Don Henley joins ACL Season 41

photo by Scott Newton

Capitol recording artist Don Henley makes his first-ever appearance on Austin City Limits showcasing Cass County, Henley’s first solo release in fifteen years and first No. 1 album of his 33-year solo career.  The iconic singer-songwriter and founding member of the Eagles performs a mix of solo hits and future classics in a special hour, joined by many of the all-star guest vocalists featured on this acclaimed record.   

Named for the East Texas region where Henley grew up, the country-leaning Cass County debuted at No. 1 on both Billboard’s top albums and country albums charts and features new originals written by the music superstar and longtime collaborators Stan Lynch and Steuart Smith.  Rolling Stone raves in a four-star review, “Henley has made an album of quietly defiant pure-country modernism…Everything in the music serves the sting and solace in the tales.”  USA Today notes, “the emotional but unsentimental album draws on the music and the land of Henley’s youth, but it doesn’t dwell there.”

Henley opens the masterful eleven-song ACL set with the radio classic “Dirty Laundry,” before taking viewers on a journey through Cass County, a musical return to his roots.  He shines in an immaculate performance filled with highlights and duet partners featuring a parade of special guests: breakout country star Ashley Monroe, chart-toppers Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood, country rebel Jamey Johnson and sisters Emily Robison Strayer and Martie Maguire of Dixie Chicks and Court Yard Hounds fame.  Henley makes a few detours to perform select fan-favorites including “The Heart Of The Matter” before the entire cast returns to the ACL stage  for the powerfully evocative new ballad, “Praying for Rain”.  Familiar opening chords signal his smash “The Boys of Summer” as Henley and his band launch into the signature tune for a sublime set-closer.  

“Don Henley has been on my wish list for 40 years, and I always knew he would come when he was ready,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “He’s one of the best songwriters of his generation, and these new songs are some of the best he’s ever written. He’s at the top of his game right now, and it’s an honor to have him showcase his new songs and classics on the ACL 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 the return of Gary Clark Jr. and the ACL debut of Courtney Barnett.

Sturgill Simpson and Asleep at the Wheel keep ACL Season 41 twanging

photo by Scott Newton

Season 41 of Austin City Limits kicks into high gear with breakout country artist Sturgill Simpson sharing the bill with legendary Western swing institution Asleep at the Wheel.  Two acts steeped in old-school tradition but beamed through a contemporary prism, the must-see episode features rising star Simpson making his full set ACL debut while Texas swing veterans Asleep at the Wheel return for their 11th appearance. Asleep at the Wheel, newly-minted ACL Hall of Fame members, are joined by guest stars The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee and the Quebe Sisters in a special tribute to musical forebear Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing.   

Forty years after Willie Nelson made his iconic debut on ACL on October 14, 1974, country rebel Sturgill Simpson arrives at the top of his game in a standout ACL debut.  With his acclaimed breakthrough Metamodern Sounds In Country Music topping Best of 2014 Album lists and a stack of accolades to call his own—including a Grammy nomination, top honors at this year’s Americana Awards, slots at the year’s biggest music festivals, including Bonnaroo, Coachella and ACL Fest—ACL captures Simpson on the verge of full-blown stardom.  Playing an acoustic guitar, the Kentucky native and his ace four-piece band launch into a scorching seven-song set that makes a believer out of everyone.  He pays tribute to the outlaw country scene that inspired him, acknowledging his debt to Willie, and to Austin cosmic cowboy Steve Fromholz, with an impassioned rendition of “I’d Have to Be Crazy,” a Fromholz song Nelson made famous in the ‘70s, and a perfect showcase for Simpson’s rich baritone.  The full span of Simpson’s influences is evident with the inspired set-closer, a brilliant crossbreed of the Osborne Brothers’ bluegrass classic “Listening to the Rain” to glam-rock band T-Rex’s “The Motivator.”

