New tapings: Parker Millsap, CeCe Winans and Alejandro Escovedo

photo by Laura Partain

Austin City Limits closes out a remarkable Season 42 on a high note with the final artist tapings: Parker Millsap on November 9, CeCe Winans on November 20 and Alejandro Escovedo on November 30.  St. Paul and the Broken Bones will also tape a show on November 20, as previously announced.

Following a triumphant appearance on this year’s Americana Music Festival special, singer/songwriter Parker Millsap makes his Austin City Limits debut in support of his third album The Very Last Day. The 23-year-old grew up doing congregational singing in church and listening to old blues albums in his room, not realizing that howling like a Delta blues ghost readying the world for rock & roll isn’t how a skinny white boy from Purcell, Oklahoma usually sounds. The Very Last Day proves an ideal vehicle for Millsap’s message, delivered via gospel-tinged rock & roll poetry. In the midst of a world fond of condemnation as entertainment, Millsap offers open-armed love of people and their stories. Whether he’s singing about the experience of a gay friend, longing for his evangelical father’s acceptance, or as the King of the Underworld wild with passion, his character-driven songs mine deep wells of joy and despair to create gut-punching narratives that are sometimes hellish, sometimes heavenly, and always human. We’re happy to welcome Parker Millsap to his first Austin City Limits taping.

Part of gospel’s first family the Winans, CeCe Winans is the best-selling female gospel artist of all time. The Detroit native made her performing debut with her brother BeBe in 1982 as part of the PTL Singers. The pair launched their career as a duo in 1987, releasing bestselling albums that earned them gold and platinum albums, three Grammy awards, nine Dove awards and numerous hit singles on the R&B charts. CeCe began her solo career in 1995 with the Grammy-winning platinum album Alone in His Presence, scored a top 10 single in “Count On Me,” a duet with close friend Whitney Houston, and has continued to have an impact on gospel and R&B music ever since. She comes to the ACL stage bearing latest single “Never Have to Be Alone,” as well as new songs from a forthcoming record to be released in 2017. We’re thrilled to welcome the great CeCe Winans to her first Austin City Limits, where she will share the stage with dynamic Alabama soul outfit St. Paul & the Broken Bones.  

photo by Nancy Rankin Escovedo

Veteran Austin singer/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo returns to our stage in support of Burn Something Beautiful, his twelfth solo album. Recorded in Portland with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and the Minus 5’s Scott McCaughey as co-writers and producers, Burn Something Beautiful is at once a celebration of the rock & roll life, a contemplation of mortality and a tribute to the healing power of love. The project coalesced beautifully with the help of an esteemed group of musicians who give the album a band feel, including ACL vets Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Kelly Hogan (Neko Case), John Moen (the Decemberists) and Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney). Connecting repeatedly with his soulful heart and voice at its core, Burn Something Beautiful is Alejandro Escovedo at his very best. The San Antonio native is, of course, no stranger to ACL – he has been on the show four times previously, starting as a member of Rank & File when they appeared on the show in 1983. We’re thrilled to welcome back Alejandro Escovedo.

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.

Robert Plant returns to Austin City Limits for Season 42

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a thrilling hour with Robert Plant in an unforgettable performance marking the legendary frontman’s return to the ACL stage for the first time in more than a decade. The career-spanning set features Led Zeppelin classics alongside more recent songs in an episode that will delight die-hard fans and music fans everywhere.  

From the opening riffs of Led Zeppelin staple “The Lemon Song,” Plant commands the stage with his dynamic presence and iconic vocals. Backed by his world-class six-piece band the Sensational Shape Shifters, the rock superstar performs Zeppelin classics, including “Black Dog,” and an electrifying version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” Plant artfully mixes new and old, captivating the audience with songs from throughout his fascinating musical journey, including the blissed-out reverie of early solo smash “In The Mood” and recent standout “Rainbow” from 2014’s acclaimed lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar. With his multi-cultural, diverse band, the icon explores the connection between rock ‘n’ roll and traditional African music, revitalizing fan favorites with West African instruments to glorious effect. Closing out the set with an explosive performance of the face-melter “Whole Lotta Love,” Plant weaves blues standards “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and “Hey! Bo Diddley” into the classic, demonstrating the epic scope of his illustrious career.

