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!

 

Encore: Jason Isbell and Neko Case

photo by Scott Newton

This weekend ACL features two powerful singer-songwriters: Jason Isbell and Neko Case, each possessing a distinctive style and voice.

Hailed as “one of America’s thoroughbred songwriters” by The New York Times, Jason Isbell opens the episode, making his ACL debut. The Nashville-via-Mussel Shoals, Alabama singer/songwriter’s 2013 album Southeastern scored a Top 25 on the Billboard 200, and critical raves, including topping many critic’s year-end best lists. The New York Times Magazine declared, “the record is a breakthrough for Isbell—prickly with loss, forgiveness, newfound sobriety and second chances.” Rolling Stone calls it “one of the year’s best in any genre,” and Pitchfork raves “Southeastern is easily Isbell’s best solo album.” A former member of acclaimed Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers, Isbell launched a solo career in 2007. Backed by his band the 400 Unit, including his wife, fiddler Amanda Shires, and with a rawness and honesty that’s rare in contemporary songwriting, Isbell gives a stunning must-see performance on the ACL stage.

You can see Isbell’s performance in its unedited entirety on the recently-released DVD Jason Isbell: Live at Austin City Limits. You can purchase a copy here.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” said executive producer Terry Lickona, “but when Jason sang ‘Elephant,’ it literally gave me chills. That’s the kind of writer he is, and that’s the kind of performer he is.”

Neko Case makes a thunderous return to ACL (she first appeared in 2003) performing songs from her acclaimed 2013 release The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, her sixth studio album.  Case emerges from a three-year period the artist describes as full of “grief and mourning,” in the wake of the deaths of not just both her parents, but several intimates as well. With her fearless songwriting and musical curiosity, Neko Case captures fans with “one of the most memorable and seductive voices in music” (NPR).  Pitchfork says The Worse Things Get… “is the most potent album of her career,” and Rolling Stone raves that Case is “one of America’s best and most ambitious songwriters.” Case performs a captivating set of songs from the new record, and a few gems from her recent releases.

photo by Scott Newton

“There’s something about that voice, but it’s also about the delivery – which makes this performance that much more special,” said Lickona. “Her television performances are few and far between, so this is one that’s not to be missed!”

Check out the episode page for more details. Don’t forget, you can click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL goodies. Next week: Rodrigo y Gabriela.

 

Austin City Limits Season 40 pt. 2 starts January 3

photo by Scott Newton

Austin, TX—December 3, 2014—The landmark television music series Austin City Limits (ACL) unwraps the second half of its milestone Season 40, celebrating a four-decade run with more legendary artists, innovators and highly-anticipated debuts.  Seven brand-new shows begin airing in January 2015 as part of the program’s fourteen-episode season. Providing viewers with a front-row seat to the best in music performance for 40 years, ACL returns on Saturday, January 3rd with a double-bill featuring the return of roots rockers The Avett Brothers and Grammy-winning bluegrass trio Nickel Creek. ACL airs weekly on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings for times) and full episodes are made available online for a limited time at http://video.pbs.org/program/austin-city-limits/ immediately following the initial broadcast. The show’s official hashtag is #acltv40.

A highlight of the season is powerhouse rock duo The Black Keys, with the six-time Grammy winners making their highly anticipated ACL return, having first appeared in Season 36. ACL favorites Spoon make their fourth appearance, sharing the bill with fellow Austin natives White Denim. Acclaimed singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis returns for her solo ACL debut, originally appearing in Season 31 as part of the indie rock duo Rilo Kiley; in what’s sure to be one of ACL’s most talked about episodes, Ryan Adams shares the bill in a memorable ACL return. The extended line-up features a number of artists making ACL debuts, among them chart-topping British sensation Sam Smith, synth-pop trio Future Islands and southern rockers J. Roddy Walston & The Business.

photo by Scott Newton

Rock superstars Foo Fighters return to the ACL stage with an hourlong, monumental performance. Joined by Austin legends Gary Clark Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan, Foo Fighters’ powerful performance is a high point of the standout season.  The renowned band recently immortalized Austin and ACL’s executive producer Terry Lickona in an installment of their HBO series Sonic Highways, even recording a song, “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness”,  in ACL’s historic Studio 6A for their companion new release.

photo by Scott Newton

ACL wraps up the celebratory season with a special episode featuring performance highlights from the first annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame presentation.  Performers include music legends Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Guy and Double Trouble.

“We’ve had an amazing 40th anniversary year,” says ACL’s Terry Lickona, “and the second half of the season says as much about the future as our past. As always, we try to showcase the best music being created today, and every one of these shows is exceptional. Then for a grand finale, we’ll tie it all together with a celebration of the artists and individuals who have inspired the longest-running music show on TV.”

Here’s the national broadcast schedule, check your local PBS listings for dates and times in your area!

January 3, 2015      | The Avett Brothers | Nickel Creek
January 10, 2015    | Spoon | White Denim
January 17, 2015    | Sam Smith | Future Islands
January 24, 2015   | Ryan Adams | Jenny Lewis
January 31, 2015    | The Black Keys | J. Roddy Walston & The Business
February 7, 2015    | Foo Fighters
February 14, 2015  | Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Special

Encore: Juanes and Jesse & Joy

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents an encore with two of the biggest acts in Latin music today, Juanes and Jesse & Joy. Colombian superstar Juanes headlines with a thrilling, high energy set, while Mexico City’s sibling duo Jesse & Joy sing a selection of their breakthrough hits.

With six solo albums to his credit and multi-platinum sales of over 16 million, Juanes is the world’s leading all-Spanish language rock artist. An electrifying guitarist and gifted songwriter, Juanes made his ACL debut back in 2005, and has since gone on to win multiple Grammy Awards and a record number of Latin Grammys. The Associated Press calls Juanes “the first truly international rock star to emerge from Latin America.” Juanes returns to the ACL stage in a dynamic performance, kicking things off with “Fijate Bien,” the Latin Grammy-winning title track to his debut album.  He pays tribute to one of his inspirations—Bob Marley—with a Latin spin on the reggae classic “Could You Be Loved?”.  By the time he launches into his huge hits, Juanes proves he doesn’t need to sing in English any more than he needs a surname to thoroughly rock the Austin audience.

Jesse & Joy have become one of the most celebrated pop-rock acts to emerge in the Latin music scene since they formed in Mexico City in 2005. The musical siblings boast five Latin Grammy Awards, including four for their triple platinum 2012 album ¿Con Quién Se Queda El Perro? (“Who Gets the Dog?”) and their first Grammy Nomination this year for Best Latin Pop Album.  The Los Angeles Times raves, “Their rootsy, soft-rock sincerity evokes ’80s country-pop, and Joy’s dulcet-but-earthy voice has been compared to those of Norah Jones, Alanis Morissette and, almost inevitably, Kelly Clarkson.” With Jesse Huerta on guitar, piano, drums, and background vocals and Joy Huerta on vocals and guitar, these siblings in sound deliver a breakout performance. A highlight is the duo’s emotional performance of their smash hit “Corre”— with the audience singing along to every word, waving their hands in the air, it’s a moment that reflects the truly universal language of music.

photo by Scott Newton

“Juanes is the first Latin artist since Ricky Martin to break out and transcend musical and cultural barriers,” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “Audiences connect with him on many levels, and his charisma on stage is magnetic! As brother and sister, Jesse & Joy’s music is very genuine and emotional, and it’s just fun to watch them interact with each other and their fans.”

Check out the episode page here for setlists and more. Keep up with ACL happenings via our Facebook and Twitter pages or our newsletter. Next week: Jason Isbell and Neko Case.

Foo Fighters conquer the ACL stage

photo by Scott Newton

When our good pals the Foo Fighters returned to Austin City Limits, it was not only as stage-conquering rock superstars-it was also as filmmakers of the much-acclaimed HBO series Sonic Highways, which chronicles the making of the band’s latest LP of the same name. Episode four of Sonic Highways, centered around that song and our town, was rapturously received, and on its heels we were thrilled to welcome them to our current studio in the Moody Theater for the band’s second ACLTV appearance.

The Foos opened with the moody, spacy epic “Aurora” before slamming into the raging “The Feast and the Famine.” Once the needle hit red it stayed there, as Dave Grohl and the band pumped out anthem after fan-favorite anthem: “Learn to Fly,” “Times Like These,” which featured the first of Grohl’s many trips into the audience, “Rope,” “The Pretender,” “My Hero,” “Monkey Wrench,” deep cuts “Arlandria” and “Hey, Johnny Park!” The Foos barrelled back down the Sonic Highways with the blazing “Congregation,” before launching into the album’s two part Austin-based song. The melodic “What Did I Do” garnered immediate audience approval, but that enthusiasm turned into fervor when album guest and ACL alumnus Gary Clark Jr. took the stage to perform his elegiac solo on the second half, “God As My Witness.” The fervor didn’t stop there, as not only did Clark stay for the next song, but Grohl welcomed ATX blues legend (and co-star of the Austin episode) Jimmie Vaughan for a spirited run through the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ “Tuff Enuff,” with Vaughan replicating his distinctive solos.

After that, the band could do no wrong, digging into its catalog for the rocking “Cold Day in the Sun,” sung by drummer Taylor Hawkins, before another series of back-to-back-to-back killers with “In the Clear,” “I’ll Stick Around,” “Walk,” “Outside” and the punky “All My Life.” Then things took an epic turn. Grohl took off his guitar and headed back into the audience with a bottle of champagne to share with the delirious crowd as the rest of the group launched into the Rolling Stones’ disco rock hybrid “Miss You,” sung by Hawkins (who admitted he didn’t know the words). Grohl then took over the kit so Hawkins could come up front for a punked-up take on Cheap Trick’s “Stiff Competition.” The Foos’ living jukebox didn’t stop there, though – next up was “Under Pressure,” the Queen/David Bowie classic done as a duet between Grohl and Hawkins, then Tom Petty’s “Breakdown,” with an extended electric piano solo from keyboardist Rami Jaffee, and finally a roaring bash through Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love.”

“I guess we better play one more Foo Fighters song,” chuckled Grohl, cueing up “Best of You,” with its “whoa-ohs” taken over by the audience. The band ended the show with “Everlong,” another hit and crowd favorite, and then, almost three hours from when it started, the show was over. It was a monster of a performance, one that Grohl described as “the weirdest f-g show we’ve ever played.” We can’t wait for you to see it when it broadcasts early next year as a highlight of our milestone Season 40. Stay tuned.

 

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.”