Austin City Limits artists win big at the 2018 Grammy Awards

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits sends out our hearty congratulations to our distinguished alumni on their wins at the 2018 Grammy awards.

Country sensation Chris Stapleton, who makes his ACL debut in an upcoming episode premiering Feb. 17, swept the country categories, taking top honors for Best Country Solo Performance (“Either Way”), Best Country Song (“Broken Halos”) and Best Country Album (From a Room: Vol. 1). This weekend’s featured artist LCD Soundsystem won Best Dance Recording for “Tonite” which will be featured in their career-spanning set as they make their ACL debut in a new episode airing Feb. 3.  Other season 43 winners include Ed Sheeran for Best Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit for Best American Roots Song and Best Americana Album and Father John Misty for Best Recording Packaging.

photo by Scott Newton

Plenty of past season’s guests dominated as well. Kendrick Lamar owned the Rap categories, with five awards, while CeCe Winans earned two Gospel awards. Other winners who’ve graced the ACL stage include Foo Fighters, Alabama Shakes, Randy Newman, The War On Drugs, The National, Reba McEntire, Aimee Mann, Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Portugal. The Man, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Lisa Loeb. You can see the full-length list of winners here. Congratulations to them all!

Episode recap: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents an hour with two extraordinary singer-songwriters, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. The husband and wife duo unite for a special double-bill as Americana star Isbell returns to the ACL stage to share an episode with his partner and collaborator Shires as she makes her solo ACL debut.

One of the finest American songwriters today, Jason Isbell returns with songs from his sixth studio album The Nashville Sound, which topped critics’ year-end best lists and is nominated for two 2018 Grammy Awards, including Best Americana Album. The Alabama native, already a two-time Grammy honoree, is joined by his band The 400 Unit for a masterful 6-song set that captures the artist at the peak of his creative powers. Kicking things off with the anthemic “Hope the High Road,” a set highlight follows with an exquisite version of the Grammy-nominated track “If We Were Vampires,” a haunting love song inspired by partner Shires, who joins him in close harmony. The ace songsmith displays his storytelling gifts, inhabiting his characters’ interior lives in the social gut-punch “White Man’s World” and detailing the tale of a homesick southerner in “Last of My Kind.” 

A musical marvel from Nashville by way of Texas, Amanda Shires has been a fixture on the circuit since she began her career as a teenaged fiddler with renowned Western swing institution the Texas Playboys and has toured and recorded with outlaw country maverick Billy Joe Shaver, John Prine and most recently as a member of Isbell’s band The 400 Unit. She makes her ACL debut performing cuts from her acclaimed solo release My Piece of Land, showcasing intimate, confessional songs augmented by her powerful playing. Shires commands the spotlight on her own with rousing set-opener “My Love (The Storm)” wielding her fiddle to fiery effect. Isbell joins Shires for a duet on the crowd-pleasing rocker “Wasted and Rollin’,” a song she wrote about the early stages of their relationship, and the pair close out the set in beautiful harmony on the heartfelt duet “Pale Fire.”

photo by Scott Newton

“Jason Isbell is the finest American songwriter today, IMHO,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “He has the uncanny ability to write songs that are at the same time deeply personal and universal. Amanda Shires defies the traditional stereotype of male-dominated Texas songwriters with her own beautifully personal songs. Together they are a unique force in popular music of any genre.”

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. Join us next week for another brand new episode, featuring jazz legend Herbie Hancock.

ACL announces the second half of its Season 43 broadcast schedule

photo by Scott Newton

The iconic television music series Austin City Limits announces the second half of Season 43, with seven all-new shows to begin airing January 6 as part of the program’s fourteen-episode season. The stellar slate of broadcast episodes features highly-anticipated debuts from today’s most talked-about live acts, continuing Austin City Limits’ run as the longest-running music television show in history, providing viewers a front-row seat to the best in live performance for over 40 years.  

The season returns in January with many recent Grammy-nominees, all new to the ACL stage, including indie-rock provocateur Father John Misty, powerhouse rap duo Run the Jewels, dance-rock band LCD Soundsystem and country phenom Chris Stapleton.  Father John Misty delivers an epic performance backed by a 16-piece orchestra; Run the Jewels ignite the ACL stage in a rapid-fire, riveting showcase; LCD Soundsystem perform a career-spanning set for the ages; and country superstar Chris Stapleton, the reigning CMA Awards Male Vocalist of the Year, makes a stunning ACL debut, joined by his wife, singer Morgane Stapleton. Husband and wife team Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires unite for a special double-bill as Americana star Isbell returns to the ACL stage to share an episode with his partner and creative collaborator Amanda Shires, making her ACL debut.  A season highlight is the first-ever appearance of jazz trailblazer Herbie Hancock in a thrilling hour of classics and new songs.  Black Keys superstar and ACL veteran Dan Auerbach makes his solo debut showcasing new music from his first solo release in 8 years.  The extended line-up features breakout red-dirt country band Turnpike Troubadours and Austin favorites Shinyribs in first-time ACL appearances, as well as the return of a standout, acclaimed Austin psych-rockers The Black Angels.