A national as well as Texan treasure, the nine-time Grammy Award-winning Austin supergroup Asleep at the Wheel has kept the Western swing flame burning for forty-five years.  Still led by larger-than-life founder Ray Benson, AATW appeared in the first official episode of Austin City Limits in 1976, and returns for a remarkable eleventh appearance to perform selections from their recent Bob Wills tribute album Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, a salute to the great bandleader.  Wills’ music, born in the 1920s and ‘30s, continues to inspire younger generations, and AATW is joined on the ACL stage by some very special guests, including soul singer Amos Lee, fiddle trio the Quebe Sisters and Americana sensations The Avett Brothers, who put their own spin on Western swing classics.  A highlight of the set comes when two former Texas Playboys—singer Leon Rausch, 88, and 92-year old saxophonist Billy Briggs—take the stage.  The entire ensemble returns for a crowd sing-along of the signature “Texas Playboys Theme,” winding “Happy Trails” into the old chestnut for a perfect close. 

photo by Scott Newton

“This show goes back deep to the roots of where Austin City Limits began,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “Sturgill would’ve fit perfectly into the Austin music scene of the ‘70s, and it speaks volumes that his own progressive country sound resonates so strongly and stands in contrast to much of the country pop today.  Asleep at the Wheel appeared on the very first episode of our very first season, and they’re still kicking it 41 years later – just like ACL!”

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 the ACL debut of Don Henley.

New tapings: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Heartless Bastards


Austin City Limits is thrilled to announce the final tapings of our 41st season, including the debut of Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats on November 22 and the return of Heartless Bastards to our stage on November 23.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, the self-titled LP by the Denver, CO based band, practically explodes with deep, ecstatic soulfulness. “The born-again spirit of vintage soul music poured out of the man, measurable mostly in gallons,” raves NPR of the group’s powerful front man. So it’s entirely fitting that the release arrived on Stax Records, because at certain moments Rateliff seems to be channeling soul greats like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. Delve beneath the rawboned surface of the new album’s deep-gut grooves, snaky guitars, churning Hammond and irresistible horns, and you’ll find a sensitive, introspective artist who tells it like it is. Yet even as Rateliff honors the gritty, rapturous sound of the legendary Memphis label, he’s also setting out into audacious new territory. “Nathaniel Rateliff is a passionate performer with a gift for singing and winning over an audience,” noted Consequence of Sound, “and that comes through on this record.” “I’m trying to do something that’s emotionally charged and heartfelt,” Rateliff says, “and I want the experience to be joyous. I can remember dancing around to some song that was breakin’ my heart, dancin’ with tears in my eyes. I love that feeling, and I wanna share it with people, and hopefully they’ll feel it too.” Join us on Nov. 22 and experience one of 2015’s finest new arrivals.

photo by Courtney Chavenel

Heartless Bastards have spent the past decade in motion, boldly pushing their unique brand of rock ‘n’ roll into new shapes over four acclaimed albums and nearly non-stop roadwork. Now, with Restless Ones, the band sets out once again, blazing a path to a place of shifting moods, seasoned songcraft, and unbridled spontaneity. The Austin-based band’s fifth studio recording finds singer/songwriter Erika Wennerstrom exploring as-yet-unvisited avenues of sound and sensation, her bravery and ambition readily apparent in the emotional timbre and the sheer physicality of her songs. “We took a lot of chances,” Wennerstrom says, “taking the sounds in different directions in order to grow. I don’t ever want to make the same album twice.” Tracked in August 2014 during a 10-day session at El Paso’s renowned Sonic Ranch, Restless Ones “is a statement of collective confidence and ambitious vision,” says Magnet. “These songs capture an outstanding band hitting its stride,” says AllMusic, “and growing more comfortable with the craft of record-making along with singing and playing great, passionate music.” Rich with purpose, passion, and commanding musicianship, Restless Ones captures an idiosyncratic band exploring their craft and soul in an effort to reach a place that’s both true and transcendent. Heartless Bastards continue to drive their monumental music ever forward, towards hidden vistas and horizons still unseen. Follow their journey with us on Nov. 23 – and don’t miss their show at the Mohawk in Austin on Nov. 21!