“Robert Plant is one of the few artists from any generation who can stand the test of time while always exploring, experimenting, and expanding his musical horizons,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Yet there’s a common thread of genius through all his music, from the earliest Zeppelin tunes to his newest work. Then there’s that voice! We are truly honored to have such a legend return to our stage for a second time.”

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 for another brand new episode featuring the return of Florence + the Machine and the debut of Andra Day.

Austin City Limits Hall of Fame 2016 induction ceremony a huge success

photo by Gary Miller

Last night we were thrilled to induct three giants of American music into the third annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame: B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt and Kris Kristofferson. The evening featured one-of- a-kind music performances and tributes from Willie Nelson, Billy Gibbons, Mavis Staples, Rodney Crowell, Gary Clark Jr., Taj Mahal, B.B. King’s Blues Band and Eve Monsees. 

Bill Stotesbery, KLRU-TV, Austin PBS CEO and Terry Lickona, Executive Producer of Austin City Limits welcomed to the crowd to the special evening.

Comedy supercouple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally hosted the celebratory evening which will air on New Year’s Eve on PBS. The entertaining duo kicked things off with a playful attempt to claim the Hall of Fame inductions for themselves, before introducing the night’s first inductee: legendary songwriter Kris Kristofferson. Singer/songwriter and Austin City Limits veteran Rodney Crowell took the stage to pay tribute to one of his heroes and greatest influences. Clad all in black, Kristofferson accepted his award saying, “This is as good as it can get!” Crowell then moved center stage to lead the house band in a rollicking rendition of Kristofferson’s “Chase the Feeling” and an expressive version of his classic ballad  “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” The man himself then arrived for another pair of ballads, specifically the hits “Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” and the oft-recorded “For the Good Times,” his voice craggy with experience. Kristofferson then welcomed fellow Austin City Limits Hall of Famer and longtime friend Willie Nelson to the stage, who plugged in Trigger and led everybody in a shuffling take on Kristofferson’s signature tune “Me and Bobby McGee,” to a huge smile from its writer.

Offerman and Mullally returned to introduce the induction of Bonnie Raitt, and gospel soul great Mavis Staples took the stage (to a standing ovation) in order to induct her longtime friend with a touching and hilarious speech. Raitt accepted her award with excitement and humility, then joined Staples onstage for a romp through the swampy Bob Dylan/Danny O’Keefe co-write “Well Well Well.” Staples then quit the stage to be replaced by eclectic bluesologist Taj Mahal for the rocking “Gnawin’ On It,” with Raitt, house band guitarist David Grissom and Mahal (on harp) trading solos around. Willie Nelson joined Raitt onstage to reprise their duet on Stephen Bruton’s (her former guitarist) lovely “Getting Over You,” recorded by the pair on Nelson’s landmark LP Across the Borderline twenty years before. One standing ovation later, Raitt thanked the hardworking Austin City Limits crew and welcomed Staples and Mahal back to the stage for “Thing Called Love.” The trio enhanced the John Hiatt song that’s become one of Raitt’s signature tunes with electric ukulele and sanctified tamborine for a kick-ass performance.