“As always, expect the unexpected as we deliver something for everybody – from psych-rock to Americana, modern jazz to hip hop and electronica,” says longtime ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “This is one of the most exciting collection of shows we’ve ever presented.”

Go behind the scenes with ACL Backstage, a new 10-part virtual reality video series, offering viewers immersive only-in-VR moments straight from the current season.  The series premiered in November on the ACLTV YouTube Channel and continues to debut new installments to coincide with the Season 43 line-up, including Father John Misty, Run the Jewels, Dan Auerbach and Shinyribs.  ACL Backstage offers viewers a chance to hang backstage with favorite artists and join them onstage with closer-than-front-row seats.  The series was developed with Google’s Daydream team and in partnership with SubVRsive Media.

“In a season when we’re celebrating a significant milestone of longevity, I think it’s great that we’re staying on the cutting edge of technology and bringing ACL fans new and exciting  ways to experience live music,” says ACL GM Tom Gimbel.

Season 43 | 2018 Broadcast Schedule

January 6 Father John Misty | The Black Angels

January 13 Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit | Amanda Shires

January 20 Herbie Hancock

January 27 Run the Jewels

February 3 LCD Soundsystem

February 10 Dan Auerbach | Shinyribs

February 17 Chris Stapleton | Turnpike Troubadours

ACL’s Season 43 premiered in October with unforgettable performances from Ed Sheeran, Miranda Lambert, Angel Olsen, The Pretenders, Zac Brown Band, Norah Jones, Benjamin Booker, The Head and the Heart and more.  The award-winning series will continue to broadcast fan-favorite encore episodes through the end of 2017. In what has become an ACL holiday tradition, the program will encore Tom Waits legendary December 1978 performance, one of the most requested episodes in ACL’s 40+ year archive. Tune-in on December 23rd to see this classic Christmas episode.  

A special broadcast of Austin City Limits Hall of Fame New Year’s Eve airs Sunday, December 31 at 10pm CT/11pm ET.  Austin City Limits rings in the new year with the star-studded celebration, hosted by Chris Isaak, featuring one-of-a-kind performances and collaborations from the 2017 ACL Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.  Performers include ACL royalty Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Neko Case, Ry Cooder, Chris Isaak, Brandi Carlile, Raul Malo, Trombone Shorty, Dr. John and more.

Taping recap: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires

photo by Scott Newton

When last we saw Jason Isbell and his intrepid band the 400 Unit, it was on the heels of the release of his beloved 2013 breakthrough Southeastern. Since then he’s become an award-winning star in the Americana world, releasing two more acclaimed records: 2015’s Something More Than Free and this year’s The Nashville Sound. As thrilled as we were to have him back, we were even more excited that he would be joined by his wife and creative partner Amanda Shires – not only as a member of the 400 Unit, but as a featured artist in her own right. The former fiddler for the most recent version of the Texas Playboys has built a critically acclaimed catalog of five solo albums, including 2013’s revered Down Fell the Doves and last year’s My Piece of Land. Two great sets in one night – both livestreamed around the world.

“What a dream,” said Amanda Shires as she tuned her violin. Then she and her three-piece band launched into “My Love (The Storm),” before an unauthorized monitor buzz rudely interrupted. (“That’s OK, I enjoy a technical problem,” she quipped, before soundchecking with a bit of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”) Problem fixed, the band went back into “My Love” with no issues. That song’s swampy menace segued directly into “You Are My Home,” a smoky ballad whose romantic title sentiment was knocked off kilter by Shires’ violin skronk. The quartet wasted no time going into the next song, the minor key folk rock of “Devastate” contrasting nicely with its more languid predecessor. After a witty round of band intros, she donned a tenor guitar and led her boys in “The Way It Dimmed,” a frisky country tune, and “Harmless,” a wistful ballad.

Following a story about an old boyfriend, Shires invited said paramour onstage, as husband Jason Isbell arrived to add harmony vocals and a fiery guitar solo to the folk rocker “Wasted and Rollin’.” Switching back to the violin, she sang and bowed the atmospheric ballad “Pale Fire,” before bearing down on her fretboard for the darker, gnarlier “Look Like a Bird.” Shires drove the song with drone as Isbell and guitarist Zach Setchfield traded solos, before digging in with her own epic four-string cries and growls, much to the crowd’s delight. Isbell left the stage (to get ready for his own show, presumably) as Shires switched back to the guitar for the melodic rocker “When You’re Gone,” ending the set on a powerful and upbeat note. “That was awesome!” said producer Terry Lickona as he came out to announce the intermission for the stage to be reset.

photo by Scott Newton

“Happy to be back on the best rock & roll TV show in the whole wide world,” said Jason Isbell as he and the 400 Unit (which includes Shires) took the stage and began with “Hope the High Road,” a burly rocker from The Nashville Sound. Then it was on to the Grammy-winning hit “24 Frames,” a perfect marriage of powerful music and Isbell’s poetic lyric, and the accordion-kissed country rocker “Codeine.” Showing himself to be the natural heir to the songwriting tradition set by Guy Clark and John Prine, Isbell went into “Last of My Kind,” an introspective tune interrupted by a mistake, quickly righted by a second, stronger take. The band followed with “The Life You Chose,” a melodic folk rocker that really got the crowd going.

With both Isbell and co-guitarist Sadler Vaden on acoustic guitars, “Chaos and Clothes” moved even further into the realm of folk, but lyrics that referenced black metal T-shirts kept it grounded in the modern world. Isbell donned a crunchy Telecaster and the Unit blasted into the powerhouse rock & roller “Cumberland Gap,” keeping the electricity flowing with the social commentary of “White Man’s World.” The acoustic guitars came back out for “If We Were Vampires,” a song of devotion that seems destined to be an Isbell standard. Speaking of standards, Isbell dipped into the songbook of ACL favorite John Prine for a duet with Shires on “Clocks and Spoons.” A round of band intros followed, before the 400 Unit roared into the anthem “Anxiety,” its grunged-out intro and outro allowing the band to really get loud. Isbell and the Unit took a bow to wild applause and the music, sadly, was over. It was a great doubleheader of a show, one we can’t wait for you to see when Isbell and Shires’ shared episode airs early next year as part of our Season 43 on your local PBS station.

ACL livestreams Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires on 8/21, Father John Misty on 8/22

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Austin City Limits is happy to announce a trio of upcoming livestreams featuring some of this season’s most highly-anticipated performers: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Amanda Shires and Father John Misty. ACL will host back-to-back live streams from a rare double shoot with acclaimed singer-songwriters Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires. The creative collaborators (and husband and wife team) will each perform separate sets, with Shires up first in her solo ACL debut streaming live starting at 8pm CT/9pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube Channel; Isbell takes the stage after a 20-minute intermission and his return ACL appearance will stream live at approximately 9:20pm CT/10:20pm ET.  The next day on August 22 join us to witness the captivating Father John Misty in his solo ACL debut, which will stream in its entirety live from the Austin City Limits stage at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube Channel.

One of the finest songwriters working today, Alabama native Jason Isbell first-appeared on ACL back in Season 39 and returns August 21 with his band the 400 Unit to perform gems from the acclaimed new album, The Nashville Sound, a beautiful piece of American music-making. Isbell has earned numerous accolades since his ACL debut on the heels of 2013’s career breakthrough Southeastern, including a pair of GRAMMY Awards for 2015’s Something More Than Free, and we’re thrilled to have the American original back on our stage.  

A fixture on the Texas circuit since she began her career as a 15-year old fiddle player touring with Western swing institution the Texas Playboys, Amanda Shires has toured and recorded with John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider, Justin Townes Earle, Shovels & Rope, and most recently her husband and creative partner Jason Isbell, with whom she first-appeared on ACL in 2013. The Texas native makes her solo debut on the ACL stage with songs from her acclaimed release My Piece Of Land.  Produced by Dave Cobb, the very personal record deals with family, anxiety, and the phases of a young woman’s life, but the primary focus is the concept of home. Shires addresses the similarities and differences between the home she was born into, the two homes she was eventually split between, and the home she has finally made for herself as a wife and new mother.  We’re delighted to have her back home in Texas and on the ACL stage.

Now known as Father John Misty, the erstwhile Josh Tillman (under which name he first appeared on ACL in 2012 as the drummer for Fleet Foxes) makes his long-awaited solo debut on our stage in support of his third solo release, the madly ambitious new album Pure Comedy.  Inspired by the chaos and uncertainty of modern life, the charismatic indie-rock provocateur writes about the dubious privilege of being here, the elusiveness of meaning, true love and its habitual absence, random euphoria and the inexplicable misery of others, truth and its more alluring counterfeits, the sophistication of answers that don’t make any sense, the barbarism of our appetites, lucky breaks and injustice, faith and ignorance, crippling, mind-numbing boredom, and the terror of it all ending too soon.  Variety recently hailed him “the greatest rock star of his generation” and we’re thrilled to bear witness when he takes the ACL stage on August 22, streaming live for fans across the globe.