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before the taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings.

Angélique Kidjo taping livestreams on 10/17

Kidjo feature

Austin City Limits is pleased to announce that we will be streaming our taping with Angélique Kidjo live on Saturday, Oct. 17, 8pm CT/9pm ET. The taping will webcast in its entirety via our YouTube channel.

Dubbed “Africa’s premier diva” by Time and “the undisputed queen of African music” by the London Telegraph, Angélique Kidjo is an international superstar. The Benin native’s accolades span a 20-year discography and thousands of concerts around the world. She has won Grammys for her 2008 album Djin Djin and her 2014 album EVE, and enjoyed a long history of notable collaborations with greats like Carlos Santana, Bono, John Legend, Josh Groban, Peter Gabriel and more. On her new album Sings, recorded with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg, Kidjo re-imagines nine classic songs from her expansive repertoire and two new songs, blending European classical traditions with the powerful rhythmic sounds of her native West Africa. “I love the challenge of doing new things,” explains Kidjo. “I never want to get too comfortable with what I’m doing, and I love my work too much to repeat myself.” Having already appeared on PBS in the concert documentary Lightning in a Bottle: One Night in the History of the Blues, we’re proud to welcome Angélique Kidjo to the ACL stage.

The broadcast version of this show will air as part of our Season 41 on PBS.  Join us for this live webcast of the Austin City Limits debut of Angélique Kidjo.

Cassandra Wilson salutes Lady Day on ACL’s 41st season

photo by Scott Newton

Acclaimed jazz star Cassandra Wilson makes her Austin City Limits debut celebrating the music of “Lady Day” by performing songs from Coming Forth by Day, a tribute to jazz and blues legend Billie Holiday for the centennial of her birth.

Hailing from Jackson, Mississippi, multiple Grammy-winning artist Cassandra Wilson has been named “America’s best singer” by Time Magazine. Coming Forth By Day, Wilson’s nineteenth studio album, was released in 2015 to wide acclaim, with the Associated Press calling the jazz innovator a “masterful interpreter of songs,” and The New Yorker writing, “Cassandra Wilson, jazz’s reigning diva, puts a post-modernist spin on classic Holiday performances.”

Joined by a six-piece band, and an eight-piece string section, Wilson digs into the Holiday songbook in her first-ever ACL appearance, taking viewers on a spellbinding journey through lush soundscapes that conjure the spirit of “Lady Day.” “The idea was to find her essence, the sacred center of her spirit and bring it through our treatment of her songs,” says Wilson. She chooses songs that span Holiday’s abbreviated career to probe beyond her personal tragedy and honor her beauty, genius and craft. Beginning with a traditional take on “The Way You Look Tonight,” the singer steps off the path for “Don’t Explain” and “You Go To My Head,” putting her distinctive spin on classic material. Wilson masterfully manipulates the dynamics of “Good Morning Heartache,” taking a seat as the band swirls around her in collective improvisation. A set highlight is “Last Song (for Lester),” an original tune penned by Wilson for Holiday’s musical soulmate, saxophonist Lester Young, imagining the song Holiday might have sung at his funeral had it been possible. It’s a beautiful tour de force, blending sadness at opportunities lost and joy for a special bond.

Wilson closes out the breathtaking set with a sardonic, defiant romp through “Billie’s Blues,” exiting the stage to rapturous applause. A tribal drum beat and the sound of chains hitting the ground signals her return for “Strange Fruit,” Holiday’s bitter ballad about pre-civil rights era lynchings. The song’s already haunting atmosphere bristles with a new tension, a sudden surge of strings and a dramatic vocal from Wilson, capped by the singer’s feedback-drenched solo wrung from her shrieking Telecaster, channeling the howling ghosts of victims from beyond and invoking the struggles of today.

