The Black Keys and J. Roddy Walston & the Business get loud on ACL’s 40th season

photo by Scott Newton

It might get loud when two of contemporary rock’s best live bands hit the Austin City Limits stage with the return of six-time GRAMMY winners The Black Keys and the debut of rowdy southern rockers J. Roddy Walston & The Business.

“We’re The Black Keys from Akron, Ohio,” says frontman Dan Auerbach, but no introduction is needed. The powerhouse duo of singer/guitarist Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have spent the better part of a decade building a huge following through relentless touring and word of mouth to become one of music’s biggest live acts, headlining festivals and arenas and earning worldwide acclaim for their irresistible rock and roll. They first appeared on ACL in Season 36 playing one of the last shows in ACL’s original, historic Studio 6A in support of their 2010 breakout album Brothers. The steel-belt rockers return for their second appearance with songs from the triple Grammy-nominated Turn Blue, which debuted at #1 on Billboard‘s album chart, was widely acclaimed as one of 2014′s best records and is a 2015 GRAMMY contender for Best Rock Album. The band reach back to their roots to kick things off in their blistering six-song ACL set, and proceed to tear through soulful tracks from Turn Blue including “Fever,” one of this year’s GRAMMY nominees for both Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. With their charged rock and unapologetic guitar riffs, The Black Keys command the ACL stage in a knockout performance.

“I remember seeing The Black Keys for the first time at ACL Fest and wondering, ‘how could just two guys make such great music?’” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “They pour their heart and soul into it, that’s how, and they can excite a crowd more than most bands five times bigger.”

With a scrappy yet sublime sound that honors both their Southern roots and punk spirit, J. Roddy Walston & The Business deliver a must-see ACL debut, performing songs from their acclaimed LP Essential Tremors.  The Baltimore-based quartet’s high-intensity five-song set features singer/pianist/guitarist Walston tossing his long mane while headbanging out songs celebrating that great and terrible burden of being human.  Their anthems “Heavy Bells”, “Brave Man’s Death” and “Don’t Break the Needle” are some of the sweatiest, ballsiest rock ‘n’ roll ever featured on the ACL stage.  It’s all a warm-up, though, for the colossal closer “Used to Did,” on which the band pulls out all the stops for a piano-pounding, guitar-wailing, hair-whipping photo finish.

photo by Scott Newton

“J. Roddy Walston is the perfect warm up for the Keys,” Lickona added. “They are very old-school but also in-the-moment at the same time. Sometimes you just got to let it all hang out!”

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 the return of Foo Fighters.

 

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.

ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2014

Americana Music Festival & Conference Award Show - Show, Audience & Backstage

Austin City Limits heads to Nashville for a special broadcast featuring performance highlights from this year’s Americana Honors & Awards. ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2014 premieres this weekend on PBS and delivers a stellar line-up of artists celebrating the best of Americana music today. Recorded live at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium in September, The Americana Music Association’s 13th Annual Honors & Awards ceremony, hosted by Americana stalwart Jim Lauderdale is a star-studded affair reflecting the magnitude of the genre’s reach. The performance-filled episode features the night’s Lifetime Achievement Honorees, award-winners, Americana’s rising stars and icons who helped define the genre; among them: Loretta Lynn, Jackson Browne, Jason Isbell, Rosanne Cash, Sturgill Simpson, Patty Griffin, Robert Plant, Flaco Jimenez, Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal.

Country legend Loretta Lynn, awarded the Lifetime Achievement Honor for Songwriter, performs her signature “Coal Miner’s Daughter” on the same stage where she made her Ryman debut in 1962. Veteran singer/songwriter/activist Jackson Browne, recipient of a Spirit of Americana award, performs a new song, the social wake-up call “The Long Way Around.” Tejano accordionist and Lifetime Achievement Honoree Flaco Jimenez dazzles with his trademark norteño music accompanied by longtime collaborator, guitarist extraordinaire Ry Cooder. Genre-defying bluesman Taj Mahal demonstrates how he earned a Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance with a show-stopping “Statesboro Blues.”

Award-winners and nominees also perform, led by Jason Isbell, who took top honors with wins for Artist of the Year and Album of the Year; he gives a stunning reading of his Song of the Year “Cover Me Up” from 2013’s landmark album Southeastern. Duo/Group winners The Milk Carton Kids, a Los Angeles-based acoustic folk duo, delight with their signature two guitar style. Singer/songwriter and multiple nominee Rosanne Cash performs “A Feather’s Not a Bird” from her critically lauded recent release The River and The Thread. Americana veteran Patty Griffin gives a beautiful rendition of her hit “Ohio,” joined in blended harmony by music icon and frequent collaborator Robert Plant.

Inspired turns by some of the genre’s newest innovators include Oklahoman singer/songwriter Parker Millsap, blues shapeshifter and Tennessee native Valerie June and dynamic Alabama soul outfit St. Paul and The Broken Bones, who bring the Ryman audience to its feet with a roof-raising performance.  Emerging Artist winner and Nashville rebel Sturgill Simpson closes out the show with a standout rendition of his song “Life of Sin,” forecasting the future of American roots music.

Throughout the broadcast, the performers are backed by the Americana All-Stars, the evening’s ace house band. Led by musical director Buddy Miller, also named Instrumentalist of the Year, the ensemble features Don Was, Joachim Cooder, Tim Lauer, Nashville gospel group The McCrary Sisters and Americana trailblazer Ry Cooder. Viewers will find it hard to remain on their couches as the band heats up the Willie Dixon classic “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover,” joined by emcee Jim Lauderdale.

“If there was a heat sensor for creativity pointed at the planet earth, the Americana Honors & Awards would be RED HOT on the gradient chart,” says Americana Music Association Executive Director Jed Hilly, adding “it’s truly humbling to host this event and we are honored to partner with the best in the land, Austin City Limits, to present the program for PBS viewers.”

Eric Church makes his ACL Season 40 debut

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits proudly presents an hour with country sensation Eric Church. Church has blazed his own trail to superstardom and now makes his ACL debut with his signature brand of no-holds-barred country music.

Famous for a game-changing live show, Church performs songs from his critically-acclaimed, chart-topping 2014 album The Outsiders in his ACL debut.  The music rebel’s distinctively hard-rocking spin on country, influenced as much by AC/DC and Metallica as Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, has earned him a huge audience outside the confines of country radio.  Church appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone this year and was named one of their “50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now.” NPR raves, “Eric Church is working on a level that few other country artists of his generation can touch.”

“This is gonna be fun,” says the North Carolina native, clearly enjoying his first visit to the ACL stage. Church’s appearance is a twelve-song tour-de-force that presents the performer at the top of his game. Delivering a host of hits in his trademark aviators, Church’s crowd-pleasing set is filled with anthems about youth, family and outliers that ignite through songwriting skill, powerful riffs and energetic vocals. Highlights include the rebellious “The Outsiders”, the autobiographical title track “Sinners Like Me” from his 2006 debut and the Grammy-nominated anthem “Springsteen” from his 2011 breakthrough Chief, with the Austin audience providing the “whoa-ohs” of the chorus. Church brings it all home solo, showcasing his softer side with the heartfelt set-closing ballad “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young.”

“Eric and his band know how to rock harder than many rock ‘n roll bands,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “and his music and the words behind it have a way of reaching fans way beyond the usual borders of country music. He’s a perfect fit for ACL.”

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. Tune in next week as ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2014.

 

Los Lobos and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down continue Season 40

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents true American originals—the legendary Los Lobos and folk rock wonders Thao & The Get Down Stay Down. Los Lobos return to the ACL stage for their fifth appearance, while innovator Thao Nguyen and her band The Get Down Stay Down make their ACL debut. Music mavericks with far-reaching influences, both acts exemplify ACL’s outstanding legacy of “Great Music, No Limits.”