Please join us both August 21 and 22 for these full-set livestreams on our ACLTV YouTube Channel. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires will stream here and Father John Misty here. The broadcast versions will air on PBS as part of our upcoming Season 43 which premieres this fall.

Giveaway: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires 8/21

photo by Danny Clinch

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires on Monday, August 21st 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 noon on Friday, Aug. 18th.

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 computers or recording devices allowed in venue.

New taping: Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires

photo by Danny Clinch

Austin City Limits is happy to announce a rare double shoot on August 21, featuring top-notch Americana with Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s acclaimed new album, The Nashville Sound, is a beautiful piece of American music-making. As with Isbell’s 2013 breakthrough, Southeastern (which Isbell showcased on his debut ACL appearance in Season 39) and his double-Grammy-winning follow up, 2015’s Something More Than Free, The Nashville Sound was produced by Dave Cobb. Isbell says that he and Cobb created a simple litmus test for the decisions they made in the two weeks they spent at RCA Studios (which was known as “The home of the Nashville Sound” back in the ’60’s and ’70s): they only made sonic moves that their heroes from back in the day could’ve made, but simply never did. It’s a shrewd approach—an honest way to keep the wiz-bang of modern recording technology at arm’s length, while also leaving the old bag of retro rock ’n’ roll tricks un-rummaged. It’s also the best way to keep the spotlight on Isbell’s stock-in-trade: great songs. Simply put, Isbell has a gift for taking big, messy human experiences and compressing them into badass little combustible packages made of rhythm, melody and madly efficient language. The songs are full of little hooks—it could be guitar line that catches one listener, or a quick lyric that strikes to the heart of another—and an act of transference takes place. The stories Isbell tells become our own. The music is coming not from Jason and the band, but from within us. Lyrically, The Nashville Sound is timely. Musically, it is timeless.

photo by Josh Wool

photo by Josh Wool

Texas native Amanda Shires began her career as a teenager playing fiddle with the Texas Playboys. Since then, she’s toured and recorded with John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider, Justin Townes Earle, Shovels & Rope, and most recently her husband and creative collaborator Jason Isbell, with whom she first-appeared on ACL in 2013. Along the way she’s made three solo albums, each serving to document a particular period in her life while improving on the perceptive qualities of the previous record. The songs on her latest My Piece Of Land deal with family, anxiety, and the phases of one young woman’s life, but the primary focus is the concept of home. Shires addresses the similarities and differences between the home she was born into, the two homes she was eventually split between, and the home she has finally made for herself. She recorded the album under the guidance of producer Dave Cobb at his Low Country Sound studio. Cobb believes in the spontaneity of early takes, and with the proficient rhythm section of Paul Slivka and Paul Griffith, the studio band was able to record the album in a relatively short amount of time without sacrificing performance quality. This approach gives each song on the album emotional urgency along with a groove that’s loose and effortless. With My Piece Of Land, Amanda Shires has reached a personal pinnacle. This album is the creative milestone suited to accompany the recent milestones in her life: becoming a mother, developing into a true artist, and finally finding a home.

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

ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2012

photo by Erika Goldring

This weekend we’re taking a break from our Season 38 episodes for ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2012. The eleventh annual Americana Music Festival took place earlier this fall in Nashville, TN, in the historic Ryman Auditorium, with some fantastic performances from legendary artists who helped define the genre, plus some newcomers who are keeping the tradition true. Featured artists include Booker T. Jones, Alabama Shakes, Hayes Carll with Cary Ann Hearst, Guy Clark, Lee Ann Womack, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Mavericks, Richard Thompson, Carolina Chocolate Drops and many more! It’s a night full of the brightest stars celebrating the roots of American music.

Described by Southern Living as “the best music festival” the night was hosted once again by Jim Lauderdale and bandleader Buddy Miller. One highlight of the night included Lee Ann Womack singing a Tom T. Hall song entitled “I Love” in which the man himself joined her onstage, singing the last verse and receiving a standing ovation from the crowd. Another moving moment was brought on by Guy Clark’s intimate performance of “My Favorite Picture of You” a song he wrote for Susanna Clark, his late wife who passed away earlier this year. The night culminated when Emmylou Harris, Amy Helm, Bonnie Raitt, John Hiatt, Richard Thompson, Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes), and various other musicians joined onstage to do a tribute to the late Levon Helm by performing the timeless hit, “The Weight.”

photo by Tracy Judd

This is one night of performances you won’t want to miss! Be sure to check here for details on this special show and here for local listings and times. Also be sure to check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages for all things Austin City Limits and updates about tapings. Join us next week for an encore episode featuring Mumford & Sons and Flogging Molly!