Robert Earl Keen to host ACL Hall of Fame 2019 – tickets on sale April 12

photo by Nick Doll Photography

Austin City Limits is thrilled to announce the host of the 2019 ACL Hall of Fame: legendary Texas singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen. This year’s celebration, to be held October 24th, honors the newest class of inductees: Lyle Lovett, Buddy Guy and Shawn Colvin. Save the date for one of the cultural highlights of 2019, a star-studded night filled with performances and collaborations from music’s finest. Tickets for this one-of-a-kind celebration will go on sale Friday, April 12 at 10 a.m at acltv.com/hall-of-fame. The event is held at ACL’s studio home, Austin’s ACL Live at The Moody Theater. More information about performances, presenters and additional guest stars will be announced prior.

“The Austin City Limits Hall of Fame is my Academy Awards,” says Robert Earl Keen. “I don’t think there is a higher honor than to be asked to host the ACL Hall of Fame and as a bonus, I don’t have to wear a tux!” The Lone Star troubadour and renowned party-starter takes the reins for the first time as host of the celebrated event. Houston-raised Keen is one of the most beloved songwriters and performers in Texas. His signature anthem “The Road Goes on Forever” recaps his remarkable music journey: over three-decades strong, with thousands of live shows under his belt, nineteen records to his name, and no end in sight to the road ahead. You can complete his anthem and sum up his storied career with its next five words—the ones routinely shouted back at Keen by legions of fans at every show— “and the party never ends!”

Keen debuted on Austin City Limits during 1989’s Season 14 as part of a Texas Showcase and has made four acclaimed headlining appearances in addition to appearing as a guest of Lyle Lovett in 2000 and returning for ACL’s milestone 40th Anniversary special in 2014. His songs have been recorded by Nanci Griffith, Joe Ely, George Strait, Gillian Welch, The Highwaymen and more. Keen has received many, many accolades along the way, including his recent 2019 induction into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, where he was presented with the Rick Smith “Spirit of Texas Award”. He became the first recipient of BMI’s Troubadour Award in 2015 for songwriting. In 2012 he was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame (alongside his longtime friend and Texas A&M classmate Lyle Lovett) and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Texas A&M University in 2018.

We hope you’ll join us as Robert Earl Keen saddles up and anchors our tributes to Buddy Guy, Shawn Colvin and Lyle Lovett when tickets go on sale this Friday, April 12 at 10 a.m at acltv.com/hall-of-fame.

ACL 41 welcomes the legendary James Taylor

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a Season 41 highlight: the first-ever appearance of legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor in a heartwarming, hourlong performance. The musical icon shines in a career-spanning set that features beloved classics and selections from his chart-topping, acclaimed new album Before This World, his first collection of original music in 13 years.  

As one of the best-selling singer-songwriters of all time, James Taylor’s warm baritone is among the most recognized voices in popular music. A masterful lyricist and celebrated performer, Taylor sings songs of love, family, recovery and everyday passions that resonate with listeners worldwide. “Finally on ACL — this is great,” says the personable musician, grinning throughout. He delights the ACL audience with a hit-laden 12-song set featuring vintage favorites such as his first #1 single, 1971’s “You’ve Got A Friend,” and new originals from Before This World, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top 200.  

photo by Scott Newton

Taylor switches midset from acoustic to electric guitar for the slow-burn blues number “Steamroller” from his landmark 1970 album Sweet Baby James, giving his star-filled 10-piece band a chance to showcase their bona fides. He brings out Austin’s own Shawn Colvin for a beautiful duet version of “You Can Close Your Eyes” from his 1971 album Mudslide Slim. The ecstatic crowd is on its feet for the set-closing gems “Your Smiling Face,” and “How Sweet It Is,” with Taylor so energized he tips his trademark cap in response to the repeated ovations and powerful applause, singing “How sweet it is to be in Austin City tonight.”  

photo by Scott Newton

“Finally! How sweet it is indeed,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “There is nobody quite like James Taylor, and he is one of the most genuine persons and artists on the planet. He is universally loved and applauded, and it was inspiring to see fans from across the generations react so emotionally to his presence on the ACL stage.”
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 Americana Music Festival 2015.

Sweet Baby James’ sweet ACL debut

photo by Scott Newton

It’s been a long time coming. James Taylor has been near the top of our wishlist for years. Now the stars have aligned, and we were thrilled to at last welcome the legendary singer/songwriter to the Austin City Limits stage for a special show full of songs from his new LP Before This World, his first collection of original music in thirteen years, and deep cuts from across his long career.

Taylor and his band (featuring original Saturday Night Live band member Lou Marini and legendary drummer Steve Gadd) opened with “Wandering,” a gentle, reflective song from his 1975 LP Gorilla. He followed with the funky “Me and My Guitar,” another gem from the early 70s, and “Copperline,” a nostalgic folk-popper from New Moon Shine, his first LP of the 90s. Taylor stayed with more recent material for the next pair of cuts, including the new album’s positivity anthem “Today Today Today” and the 90s-era ballad “Line ‘em Up.” Taylor then jumped back to 1970 for his self-described “tree-huggers’ anthem” “Country Road,” a crowd favorite from his breakthrough Sweet Baby James. Then it was back to the present for another pair from New Moon Shine and Before This World:  the rousing, gospel-inflected “Shed a Little Light” and the Boston Red Sox mash note “Angels of Fenway.”

Paying tribute to the state in which he was performing, the perpetually smiling Taylor essayed his 80s-vintage cover of Texas rock pioneer Buddy Holly’s “Everyday.” Then he took a giant leap back in time to 1968, lifting his lilting hit “Carolina in My Mind” from his self-titled debut, originally released on the Beatles’ Apple label. Donning an electric guitar, Taylor shifted gears with 1970’s bluesy, rumbling “Steamroller,” which served to showcase the talents of his band. His iconic take on his friend Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” unsurprisingly earned him a standing ovation, while “Sweet Baby James,” his variation on cowboy ballads, cooled the crowd back down like a misty rain on the dusty trail. Taylor then invited the adoring audience to join him on a raucous run through his hit cover of Marvin Gaye’s joyful “How Sweet It Is.”

The main set ended as gently as it began with the clarinet/flugelhorn/violin-enhanced Before This World ballad “You and I Again.” But of course it wasn’t over. Taylor reappeared and brought out a surprise guest: Austinite Shawn Colvin, who joined him for a lovely take on his 1971 song “You Can Close Your Eyes.” But it still wasn’t over, as Taylor and his band came back for an unplanned second encore, starting with the frisky “Mexico” and ending with the grooving “Your Smiling Face,” which drove the audience wild. It was a spectacular way to close out a landmark ACL taping, and we can’t wait for you to see the show when it airs November 14th as a full-hour episode as part of our new Season 41 on your local PBS station.  

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell: power of the song

photo by Scott Newton

“It’s great to be back at the world’s greatest and longest-running music show,” enthused Emmylou Harris tonight during her latest ACL taping. To say that she and Rodney Crowell aren’t strangers to our stage seems inadequate. Both Texas native Crowell and his current partner and former employer Harris have been on seven times apiece. The pair even shared an episode in 1983, though they didn’t share the stage. Tonight, however, these two old friends celebrated their shared history, their new collaborative album Old Yellow Moon and the continuing power of the song.

The pair opened with “Return of the Grievous Angel,” from Emmylou’s time with her mentor Gram Parsons. The GP connection continued with “Wheels,” a Flying Burrito Brothers-era Parsons tune Emmylou recorded on Elite Hotel, her first major label album and the beginning of her reign over the country music charts. That began the roll of hits, as the pair essayed “Pancho & Lefty,” ‘Til I Gain Control Again,” “I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose” (dedicated to its author, the late Susannah Clark) and “Luxury Liner,” another GP tune set aflame by lead guitarist Jedd Hughes’ turbo-powered chicken-pickin’. The duo fast-forwarded to a more recent era for “Red Dirt Girl” (from Harris’ LP of the same name) and “Rock of My Soul” (from Crowell’s career revitalization The Houston Kid), their voices wrapped the songs in the kind of harmonies only two old friends can generate.

An Old Yellow Moon rose for the next segment of the show, as the pair drew heavily from that LP. The pleasure these two old pals obviously took from singing some of their favorite songs – from Roger Miller’s honky-tonkin’ “Invitation to the Blues” and Matraca Berg’s melancholy “Back When We Were Beautiful” to Allen Reynolds’ elegant “Dreaming My Dreams” and Kris Kristofferson’s cautionary but rocking “Chase the Feeling” – was palpable. Then it was back to the hits, as the pair broke out Emmylou’s lovely take on Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You,” blazed through Crowell’s “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” (recorded by both of them at different points) and ended with the peaceful waltz of “Old Yellow Moon.”

Of course, the show wasn’t over. The duo and band returned, Harris and special guest Shawn Colvin dancing their way through Crowell’s “Stars On the Water.” The musicians rocked a blazing “I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This,” a song not on the original setlist but an addition that drove the crowd wild. After a visit from Harris’ rescue dogs (brought onstage in tribute to Austin’s status as a no-kill city), the pair ended with “Tulsa Queen,” a co-write from Harris’ classic LP Luxury Liner that was a most appropriate way to end this tandem performance.

It was a magnificent show that reminded us that veterans get to that point for good reason. We’re eager for everybody to see it when it broadcasts on PBS in the fall – stay tuned.