Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis continue ACL Season 40

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits continues its milestone Season 40 with an exceptional double bill: Ryan Adams paired with Jenny Lewis in a new installment showcasing the acclaimed singer-songwriters, both returning to the ACL stage for the first time in a decade for our 40th anniversary season.  Frequent collaborators and recent tour mates, the LA-based artists perform separate sets and deliver knockout performances.

A prolific songwriter with a 25-year body of work, Ryan Adams makes a memorable ACL return performing songs from his 2014 self-titled solo release.  The album has generated critical accolades across the board and earned three 2015 Grammy Award nominations, including Best Rock Album. Hailed “one of the few truly great roots-rock troubadours left” by Entertainment Weekly, the North Carolina native tells the Austin crowd, ”We came here to play you really depressing music, but really loud.” Adams and his band the Shining launch into a career-spanning six-song ACL set with the bluesy rocker “Stay With Me,” on a stage outfitted with a vintage arcade video game, a stuffed tiger, an oversized fake amp and an American Flag customized with a peace sign. Adams moves seamlessly back and forth between new songs and long-time favorites in a must-see appearance, representing the impressive range of his storied career.

Indie-pop treasure Jenny Lewis returns for her solo ACL debut, nearly ten years since her debut on the program as frontwoman for the band Rilo Kiley. Lewis performs songs from her new album The Voyager, largely produced by Ryan Adams and widely regarded as one of 2014′s best releases by Spin, Rolling Stone, TIME and many more. Rolling Stone raves, “Blending Laurel Canyon sensibilities with modern wit, The Voyager shows she’s stronger and wiser – and can still draw blood.”  Decked out head-to-toe in her distinctive rainbow and stars suit (complete with matching guitar), she opens with the Rilo Kiley classic “Silver Lining” and continues with pop gems from her solo career including the recent singles “Just One of the Guys” and “She’s Not Me.” Lewis closes out a sparkling set with her bandmates surrounding a single mic for the beautiful, hymn-like “Acid Tongue,” “going full Joni Mitchell as she [sings] plaintively of liars, cobblers and sweethearts with the softest of hands” (Austin American-Statesman). After blowing a kiss to the audience, Lewis exits to wild applause, having captured the hearts of the Austin audience.

photo by Scott Newton

“The best songs are best sung by those who wrote them,” notes ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “There aren’t many contemporary songwriters who are better than Ryan and Jenny, or singers who can bring their songs to life as well as they can. Theirs are the kinds of songs that will stay with you long after you hear them for the first time.”

Sam Smith and Future Islands’ soulful sounds in ACL’s 40th season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents an hour of soulful music from breakout sensations Sam Smith and Future Islands.

Chart-topping British soul singer and songwriter Sam Smith topped off a whirlwind 2014 with an astonishing six major Grammy nominations. There is virtually no contemporary vocalist as stylish and elegant as Smith, a throwback to an elite crew of singers from an earlier generation. A beautifully soulful singer, the 22-year old London native makes a stunning ACL debut performing the songs of unrequited love and heartbreak that drive his landmark platinum album In the Lonely Hour. Like soul singers of yore, Smith takes to the ACL stage as his eight-piece band is already a minute into the show-opener “Nirvana,” the title track of his early EP. The vocal stunner pays tribute to one of his idols with an aching piano rendition of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”. Smith demonstrates his considerable range with an inspired mashup of his “Money On My Mind” fused with 90′s club anthem “Finally”. Bringing the gorgeous set to a rapturous close with his signature song, the double-platinum “Stay With Me”, Smith bares his soul with the Austin audience in the palm of his hand.

“Sam told me after the show that it was probably the best performance he’s given in America so far,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “This show deserves to be seen and heard by fans of great music and great singers everywhere!”

Baltimore’s Future Islands share the episode, also making an epic ACL debut. Having steadily built a fan base since their first album in 2006, the synth-pop trio became a breakthrough smash in 2014 with the critically acclaimed Singles, landing on top of many year-end best lists including Pitchfork, Stereogum, Spin, Rolling Stone and NPR. Dynamic live shows featuring charismatic frontman Samuel T. Herring’s hip-swiveling swagger and dramatic chest-beating have inspired their own internet memes. Spin raves “Calling on his Sam Cooke-meets-Tom Jones growl, Herring charges into every song, roaring with impassioned heart and soul.” As the band bound into their six-song set, Herring commands the ACL stage, delivering song after song of glistening pop while creating an emotional narrative of love, loss and inspiration. It’s a transfixing debut, highlighted by a performance of their dazzling hit “Seasons (Waiting On You)”, crowned Song of the Year in the influential year-end Village Voice Pazz + Jop critics poll.

photo by Scott Newton

“I was mesmerized the first time I saw Sam Herring onstage, and booked him on the spot!” ACL executive producer Terry Lickona exclaimed. “In fact, I’ve never seen anybody put so much of himself into a performance. He’s like a man possessed!”

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 brand new episode with Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis.

 

Spoon and White Denim get local on ACL’s 40th season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents standout alternative music in a double-bill featuring two bands hailing from Austin itself—Spoon and White Denim. ACL has a long-standing legacy of showcasing music from around the globe, but in this installment ACL is thrilled to cast a spotlight exclusively on homegrown talent.

Returning to ACL for the fourth time, Spoon is at the top of their game. Pitchfork hails them “one of the most stand-up bands of their generation” and of their twenty-year streak, Rolling Stone raves, “It’s just been one long stretch of slow-build greatness”. The Austin natives perform songs from their acclaimed eighth album, They Want My Soul, their first album after a four-year hiatus, named one of the 50 Best Albums of 2014 by Spin, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and NPR, and landing on year-end best lists across-the-board. Spoon’s six-song ACL set is a tour de force drawing primarily from the recent release and highlighting fan-favorites. Chugging guitar, tight melodies, killer hooks, and frontman Britt Daniels’ indelible vocals coupled with drummer Jim Eno’s impeccable beats to create a sound all their own—it’s a master-class performance from a band that has made it strictly on its own terms.

White Denim makes their ACL debut performing songs from their fifth album, Corsicana Lemonade, produced by Jeff Tweedy. Recently hailed “one of the city’s best up-and-coming acts” by Rolling Stone, the Austin band has firmly established itself as an international draw on the club and festival circuits.  The Wall Street Journal raves, “White Denim is a band for fans who want their music served with serious playing and a touch of the experimental.”  Known for their exceptional live shows, the shape-shifting quartet mixes psychedelia, punk energy, prog rock and Southern rock-jamming to create a sonic blend that has the Austin crowd on their feet.

photo by Scott Newton

“Both Spoon and White Denim go way beyond being ‘Austin’s Own,’” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “When people ask me, ‘What’s the Austin sound,’ I say ‘it’s 1,000 different sounds.’ That’s what helps to define Austin, and why we’ll always continue to showcase the best of the best from the Austin music scene.”

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 brand new episode with Sam Smith and Future Islands.

 

Season 40 resumes with the Avett Brothers and Nickel Creek

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits ushers in the new year with a stellar double-bill featuring music from the heart and soul of America: Americana rockers The Avett Brothers and Grammy Award-winning bluegrass trio Nickel Creek.

North Carolina’s Avett Brothers are one of the biggest draws in live music today, becoming sought-after headliners over the course of their decade-plus career. Fronted by siblings Scott and Seth Avett, they made their ACL debut as a trio in Season 35 and return for ACL’s milestone Season 40 as a seven-piece, including the addition of a fiddler, drummer and keyboardist. Together they deliver a standout performance — the band’s onstage energy is undeniably entertaining as they perform with unbridled joy.  Turning the catchy fan-favorite “Kick Drum Heart” into a rock anthem, the ACL audience handclaps along in time. Seth Avett admits performing on ACL is an especially poignant experience for the brothers.  “We grew up watching this show,” he tells the Austin crowd.  “To us, this is what music looks like on television.” Their ACL appearance is a victory lap of musicianship and revelry, illustrating why they are one of music’s best live acts.