Mullally and Offerman delivered a shout-out to house bandleader Lloyd Maines, introducing the night’s ace band before intermission. The second act began with KLRU-TV CEO Bill Stotesbery returning to the stage to induct Dick Peterson, who worked for KLRU from 1984-2008. A TV veteran with decades in the business, the Austin native took over as Austin City Limits executive producer after co-creator Bill Arhos retired in 2000, and received his award for his decades-long work behind the scenes. The night’s hosts returned to introduce the evening’s final inductee: great blues titan B.B. King. Rock legend and blues scholar Billy F. Gibbons from ZZ Top took to the stage to induct one of his greatest inspirations. King’s award was accepted by Myron Johnson, the bluesman’s longtime personal assistant and tour manager. Offerman and Mullally returned to inform the audience that the trophy would reside in the B.B. King Museum and to introduce the B.B. King Blues Band – not only the band that backed King on the road for many years, but in the case of some of them, musicians who appeared with the King of the Blues on his 1983 debut ACL appearance. Fronted by guitarist/singer Jesse Robinson in King’s absence, the band rolled into a faithful take on his classic “Paying the Cost to Be the Boss.” Gibbons then came back, fronting a trio with King drummer Herman Jackson, Austin organist Mike Flanigin and, of course, himself on guitar. The threesome reached back to the 60s for the 12-bar “The Jungle,” with Gibbons and Flanigin trading blistering solos. The band segued immediately into “You Upset Me Baby,” King’s lascivious #1 R&B single from 1954.   

The King band re-took the stage, joined by previous inductee Raitt and guitar great and Austin native Gary Clark Jr. The pair launched into “The Thrill is Gone,” probably King’s most famous song, filling it with scintillating singing and sizzling solos. Raitt exited and Clark took the spotlight for a faithful “Three O’Clock Blues,” the Lowell Fulsom song that was King’s first hit in 1952. Clark then brought on his friend and Austin blues standout Eve Monsees.  The pair, who learned the blues together while still in high school, romped through King’s 1953 single “Woke Up This Morning.”Willie Nelson returned to the stage to join Clark Jr. for a relaxed but blues-soaked version of “Night Life,” the Nelson original that became a staple of King’s setlist. Nelson’s distinctive picking proved itself as adept at the blues as the country for which he’s known.

Offerman and Mullally came back and brought the entire cast with them for a memorable grand finale- the inductees, the guests and both the house band and the King band. The all-star line-up went into “Everyday I Have the Blues,” another indelible King hit that helped define not only his career, but the genre itself. Both band and audience had a great time, the latter on its feet for the entire song. The celebratory evening came to a close with the entire cast singing a serendipitous version of “Auld Lang Syne” to mark the event’s New Year’s Eve broadcast, with a take so bluesy King’s spirit was surely smiling. For the crowd it might as well have been the real thing, considering the kissing, hugging and celebration going on. Mullally and Offerman thanked everyone for coming and it was over. It was quite a night, the best Hall of Fame ceremony yet, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this Dec. 31 on your local PBS station.

Foals brings epic sound to ACL

photo by Scott Newton

Already huge stars in their native England, and one of the UK’s most-acclaimed live acts, headlining festival stages from Reading to Glastonbury to Coachella, and a rapturously received set at this year’s namesake Austin City Limits Music Festival, Foals brought their epic sound to our stage for their debut Austin City Limits taping.

Following taped intro music, the band started the show with “Snake Oil,” a galloping rocker from the Oxford quintet’s latest album What Went Down. Foals then reached back to its 2008 debut Antidotes for “Olympic Airways,” which rode a basstastic postpunk groove to glory. That tune segued directly into the similarly rhythm-heavy “My Number,” from the fivesome’s third LP Holy Fire. “Providence,” from the same record, flowed from a lush synth bed to a skittering funk rocker before erupting in guitar fury. “Give It All” followed, its brooding atmosphere bringing the energy to a simmer rather than boil. Then it was time for the song that introduced them to American audiences, the radio smash “Mountain At My Gates,” and it didn’t disappoint: the hit soared into the stratosphere and had the crowd jumping.

Taking a breather from WWD, Foals dug further back into its catalog for the dreamy “Spanish Sahara” and the jangly “Red Sox Pugie.” The band then went into the atmospheric “Late Night,” before diving into the ether with the psychedelic anthem “A Knife in the Ocean.” Foals finished the main set with the widescreen “Inhaler,” which ranged from a sort of ethereal disco to grinding guitar grunge and featured a surprise visit to the crowd from charismatic singer Yannis Philippakis. That wasn’t the end, of course; the band returned for a grand finale. The hugely anthemic title track of What Went Down killed as Philippakis once again mingled, and the audience showed their appreciation loud and long. This was one well-oiled, passionate rock machine, and we can’t wait for you see then when this show airs early next year as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.  