“I’ve been a fan of Cassandra’s magical vocal stylings since her first record, and I’ve always dreamed of the day when she would grace the ACL stage,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “The fact that she chose to come honor Billie Holiday on our show made it that much more special – lending her own unique voice to Billie’s remarkable repertoire.”
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 the ACL debut of Sturgill Simpson and the return of Asleep at the Wheel.

ACL’s new season launches with the Hall of Fame 2015 special

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits kicks off Season 41 with an opener featuring musical highlights and tributes from the 2015 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. Hosted by Dwight Yoakam on June 18, 2015, this unique special showcases one-of-a-kind performances and collaborations from the ACL Hall of Fame celebration, honoring the artists who’ve helped make the award-winning tv series an American music institution.  An all-star line-up including Lyle Lovett, Jason Isbell, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam, Gillian Welch and more come together for one night to perform in honor of the newest class of inductees: Asleep at the Wheel, Guy Clark, Flaco Jiménez, Loretta Lynn and Townes Van Zandt.   

ACL reaches back to its roots with a show-opening tribute to country trailblazer Loretta Lynn, who first appeared on the series in 1983. Country singer Patty Loveless, also a coal miner’s daughter, pays tribute to the living legend, and is joined by Vince Gill for a spirited duet of the Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn classic “After the Fire Is Gone.” Lynn accepts her honor saying “Texas has always been so good to me. They fed me when my kids was hungry. They fed me when I was hungry.” Lyle Lovett takes the stage to honor Texas songwriting legend Guy Clark, saying “He is my friend.  He is my hero,” with a stunning reading of the first song Clark ever wrote: “Step Inside This House.” Acclaimed singer-songwriter  Jason Isbell performs a moving solo rendition of a Clark classic, “Desperados Waiting For A Train.”  

Superstar Tex-Mex accordionist Flaco Jiménez makes a joyous show-stopping cameo during his own tribute, joining Dwight Yoakam, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and conjunto masters Los Texmaniacs to show off his nimble accordion style. The late, great Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt, who first appeared in ACL’s debut season in 1975, is honored beautifully in acoustic performances by roots outfit Gillian Welch and British singer-songwriter Laura Marling. Austin’s own Asleep at the Wheel, who performed on the very first episode of ACL in 1975, are inducted by longtime fan Vince Gill, who joins the Western swing institution for a lively take on their early recording “Take Me Back to Tulsa.”

photo by Gary Miller

The special comes to a perfect close with the night’s entire cast returning to the ACL stage for a grand finale, trading verses on a Townes Van Zandt classic, “White Freightliner Blues.”
“We created our own Hall of Fame as part of our 40th anniversary last year to recognize and celebrate those artists who were there in the beginning and helped make Austin City Limits what it is today,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “The annual event is a unique showcase for some amazing performances and emotional moments, and we’re thrilled to be able to capture it all to bring to our fans at home.”

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 the ACL debut of jazz great Cassandra Wilson.

Vintage Trouble taping livestreams on 10/6

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Austin City Limits is pleased to announce that we will be streaming our taping with Vintage Trouble live on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 8pm CT/9pm ET. The taping will webcast in its entirety via our YouTube channel.

Vintage Trouble play live-wired, straight-shootin’, dirty-mouth’d juke music. Or, as Rolling Stone put it, “imagine James Brown singing lead for Led Zeppelin and you’ll get an idea of Vintage Trouble’s muscular, in the pocket sound.” The LA quartet take a break from their current tour with rock giants AC/DC to make their ACL debut.  The band has garnered massive attention for their powerhouse performances, even securing opening slots with rock’s biggest live acts, The Rolling Stones and The Who, on the heels of their self-released 2011 debut album The Bomb Shelter Sessions. The band signed to prestigious Blue Note Records and their new release 1 Hopeful Rd., produced by label president Don Was, features the singles “Doin’ What You’re Doin’” and “Run Like the River.” Paste raves, “Doin’ What You’re Doin’” grooves like Al Green with background doo-wops. [Singer Ty] Taylor’s falsetto range stars in ‘Shows What You Know’ and the band could convincingly resurrect the blues-infused power ballad with songs like ‘If You Loved Me.’” Classic Rock notes, “You want the real vintage rock’n’soul deal? Look this way, and then make sure you catch them live.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, and it underlines how thrilled we are to welcome Vintage Trouble to the ACL stage.

