Chrissie Hynde informs the crowd, “You don’t have to be polite, because we don’t plan to be.” The defiant frontwoman commands the stage, showcasing her still-radiant voice in a career-spanning performance featuring fan-favorites including “Back On The Chain Gang,” “My City Was Gone,” “Mystery Achievement,” and “Middle of the Road.” Pretenders’ trademark tough and tender lyrics resonate as they did when the band arrived on the London scene in 1978. Hynde fondly introduces original member Martin Chambers as “the world’s greatest rock drummer,” as he plays the stirring intro of “Message Of Love.” The band caps the powerhouse set with their signature hit “Brass In Pocket,” as Hynde pulls a spellbound fan onstage to join her on the timeless tune.

“One thing that hasn’t changed in almost 40 years,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “Chrissie Hynde is still a badass! There’s no doubt about who’s in charge, and musically her voice still rings as clear and strong as ever. Whether you’re an old fan or a newbie, this is a show for the ages.”

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 a full hour with multi-platinum superstars Zac Brown Band.

 

Superstar Ed Sheeran kicks off new season of Austin City Limits

Ed Sheeran ©️KLRU photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits launches a new season of must-see performances with a dazzling hour featuring one of today’s most popular artists: Ed Sheeran. The worldwide superstar returns to the ACL stage in a stunning solo performance showcasing fan favorites and hit songs from his blockbuster album ÷ (Divide), the biggest-selling album of 2017.

Next generation singer-songwriter Sheeran shines in a ten-song tour de force, opening with the soaring anthem “Castle on the Hill,” one of the latest classics from his double-platinum Divide, Sheeran’s third studio album. “I feel this is going to be quite fun tonight,” enthuses the 26-year-old British phenom who first appeared on ACL in 2014. The one-man marvel performs solo with only his guitar and a loop pedal to layer his vocals, in a striking, intimate hour. Sheeran thrills with career highlights including his breakthrough hit “The A Team,” “Thinking Out Loud,” (which won him his first two Grammy Awards in 2016), and “Perfect,” a stunner from Divide Sheeran calls “my favorite song I’ve ever written.” The Austin audience is happy to follow his lead for the show-stopping set-closer “Shape of You,” the record-breaking chart-topper which recently became Spotify’s most-streamed song ever with over 1 billion plays. The musical dynamo is transcendent as he jumps from amp to amp, while working his loop pedal, drumming on his guitar and directing the willing crowd in a euphoric sing-along.

photo by Scott Newton

“There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Ed Sheeran’s many successes, but underlying everything is a genuine talent that makes him stand out,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “What’s remarkable is that at 26 his songs have connected with so many fans literally all over the globe. This is the first time that his unique one-man show has been captured for a full hour on broadcast television.”

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 a full hour with legendary rock & roll band The Pretenders.

Foals and Alejandro Escovedo bring ACL Season 42 to a rocking close

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits closes out Season 42 with a big rock finish—a season finale featuring UK alt-rock sensations Foals and Texas legend Alejandro Escovedo. Foals play tunes from their album What Went Down, while Escovedo, joined by an all-star band that includes R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, showcases songs from his acclaimed release Burn Something Beautiful.

One of the UK’s most popular bands, Foals make their debut on the Austin City Limits stage with songs from their acclaimed fourth album What Went Down, awarded Best Album by NME in 2016. Hailed as “fierce, amorphous rock” by The Guardian, the British quintet formed in Oxford in 2005 and have gone on to conquer festival stages including Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds in their native UK, and Coachella and the Austin City Limits Festival stateside. Foals perform a blistering five-song set featuring their breakthrough anthem “Mountain At My Gates,” and closing with the seething “What Went Down,” which features a crowd visit from charismatic frontman Yannis Philippakis that thrills the besotted Austin fans.

“Foals has a reputation for their amazing live performances,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “and I had more people come up to me after this show than any other to say it was the best one all season. That should give you some idea what to expect!”

Called a “rock and punk godfather” by Rolling Stone, Alejandro Escovedo first appeared on Austin City Limits in 1983, and returns for a fifth, unforgettable performance. The Texas trailblazer performs songs from Burn Something Beautiful, his 11th studio album, joined by alt-rock luminaries including R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and the Minus 5’s Scott McCaughey, who co-produced the new release, rounded out by a team of rock stalwarts: ex-Fastbacks guitarist Kurt Bloch, Decemberists’ drummer John Moen, and singers Kelly Hogan (Neko Case) and Karla Manzur. Escovedo and Buck lock guitars for the shimmering “Suit of Lights” featuring a gorgeous vocal spotlight by Hogan, and the six-string army blazes at full-force on the fiery, infectious punk of album opener “Horizontal.” The luminous set is a celebration of the rock ‘n’ roll life and a testament to the enduring power of a rock ‘n’ roll survivor.

photo by Scott Newton

“In so many ways, Alejandro epitomizes what Austin City Limits is all about,” says Lickona. “His music expanded, deepened and evolved over the years much the same way ACL has. It’s always a special night when he takes our stage.”

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. Tune in next week for a special encore, featuring Album of the Year Grammy nominee Sturgill Simpson and Austin scene vets Asleep at the Wheel.