James Bay and Rhiannon Giddens debut in ACL Season 42

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits features two breakout talents making their ACL debuts—James Bay and Rhiannon Giddens—in a highly-anticipated new installment.  

UK sensation James Bay opens the hour with a stunning, soulful performance featuring songs from his global chart-topping debut Chaos and the Calm.  The 26-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist has had a banner year earning multiple 2016 Grammy nominations, a BRIT Award win for Best Male Solo Artist, and landing on festival stages including Glastonbury, Lollapalooza and namesake ACL Festival.  In his Austin City Limits debut Bay proves why he is one of today’s biggest live acts, delivering a stellar four-song set highlighted by a powerfully acoustic, stirring rendition of his standout “Let It Go,” and breakthough smash “Hold Back the River.”

Americana sensation Rhiannon Giddens gives a spellbinding performance in her ACL debut, with selections from her widely-acclaimed 2016 Grammy-nominated release Tomorrow Is My Turn.  The album marks Giddens’ solo debut after a decade as a founding member and leader of the award-winning string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops.   Taking the stage barefoot, Giddens dons a banjo to open her dazzling set with “Spanish Mary” (lyrics by Bob Dylan).  The North Carolina native’s canon includes songs that deal with the struggles of slaves in the 19th century, including the Odetta classic “Waterboy” and the chilling “At the Purchaser’s Option,” a Giddens-penned number inspired by a 19th century advertisement for a slave and her baby.  She then enlists guitarist and fellow Drops’ bandmate Hubby Jenkins to join her on vocals for the gospel classic “Children, Go Where I Send Thee,” before closing out the powerful set playfully with the romantic putdown “Louisiana Man.”

photo by Scott Newton

“Fans have been telling us for years they love to tune in to discover new talent they’ve never seen or heard before,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “This show offers a double-bonus for fans of deeply personal, heartfelt songs and singers who possess a distinctive voice.  James and Rhiannon may come from cultures an ocean apart, but their music resonates with audiences worldwide.”

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 another brand new episode featuring the return of Robert Plant.

Margo Price’s rising star

photo by Scott Newton

Country music has a new rising star, and her name is Margo Price. The Nashville-based singer has taken the Americana world by storm with her debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. We were pleased to welcome her for her first Austin City Limits taping, which encompassed most of Daughter, some well-chosen covers and even some as-yet unrecorded songs.

Her six-piece band kicked the evening off with a brief rip through Jerry Reed’s “Swarmin,” before introducing the woman of the hour. She and the band immediately jumped into “About to Find Out,” a rocking honky-tonker from Daughter. Her powerhouse wail – somewhere between Tanya Tucker’s earthiness and Dolly Parton’s ethereality – introduced “Tennessee Song,” a relative epic that featured a swirling duet between Luke Schneider’s pedal steel and Micah Hulscher’s synthesizer – the latter an instrument not usually heard in country this traditionalist. She then played new song “Learning to Lose,” as yet unrecorded – but the power of this self-deprecating ballad means it won’t stay in that state for long. Visiting the songbook of Texas songwriting great Billy Joe Shaver, she romped through “Black Rose,” most famously recorded by the great Waylon Jennings. Back to back killers followed via the drunk-in-jail tale “Weekender” and the defiant ballad “Since You Put Me Down.”

Inspired by an experience on a bad tour, “Desperate and Depressed” – the B-side of her hit single “Hurtin’ On the Bottle” – found humor in the situation and put it to a country beat. Price then turned to the catalog of her songwriter friend Steve Knutson for another tale of alcohol consumption gone bad – “It Ain’t Drunk Driving If You’re Riding a Horse” was funny and poignant all at once. She described the stirring “Hands of Time” as inspired by a particularly hard time in her life, but leavened the pain with the self-described “country funk” of “Four Years of Chances,” which found particular favor with the crowd. As did “This Town Gets Around,” a middle finger to the music business that rules her Nashville base, set to a beat that should send couples spinning ‘round the dance floor.

