Encore: Kacey Musgraves and Dale Watson

Austin City Limits presents a spectacular hour of country music, Texas-style, featuring the ACL debuts of Grammy Award-winning Texas native Kacey Musgraves and Austin’s own country icon Dale Watson.

Breakout country artist Kacey Musgraves walked away with two trophies for Best Country Album and Best Country Song at this year’s Grammy Awards for her critically-acclaimed major label debut Same Trailer Different Park. The release produced the hit singles “Follow Your Arrow” and the Grammy-winning “Merry Go ‘Round” and topped many critics’ 2013 year-end best lists including Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Country Weekly, Spin and The New York Times, with Rolling Stone calling her “the gen aught Loretta Lynn…ballsy, unsentimental, thoroughly pop and yet totally in the (country) tradition.” Viewers will want to pull up a chair for a front row seat to one of the most arresting ACL debuts of the season. “Welcome to our little trailer park,” says the twenty-five year old singer-songwriter, kicking off her radiant performance surrounded by a white picket fence and porch lights. Musgrave’s honest, effortless vocals shine on songs that demonstrate her witty knack for storytelling in a bold, irresistible ACL set.

“If you didn’t know much about Kacey Musgraves before her triumph at the Grammys, you’ll really know what the buzz is all about after seeing her ACL performance,” says executive producer Terry Lickona. “She’s a remarkable songwriter and all-around talent who is blazing new trails for women in country music.”

photo by Scott Newton

Next up is Austin’s king of country music: Dale Watson. Called “the silver pompadoured, baritone beltin’, Lone Star beer drinkin’, honky-tonk hellraiser” by The Austin Chronicle, the hometown hero has flown the flag for classic honky-tonk for over two decades and twenty albums. His latest album, El Rancho Azul, continues his work as one of the world’s finest C&W singers and songwriters, and ACL is thrilled to present Austin’s favorite son in his first feature performance. For Watson’s set, the ACL studio is transformed into a substitute for his regular Austin haunt Ginny’s Little Longhorn, with a room full of dancers two-stepping in the time-honored manner and he gets the ATX audience fired up with “Honkiest, Tonkiest Beer Joint,” his paean to the legendary saloon. Watson turns on the Texas charm as he performs a career-spanning, crowd-pleasing set, turning ACL into a full-on honky-tonk complete with Texas shuffles, closing out the season in good fun on a glorious high note.

“Dale is the real deal. Nobody else is making country music like this today,” Lickona says. “It’s time for the rest of the world to discover why he’s so special to us in Austin.”

Check out the episode page for more details. Be sure and visit our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for more ACL news and happenings. Next week: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell.

 

Nickel Creek’s new gems and old favorites

We always love seeing old friends and so it is we welcomed back Nickel Creek to our stage for their third taping, which we also livestreamed on our ACLTV YouTube channel. The California combo last visited us in 2003 – recording their debut in 2001, while mandolin master Chris Thile performed with Punch Brothers in 2012 and fiddler Sara Watkins supported the Decemberists in 2011. But now the trio is back in toto, virtuoso instrumentation and tight harmonies intact, celebrating not only our 40th anniversary but also their own musical return after a nine-year absence with the reunion record A Dotted Line.

Defying the stereotype, the band opened with a ballad, “Rest of My Life,” featuring harmony arco lines from Sara and bassist Mark Schatz. The tempo picked up with “Scotch and Chocolate,” an instrumental that combined fluctuating bridges with Sara’s Celtic-flavored lines. The rest of the set alternated between pieces from the new record and well-known tunes from their popular repertoire. “Destination” and “When in Rome” were perfect examples of the band’s ability to create indie pop songs using bluegrass instrumentation. “Reasons Why” and “Where is Love Now” essayed the beauty of the band’s way with ballads. Fan-favorite instrumentals like “Smoothie Song,” “Ode to a Butterfly” and the new “Elephant in the Corn” raised the roof. The group’s wry sense of humor bubbled up throughout, especially in the twisted gospelgrass of “21st of May,” the stalker folk of “Anthony” and the aggressive bitterness of “You Don’t Know What’s Going On,” for which Thile teased the crowd to unleash their buried anger. The band ended with its popular adaptation of the children’s tune “The Fox,” which drove the audience wild.

A well-deserved encore brought redos of “Where is Love Now” and “You Don’t Know What’s Going On,” before the Creek flowed through the driving ballad “Helena” and into the traditional fiddle tune “Cuckoo’s Nest,” which featured not only expert musicianship (“They make it look soooooo easy,” noted stream viewer Take a Hike) but also Schatz tapdancing. It was an undeniably fun show – noted by viewer Mathew Cussen as “one of the best shows I’ve ever seen” – and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs in early 2015. And don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified of future livestreams of ACL tapings!

Encore: Jason Isbell and Neko Case

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.

“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: Kacey Musgraves and Dale Watson.

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down a joy to see and hear

When ACL is in an anniversary season, it’s tempting for us to concentrate on booking the biggest artists we can find. That would deny, however, one of our core missions: to expose our audience to new artists. Of course, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down aren’t exactly new – the San Francisco-based act has been working for a decade. But Thao Nguyen and her intrepid band have begun to explode far past their underground origins, making it the perfect time to for us to invite them on the show for their debut taping.

After the brief, gospel-style open of “The Clap,” Thao and the band launched into “City,” a patented example of their patented funky folk rock. The group’s blend of groovy rhythms and Thao’s folk-influenced fingerpicking give the band a distinctive sound that truly makes it stand out from the pack, as “Cool Yourself,” “Beat” and “Every Body” easily proved. But she and her quintet hardly stick to one groove. The band also hopped jauntily through the jazzy piano pop of “The Feeling Kind,” complete with Dixieland trumpet solo, skipped energetically through the ska/soul hybrid “Swimming Pools,” moved through the crescendoing dynamics of the waltz “Age of Ice” and pounded through the percussion-heavy “Squareneck,” with Thao getting down and dirty on her lap steel guitar. Thao also demonstrated imaginative versatility with her instruments, playing her banjo like a guitar on the reggae-tinged rocker “Holy Roller” and her archtop guitar like a clawhammer banjo on the bluegrassy “Kindness Be Conceived.” The band ended the main set with the singalong folk pop of “We the Common,” a tribute to Thao’s volunteer work with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down encored with “Body,” another fine example of their patented unpredictable pop that included an audience participation section of handclapping, and “Bag of Hammers,” more of the same, enhanced with Thao’s tropical guitar lick. Thao’s natural exuberance and wide-ranging songwriting acumen made the show a joy to see and hear. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs on PBS this fall.

ACL Announces Season 40 Broadcast TV Schedule

Today Austin City Limits is proud to unveil our milestone 40th season, celebrating a four-decade run with more legendary artists, innovators and highly anticipated debuts. Providing viewers with a front-row seat to the best in music performance for 40 years, we’ll return on Saturday, October 4th with an unforgettable hour-long set from an American original, musician/songwriter Beck. Prior to the season premiere, a primetime special honoring the program’s anniversary, Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years, airs Friday, October 3rd, 9-11pm ET on PBS Arts Fall Festival.

Beck kicks off the celebratory season with an epic, career-spanning full-hour performance. One of the most creative artists of his generation, Beck shines in an exceptionally entertaining hour, showcasing a mix of vintage fan favorites and more recent gems. On the next installment, British sensation Ed Sheeran makes his ACL debut in a must-see episode that features the breakout star performing his entire set solo acoustic. Sheeran exudes the raw talent that propelled him to the top of the charts, with charged versions of hits from his landmark debut and new songs from the chart-topping follow-up release. Acclaimed Memphis singer-songwriter Valerie June shares the bill, making a captivating ACL debut with her starry-eyed roots music. Legendary industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails make a rare television appearance in an arena-worthy hour-long presentation that previewed in the spring to become one of ACL’s most talked about episodes. A season highlight is the return of ACL veteran Jeff Tweedy for a special hour. The Wilco leader showcases his first-ever solo project Tweedy, performing a mix of new songs and Wilco classics joined by his son and special guests.  Noir-rock outfit Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds make their ACL debut in a full-hour episode offering a memorable career-wide set powered by dark songs about love, death, God and fate.  Music legends Los Lobos return to the ACL stage for their fifth appearance, with the influential and enduring East L.A. band celebrating their recent 40th anniversary alongside ACL’s.