The broadcast version of this show will air as part of our Season 41 on PBS.  Join us for this live webcast of the Austin City Limits debut of Vintage Trouble.

New tapings: Kendrick Lamar and D’Angelo and The Vanguard


UPDATE: Austin City Limits and KLRU regret to inform you that the ACL taping with D’Angelo and The Vanguard, scheduled for Saturday, November 7th, has been cancelled. Thank you for your understanding.

Austin City Limits is proud to announce two new tapings as part of our upcoming Season 41: the ACL debuts of Kendrick Lamar on Oct. 30 and D’Angelo and The Vanguard on Nov. 7.

Perhaps the most acclaimed rapper on the planet, Kendrick Lamar comes to our stage on Oct. 30. The Compton native – born a year before the genre-defining N.W.A. LP Straight Outta Compton – began writing rhymes when he was 13. The young rapper would become an underground phenomenon, releasing mixtapes and independent albums that made him one of the top-selling digital artists. In 2012 he signed with Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope and released the landmark, platinum-selling good kid, m.A.A.d city. The LP debuted at #2 on the Billboard album chart, garnered seven Grammy nominations and spun off multiple top 40 singles, including “Swimming Pools (Drank”) and “Poetic Justice.” After touring with Kanye West, appearing on Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and performing a packed set at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Lamar followed up with the smash single “i,” which won Grammys for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the 2015 ceremony. The hit also set the stage for Lamar’s widely acclaimed latest LP To Pimp a Butterfly, which Rolling Stone called “a masterpiece of fiery outrage, deep jazz and ruthless self-critique” and Spin named the “Great American Hip-Hop Album.” The record debuted at #1 on Billboard’s chart, firmly establishing Lamar as one of the biggest hip-hop artists in the world. We’re thrilled to welcome Kendrick Lamar to be part of ACL history.

On Nov. 7 we welcome musical genius D’Angelo and his band The Vanguard. Born in Richmond, Virginia, D’Angelo migrated to New York City at 18 to develop his skills as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer.  After signing a publishing deal in 1991 and a record contract in 1993, his 1995 debut Brown Sugar breathed new life into R&B and yielded gems including the title track, “Lady,” “Cruisin’,” and more. Its 2000 follow-up Voodoo received a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album, while the single “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” earned the Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. After a silence of over a decade, broken only by the release of 2008’s compilation The Best So Far…, D’Angelo and The Vanguard delivered Black Messiah to the unsuspecting, yet receptive, masses on December 15, 2014. Reaffirming the need for raw, righteous, and real soul, its impact could immediately be felt when it landed at #1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart and #5 on the Top 200. The critics spoke as well, with The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, NPR, and countless others extolling the album for both its music and message, thus usurping countless “Best of 2014” music lists. D’Angelo and The Vanguard hit the road, earning rave reviews for live shows Rolling Stone called “ a master class in soul” and Wall Street Journal described as “rendering a strain of soul music reminiscent of Sly Stone in the ‘60s, George Clinton in the ‘70s or 1980s Prince, onstage D’Angelo is a dynamo of the James Brown variety.” We’re excited to experience the same magic as we welcome D’Angelo and The Vanguard to the ACL stage for the first time.

In addition to performing at ACLTV D’Angelo and The Vanguard will also headline the Fun Fun Fun Fest Orange Stage on Sunday, November 8th. USP, 3 Day, and Single Day Passes for the festival are available for purchase at
Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before the taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings.