Ralph Stanley R.I.P.

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits mourns the loss at 89 of a true musical giant: Ralph Stanley. The Virginia native was not only a bluegrass titan as a performer, but as an innovator. Along with Flatt & Scruggs, his brother Carter and Bill Monroe, Stanley could lay claim to helping create one of America’s most distinctive musical forms. His high, lonesome singing, virtuoso clawhammer banjo picking and vast repertoire had a tremendous influence on bluegrass, folk, country, gospel and Americana. Though he didn’t write them, Stanley’s renditions of old-timey tunes “Little Maggie,” “Pretty Polly,” “O Death,” “Angel Band” and “Man of Constant Sorrow” (re-popularized by the film O Brother Where Are Thou) made them standards in the American songbook.

“Ralph Stanley was the last of the living bluegrass legends, after Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs,” remarked ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “Like the others, he invented his own sound, his clawhammer banjo style came straight out of the hills, and his voice sounded like it had been around since the beginning of time itself. He was a gracious gentleman, with a gentle spirit. His appearance on ACL with Bill Monroe in 1986 was historic, a rare performance by the two bluegrass giants. Another important part of America’s musical past is gone.”

Here is Stanley with his Clinch Mountain Boys in 1980 with his signature song “Little Maggie.”

Freddy Powers 1931-2016

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of yesterday’s passing of the great Freddy Powers at the age of 84. His name may not be immediately familiar, but his songs are. The Oklahoma-born/Texas-raised “country jazz singer” wrote or co-wrote hits for George Jones (“I Always Get Lucky With You”), Willie Nelson and Janie Fricke (“A Place to Fall Apart”) and, most prolifically, Merle Haggard (“Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star,” “Natural High,” “Amber Waves of Grain,” “Let’s Chase Each Other Around the Room”). He also co-produced Nelson’s platinum album Somewhere Over the Rainbow, hosted the CableACE nominated talk show Rogers and Hammerhead and appeared with Haggard frequently as opening act and special guest, as well as releasing his own albums. On top of all that, he served a stint in the Marines, was a staple in 1970s Las Vegas and appeared on both The Tonight Show and The Today Show. Having already accomplished more than most in one lifetime, Powers was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004, which slowed down his productivity. But he continued to write and perform as long as he was able to sit in front of an audience and entertain. Along with his buddies Nelson and Haggard and co-author Jake Brown, Powers completed his memoirs, entitled The Spree of 83 and due to be published in February 2017.

“Freddy might not have been a household name, but most of his musical buddies were,” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “Willie & Merle were two of his closest friends, and they were kindred spirits, musically and personally. He had an infectious passion for what can best be called country jazz, and he had a direct hand in bringing Willie and Merle together for one of the most memorable songwriters shows we ever did, in Season 9. He was also a remarkable songwriter; my favorite was ‘I Always Get Lucky With You,’ which became part of Merle’s repertoire for many years. Freddy’s spirit lives on!”

Powers appeared on Austin City Limits four times: in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1996. Here he is in 1984 with his pals Willie ‘n’ Merle with “After You’re Gone.”

Grupo Fantasma to livestream 6/28 ACL taping

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Austin’s own Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma returns to ACL this June, and the performance will be livestreamed across the globe.  Fans everywhere can watch the concert on June 28 at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel as it happens.  

Although Austin’s music scene changes constantly and rapidly, one band that endures and continues to evolve is the Grammy-winning Grupo Fantasma, who first appeared on ACL in Season 33 in 2007 and returned for 2015’s Hall of Fame Ceremony.  Last year marked the 15th anniversary of the powerhouse Latin funk outfit’s first show and the release of their widely-acclaimed sixth album Problemas. Longtime favorites of music icon Prince, the band served as his on-call backing band for many years, appearing with the superstar on stages from Coachella to the Golden Globes. Praised as one of the most important independent acts in the Latin genre, they are widely known for their energetic live shows, which NPR describes as “seamless…whenever and wherever they’re on stage.” For Problemas, the nine-piece band decided to break from their DIY tradition of self produced albums. The band approached Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, someone they knew would be a well-seasoned and sympathetic producer and, as a fan, eager to work with them. Berlin states,”I see Grupo Fantasma as a bar-setter, not just for Latin music but in popular culture. Their effortless ability to shift from being one of the finest Latin bands around to one of the baddest funk bands alive and back is a rare and beautiful thing. The record we set out to make was our effort to codify that idea, and I think we succeeded. These guys are the absolute best at what they do.” This special taping will also include performances from the band’s all-funk alter ego Brownout and founding former member Adrian Quesada.

Please join us June 28th on our ACLTV YouTube channel as we welcome back Grupo Fantasma. The broadcast version will air as part of our upcoming Season 42 which premieres this fall on PBS.

Grupo Fantasma 6/28

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UPDATE: Giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by GRUPO FANTASMA on Tuesday, June 28th, 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 Thursday, June 23rd. Winners will be chosen at random and notified by email. A photo ID with the winner’s name will be required to pickup tickets. 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.

Andra Day’s magnificent, soulful performance

photo by Scott Newton

Once again Austin City Limits is thrilled to host a rising star: Andra Day. The jazzy soul singer and songwriter gained a ton of attention for her inspirational, Grammy-nominated single “Rise Up” from her debut Cheers To the Fall, and hasn’t looked back since. The Spokane-born/San Diego-raised vocalist and her five-piece band gave us a magnificent performance of soulful originals and some choice covers, which we streamed live around the world.

After a taped intro of the Flamingos classic “I Only Have Eyes For You,” Day came out and the band eased into “Forever Mine,” a show-stopping ballad from Cheers To the Fall that really takes advantage of her range. Without pause, she launched into “Gold,” a peppier, defiant R&B tune that packed a powerful vocal punch and a jazz-soaked piano solo from Sir Charles Jones. Love then took a backseat to social commentary, as Day took on Nina Simone’s chillingly angry “Mississippi Goddamn,” recasting it in a more contemporary but no less incendiary style with a furious guitar solo from Dave Wood. Day introduced the next number as a song about two loves, “one of them true.” Jones gave the dramatic “Honey on Fire” a classically-influenced intro, with Day falling to one knee to let her pipes fly, and the tune segued directly into “Gin & Juice (Let Go My Hand),” a gospel-inflected ballad offering contrast to its immediate predecessor.

Before going into Kendrick Lamar’s “No Makeup,” Day explained the significance of the song to her and turned the hip-hop tune into a groovy soul number. After that groovefest, the band stripped down to Day and Jones, letting piano and voice carry a medley of “Rear View” and “Red Flags.” The band returned to pay tribute to another key Day influence on a medley of Bob Marley’s songs “Is This Love” and “Could You Be Loved,” highlighted by crazy falsetto from Jones (a R&B/gospel singer in his own right). Day then took a moment to acknowledge the terrible shooting in Orlando, Florida, which happened that very morning, and dedicated the next song to the victims. That song was “Rise Up,” her anthem about pulling power from tragedy and finding – and spreading – hope in the worst of times. The audience joined her for several choruses, turning the song from performance to communion.

The set shifted back into upbeat mode for “Mistakes,” a funky celebration of where the titular happenings can take one’s life. Day introduced her band, maestros all, and took them into “City Burns,” a soul/jazz tune that’s as consummate an example of her remarkable talents as anything she’s done. The band kept the groove going as she left the stage to wild applause, but the show wasn’t over yet. Day and her band came back with a surprise: a cover of Queen’s aggressively confident “I Want It All,” altered from its original hard rock arrangement into a slinky, pleading blues ballad – a bravura performance that made the song her own. Day left the stage blowing kisses as Wood took the band out with a burning solo. It was a fitting cap to a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.

ACL to livestream Andra Day’s 6/12 taping

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Soul sensation Andra Day makes her highly-anticipated Austin City Limits debut this June, and the performance will be livestreamed across the globe, powered by Dell.  Fans everywhere can watch the concert on June 12 at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel as it happens.  

It’s been a banner year for singer and songwriter Andra Day since the release of her first album Cheers to the Fall: the debut earned two Grammy nominations including Best R&B Album, and she turned heads on this year’s Grammy broadcast with her inspirational song “Rise Up,” which she also performed at the White House.  Known for her standout live performances, Day was handpicked to open for ACL alum Leon Bridges on his global headlining tour, and she’ll be playing 2016’s biggest festivals with her own high-profile slots at Bonnaroo, Essence Festival and ACL Fest this fall.  With a vintage flair and a voice for the ages, Day proves she’s ready to take her place in the pantheon of soulful vocalists and deliver her truth to the world. Her acclaimed debut, Cheers to the Fall, produced by heavyweight soul man Raphael Saadiq, is self-described as “a biography told in the form of music,” with themes centered on truth, fearlessness, vulnerability, forgiveness and love. The Boston Globe says, “This confident, stylish pop R&B record ushers in a sophisticated vocalist who faithfully reflects past influences while remaining contemporary and relevant,” and Vibe raves, “The beauty in Andra’s art is that the message applies to all. All we need to do is listen.”

Please join us June 12th on our ACLTV YouTube channel as we welcome rising star Andra Day. The broadcast version will air as part of our upcoming Season 42 which premieres this fall on PBS.

Giveaway: Andra Day 6/12

photo by Myriam Santos

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over!

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by ANDRA DAY on Sunday, June 12th, 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, June 7th. 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.

New tapings: Grupo Fantasma and Hayes Carll

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Austin City Limits welcomes back two true Texas originals: Grupo Fantasma on June 28  & Hayes Carll on August 30.

Although Austin’s music scene changes constantly and rapidly, one band that endures and continues to evolve is the Grammy-winning Grupo Fantasma, who first appeared on ACL in Season 33 in 2007 and returned for 2015’s Hall of Fame Ceremony.  Last year marked the 15th anniversary of the powerhouse Latin funk outfit’s first show and the release of their widely-acclaimed sixth album Problemas.  Longtime favorites of music icon Prince, the band served as his on-call backing band for many years, appearing with the superstar on stages from Coachella to the Golden Globes.  Praised as one of the most important independent acts in the Latin genre, they are widely known for their energetic live shows, which NPR describes as “seamless…whenever and wherever they’re on stage.” For Problemas, the nine-piece band decided to break from their DIY tradition of self produced albums. The band approached Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, someone they knew would be a well-seasoned and sympathetic producer and, as a fan, eager to work with them. Berlin states,”I see Grupo Fantasma as a bar-setter, not just for Latin music but in popular culture. Their effortless ability to shift from being one of the finest Latin bands around to one of the baddest funk bands alive and back is a rare and beautiful thing. The record we set out to make was our effort to codify that idea, and I think we succeeded. These guys are the absolute best at what they do.” This special taping will also include performances from the band’s all-funk alter ego Brownout and founding former member Adrian Quesada.

photo by Jacob Blickenstaff

“A wry Texas troubadour with a knack for crooked grace and a clever turn of phrase” (New York Times), singer/songwriter Hayes Carll returns for his second appearance, having first graced the ACL stage in Season 36 in 2010. The recipient of two Song of the Year awards, including the Americana Music Association’s for “She Left Me For Jesus” in 2008 and American Songwriter for “Another Like You,” in 2011, the Woodlands native picked up a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Country Song via LeeAnn Womack’s recording of his “Chances Are.” All of these experiences were just the warm up, however, for Lovers and Leavers, an album Paste calls “the finest of his career.” Produced by Grammy-award winning producer and musician Joe Henry (Glen Hansard, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt), the 10-track album was recorded live over five days in L.A. during the winter of 2015. Of the album, which was partially inspired by his own life, Carll reveals, “I didn’t have one song that I knew would be a sing along or would make people dance. I felt vulnerable in a way that I hadn’t in a long time. But I got what I wanted – a record with space, nuance, and room to breathe. It felt right for my art. It felt right for my life. Lovers and Leavers isn’t funny or raucous. There are very few hoots and almost no hollers. But it is joyous, and it makes me smile.” The Austin Chronicle calls it “a startlingly personal set of songs, powerfully stripped back from the raucous, clever narratives that have been Carll’s hallmark.” Lonestar Music enthuses that the album “perfectly captures the phases and stages of falling apart, facing the truth, falling in love and facing the fear and finding one’s heart in the process,” concluding that Lovers and Leavers is “tentative, doubtful, shaky, mournful and yes, wonderstruck.

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.