The new season boasts a number of highly anticipated debuts from music innovators: Breakout country star Eric Church, folk-rock wonders Thao & The Get Down Stay Down and acclaimed southern rock band J. Roddy Walston & The Business.

ACL executive producer Terry Lickona says, “Anniversaries can seem trite and predictable, but this season is very special for me in so many ways. It represents 40 years of musical adventure and discovery. ACL fans have come to expect the unexpected, and we love it all. We celebrate our past, but we’re more excited about the future!”

For the fourth consecutive year, the producers of Austin City Limits, in conjunction with High 5 Productions, and the Americana Music Association, are proud to present a special ACL Presents—featuring the best music performances from this year’s Americana Music Association Honors and Awards Ceremony held September 17th at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN.

Season 40 Fall Broadcast Schedule (additional episodes to be announced):

October 4            Beck

October 11          Ed Sheeran | Valerie June

October 18          Nine Inch Nails

October 25          Tweedy

November 1         Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

November 8         Los Lobos | Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

November 15       Eric Church | J. Roddy Walston & The Business

November 22       ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2014

The complete line-up for the full 13-week season, including new episodes to air beginning January 2015, will be announced at a later date. Check our news section for additional episode updates.

 

Encore: Emeli Sandé and Michael Kiwanuka

Austin City Limits showcases British soul with a brand new episode featuring two uniquely original singer-songwriters—chart-topping Scottish songstress Emeli Sandé and UK sensation Michael Kiwanuka making their ACL debuts. Sandé performs hits from her breakthrough album Our Version of Events, while Kiwanuka plays tunes from his debut Home Again. Check with your local station for showtimes.

Sandé has achieved breakout success in her native UK and stateside with the striking debut, Our Version of Events, which was the biggest-selling album in 2012 in the UK and toppled The Beatles’ long-standing album chart record for the most consecutive weeks spent in the top 10 (an astounding 66 weeks). Sandé emerged as the big winner at the 2013 Brit Awards, winning a pair of awards, including the coveted Album of the Year prize. The Los Angeles Times raves, “Emeli’s folk-inflected soul/pop is Nina Simone and Bob Dylan all in one.” The New York Times calls her “a redemptive singer,” saying “Ms. Sandé has a perspective-altering voice, clear and brassy and weapons-grade.” Originally starting her music career as a songwriter, Sandé had many stellar credits for other artists (Alicia Keys, Rihanna) to her name when she traded it in for the spotlight. A dynamic performer, Sandé opens her soulful ACL debut with the upbeat anthem “Heaven,” a huge UK hit. She engages the Austin crowd as her backing choir on her current single “My Kind of Love”, and closes out a stunning set with the massive hit “Next to Me”.

“Emeli Sandé should be one of the brightest stars in the musical firmament, but despite her UK success, she’s one of the best-kept secrets here in the U.S.,” says executive producer Terry Lickona. “Hopefully her ACL performance will change all that. The best word to describe her many talents is ‘astounding!’”

photo by Scott Newton

London native Michael Kiwanuka has been making waves with his debut album, the lush, acoustic-driven Home Again, which reached No. 4 on the British charts, spawned four singles, and went Top 10 around the world, earning the 24-year-old singer, songwriter and musician opening spots for superstar artists including Adele and Mumford & Sons, and a slot at the 2012 ACL Festival. Kiwanuka was announced the winner of the prestigious BBC Sound of 2012 poll, which has also been won by Jessie J, Florence + the Machine, and Ellie Goulding. Kiwanuka connects with the Austin audience with his blues-folk sound and timeless, soulful voice, which has led to comparisons to such artists as Bill Withers, Terry Callier, and John Martyn.

“Sometimes Michael’s singing comes across as very old-school, retro soul,” said Terry Lickona. “But he has a very contemporary sensibility. With Michael, it’s all about the voice, and that’s timeless!”

Check out the episode page for more details on this great show. Be sure to hit up our Facebook and Twitter pages and our newsletter for more ACL-related information. Next week: Portugal. The Man and Local Natives.