Price then plucked a little-known gem from the catalog of Austin hero Doug Sahm: “I Wanna Be Your Mama Again” sounded a long-lost country hit in her hands. “Paper Cowboy” began as a honky-tonk ballad but quickly morphed into a stretched-out, frisky two-stepper that gave her an opportunity to introduce her crack band. She brought the audience to its feet by ending the main set with “Hurtin’ On the Bottle,” the radio hit on its way to becoming her signature song, even joining the crowd on the floor for the last chorus.

But that wasn’t the last of it. Price and the band retook the stage for a rollicking 70s-style take on “Gotta Travel On,” the 1959 hit for Billy Grammer. She then took on Neil Young, but not any of the obvious tunes – instead she visited the Canadian iconoclast’s trad-country LP Old Ways for a take on the title track that let the band stretch out again. Price and company ended the night with a ripping charge through Gram Parsons’ “Ooh Las Vegas,” a song fast enough to let everyone show off and still come in under five minutes. It earned her a standing ovation, and the band took a well-deserved bow. It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.

Band of Horses rocks ACL for the second time

photo by Scott Newton

Following their triumphant ACL Festival set, Band of Horses joined us to tape their second Austin City Limits show, returning to the stage they first played six years ago.  Celebrating the release of their fifth album Why Are You OK, the South Carolina quintet brought their A-game for an easygoing but rocking set.

To the crowd’s delight, the band began strong right out of the gate with “Is There a Ghost,” the powerhouse that kicks off their second record Cease to Begin. BOH reached even further back to their debut LP Everything All the Time for “The Great Salt Lake,” a less soaring but no less compelling anthem. Ringmastered by perennially upbeat frontman Benjamin Bridwell, the group then jumped forward to their latest record, rocking their way through the radio hit “Casual Party” and “Solemn Oath.” Bridwell and company next romped through “Laredo,” the hit from their bestselling LP Infinite Arms, before going back to the new LP for the country rockin’ “Throw My Mess,” featuring Tyler Ramsey’s slide guitar.

A quick set change later, Bridwell and Ramsey commanded the stage by themselves, the latter fingerpicking an acoustic guitar while the former put his heart and soul into singing “No One’s Gonna Love You,” one of the band’s loveliest ballads. Bridwell donned an acoustic guitar and welcomed keyboardist Ryan Monroe back to the stage wielding a mandolin. The trio circled a single microphone to capture both acoustic instruments and three-part harmonies for “Part One,” a new folk classic from the debut LP. Ramsey and Monroe left the stage while bassist Bill Reynolds and drummer Creighton Barrett came back, as Bridwell took a chair and a second bass for the low-end pop song “Our Swords.” Full band once again assembled, the Horses essayed the organ-heavy ballad “Detlef Schrempf,” dedicated to the German basketball player of the same name.

After four tunes in a row from the first two albums, Band of Horses  rejoined OK with a pair of striking songs: the synth-frosted pop tune “Hag” and the anthemic “In a Drawer,” which started slow and pretty before exploding into lighter-waving rock & roll. “Now that we’re all happy, here’s a song about death,” quipped Bridwell before fan favorite “The Funeral,” a song from that debut that also starts graceful and breaks into thunder. The latter’s big rock finish brought the audience to their feet, but the Horses weren’t finished. Banging a tambourine with a drumstick, Bridwell led the group through the rollicking “The General Specific,” to wild applause. It was a fine rock & roll show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.

Giveaway: Foals 10/6

Foals for announce

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Foals on Thursday, Oct. 6th, at 8 pm at ACL Live at The Moody Theater (310 W. 2nd Street, Willie Nelson Blvd). We will be giving away a limited number of space available passes to this taping. Enter your name and email address on the below form by 9 am on Tuesday, Oct. 4th.

Winners will be chosen at random and a photo ID will be required to pickup tickets. Winners will be notified by email. Passes are not transferable and cannot be sold. Standing may be required.  No photography, recording or cell phone use in the studio. No cameras or recording devices allowed in venue.