More than forty years into their run, Los Lobos are one of America’s great rock ‘n roll bands. The influential and enduring East L.A. band return to the ACL stage celebrating their recent 40th anniversary alongside ACL’s. “Los Lobos are still one of America’s best, bravest, and most satisfying bands, and their skills and their instincts remain razor-sharp,” raves AllMusic. After four decades together the beloved band continue to create music that resonates with audiences around the world, and the three-time GRAMMY winning group will be honored this year with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Latin Recording Academy. Opening their ACL set with the fan favorite “La Pistola y el Corazon”, the group perform highlights from their vast catalog. The crowd-pleasing performance displays their world-class musicianship, as the veteran rockers perform their signature style of “Chicano rock” with an eclectic set of rock ‘n roll, country, folk, R&B, blues and norteño music. The group close out the masterful set with “Mas y Mas”, joined by Austin’s own Grupo Fantasma on horns, showing great music is universal.

“Los Lobos and ACL have always felt like kindred spirits,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “We share the same impulse towards originality, experimentation and fun with music. They’re still one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands in America!”

photo by Scott Newton

Led by enigmatic singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen, the San Francisco-based Thao & the Get Down Stay Down have built a devoted following based on their spirited live shows and their catalog of smart, genre-blending indie rock. The band’s ACL debut features them performing songs from their 2013 release We the Common. The group’s blend of rhythms and Thao’s folk-influenced fingerpicking give the band a distinctive sound that truly makes it stand out from the pack. Bandleader Thao’s natural exuberance and wide-ranging songwriting acumen make for a joyful, must-see ACL appearance. The band close out the scorching set with the singalong folk pop of “We the Common,” with the Austin crowd happy to oblige.

“Thao is a true artist for the 21st century,” says Lickona. “Her influences are wide-ranging, and her live performances are mesmerizing and infectious!”

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. Next week: Eric Church.

 

Tweedy keeps ACL Season 40 in motion

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a Season 40 highlight—the return of ACL veteran Jeff Tweedy for a very special hour of music. The Wilco leader showcases his new solo project Tweedy, joined by son Spencer and their special guests, as they perform a mix of new songs and Wilco classics.

As a longtime favorite son of ACL, it’s only fitting that Jeff Tweedy returns to the ACL stage with his own son for the show’s milestone 40th anniversary season. The esteemed singer-songwriter has appeared on ACL four times previously with his main outfit Wilco, starting back in Season 25.  This new installment marks his first-ever solo outing for ACL, accompanied by his 18-year-old son Spencer Tweedy on drums, with lush harmonies from Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of the band Lucius.

“It took me 18 years to have a solo record because I had to grow a drummer,” jokes Tweedy to the ACL audience, as the father-son team begin the strikingly intimate hour with songs from the critically-acclaimed 2014 release Sukierae. In a recent four-star review, Rolling Stone hails the debut as “another tour de force from a guy who’s made a few.” Closing the five-song band set of new material with the new folk-rocker “Nobody Dies Anymore”, the Grammy-winning frontman treats the Austin crowd to a solo acoustic set of fan favorites from Wilco’s vast catalog including “Via Chicago” and “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”.  Tweedy also performs a spirited version of Austin songwriter Doug Sahm’s classic “Give Back the Key to My Heart”, a song he recorded more than twenty years ago as a member of the legendary Uncle Tupelo. The episode comes to a captivating close with Jeff Tweedy taking the stage solo for a powerful rendition of Wilco’s “Misunderstood.”

photo by Scott Newton

“This show has special meaning for all of us at ACL,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “A few years ago I introduced Wilco from the stage as the band that best sums up everything that Austin City Limits is all about. Jeff Tweedy continues to be one of the most creative voices in modern music, and together with his son they continue to build on two incredible legacies – his and ours!”

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. Next week: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.