“An Avett Brothers show today is worlds apart from five years ago,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “More energy, more excitement, bigger sound. But what has not changed is that down-to-earth quality that connects with fans now more than ever.”

Bluegrass innovators Nickel Creek celebrated their 25th anniversary with their first new release in nine years, 2014’s A Dotted Line, recently nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Americana Album.  Their highly-anticipated reunion brings them back to the ACL stage for their third appearance together.  The remarkably talented collective—mandolin ace Chris Thile, fiddler Sara Watkins and guitarist Sean Watkins (Sara’s brother), along with accompanying bassist Mark Schatz—showcase their virtuoso musicianship and tight harmonies in their ACL return.  Performing a mix of old and new crowd pleasers, the Southern Californian group take turns on vocals and licks.  Sara sings lead on the breakout single “Destination”, also a 2015 Grammy nominee for Best American Roots Performance.  Sean Watkins handles vocals on the faux end of the world ode “21st of May”, while Thile dazzles with his mandolin skills on the instrumental “The Elephant in the Corn”.  A gorgeous rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Ledge” follows, with the three childhood friends delighting in each other’s company and talents for an exquisitely fun performance.

photo by Scott Newton

“The members of Nickel Creek grew up with each other – literally, and musically,” says executive producer Lickona. Their individual talents merge into something much bigger. The old saying ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ has never been truer.”

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 brand new episode featuring Spoon and White Denim.

Encore: Radiohead

photo by Scott Newton

The day after we recorded Radiohead  back in March 2012, our reaction was, “Radiohead taped Austin City Limits last night. It almost feels like that’s all we need to say.” Even now we still feel the same sense of met anticipation. It was a happening that fans and we had personally been waiting for and it finally came to fruition. A band like Radiohead, (well, let’s be honest – there really isn’t a band out there like Radiohead) that can constantly challenge themselves and evolve to change their sound to continue to make beautiful and inspiring music is a rare gift. We are incredibly grateful to encore an episode featuring such progressive rock icons and modern day musical legends.

Radiohead open their set with “Bloom,” the busy and fitting song for the occasion that opens their 2011 self-released album The King of Limbs. From there the group goes to the piano-heavy and melodic “Daily Mail,” another new song from that year. The rest of the set features a collective mix of tracks from TKOL, Hail to the Thief, Kid A, OK Computer, and new singles. One highlight of the night is when they played a forgotten B-side, “The Amazing Sounds of Orgy.” Of course the essence of the night was captured at the very end when the band played the big hits and crowd favorites, “Idioteque” and “Paranoid Android.”

For those that missed seeing the taping live or the original broadcast, this is your opportunity to see what many described as being a passionate and “life-changing” performance. You can truly feel the energy of the band and the audience in this episode, and Thom Yorke’s dancing may even inspire you to flail around in your living room. (Seriously, if you don’t dance during “Idioteque” then there may be something wrong with your well-being.)

photo by Scott Newton

Don’t miss this weekend’s episode with Radiohead! And don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter for updates about ACL. Next week: the second half of Season 40 begins with the Avett Brothers and Nickel Creek.

 

Encore: Tom Waits

photo by Scott Newton

The Tom Waits episode of Austin City Limits is one of the most requested shows in our 40-year archive. Recorded in December 1978, the show features the iconoclastic singer/songwriter supporting his classic LP Blue Valentine and deep in the transitional phase of his career, evolving out of the jazzy beat poetry of his early work (“I Wish I Was in New Orleans”) and into the bluesier, more dissonant sounds (“Sweet Little Bullet From a Pretty Blue Gun”) for which he became known in the 80s and beyond. He acknowledged the season with the streetwise but lovely “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis,” which incorporates a few bars of a better-known Xmas hymn. And he debuted “On the Nickel,” one of his greatest ballads, and which wouldn’t be released on record until Heartattack and Vine in 1980.

You can check out the episode page for pics, the set list and the original liner notes for the episode. Don’t forget to visit our Facebook and Twitter pages and/or sign up for our newsletter for the latest news on ACL happenings. Next week: Radiohead.

 

Encore: Rodrigo y Gabriela with C.U.B.A.

photo by Scott Newton

For guitar fans, Austin City Limits has been home to legions of blues and country-soaked guitar slingers, from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Eric Johnson to Jerry Reed. This week, however, we feature the dazzling skills of Rodrigo y Gabriela. Joined by Cuban orchestra C.U.B.A., the Mexican duo puts its patented blend of flamenco, jazz and rock through its paces for a thrilling 60 minutes.

Driven by C.U.B.A.’s infectious accompaniment, the pair rockets through “Santa Domingo,” “11:11” and “Tamacun,” with their impressive guitar work riding the lush Cuban motion of their collaborative album Area 52. Gabriela’s traditional flamenco technique, often augmented by a wah-wah pedal, keeps time as much as the drums and percussion, while Rodrigo’s fleet-fingered leads head to the stratosphere – he even pays tribute to his heavy metal roots by strapping on an electric guitar for “Hanuman” and cranks some distortion on “Diablo Rojo.” Longtime fans wanting to hear the duo’s talent unadorned will be thrilled by the middle segment, as C.U.B.A. takes a break to allow Rodrigo y Gabriela to showcase what they are known for: two guitars, chemistry and flying fingers. Each picker takes the spotlight solo as well, in which Rodrigo zooms up and down his fretboard with sizzling leads and Gabriela proves herself as much percussionist as guitarist.

photo by Scott Newton

You can get a sample of Rodrigo y Gabriela and C.U.B.A.’s danceable virtuosity by visiting the episode page, which should be enough to entice to check your local listings for the broadcast time on your PBS station. Don’t forget to visit our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for more ACL info. Next week: Tom Waits.

 

ACL Artists at the 2015 Grammys

photo by Scott Newton

The nominations for the 57th Annual Grammy Awards are out now, and we’re pleased to see that a lot of Austin City Limits’ distinguished guests have received the honors. Congratulations to Sam Smith with a whopping six nominations: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album. Also kudos to Beck with five nominations, Eric Church and Miranda Lambert with four, and Ryan Adams, The Black Keys, Rosanne Cash, Coldplay, Keb’ Mo’, Ed Sheeran, Chris Thile (Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers, Dolly Parton) and Jack White with three apiece.

Shout-outs as well to the following nominees: Gregg Allman (Allman Brothers Band), Dave Alvin, Arcade Fire, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Jerry Douglas (Alison Krauss & Union Station, Bela Fleck & Friends, Strength in Numbers), Mike Farris (Patty Griffin), Ruthie Foster, Eliza Gilkyson, John Hiatt, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Juanes, Alison Krauss, John Legend, Taj Mahal, Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Band, The Del McCoury Band, Tim McGraw, Nickel Creek, Old Crow Medicine Show, Pearl Jam, Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers), St. Vincent, Bryan Sutton (Bela Fleck & Friends, Dolly Parton), Keith Urban, Jesse Winchester, Lee Ann Womack and Neil Young.

You can go here to see in what categories all these artists are nominated, as well as all the other nominees.

You can catch some of these fine folks in action in the coming weeks – Nickel Creek appears on January 3, Sam  Smith on January 17, Ryan Adams on January 24 and The Black Keys on January 31.

And don’t forget – our own executive producer Terry Lickona is also co-producer of the Grammy telecast, as well as the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Recording Academy, the Grammys’ parent organization. The Grammy Awards broadcast on February 8th – Good luck to Terry and all the nominees!