New tapings: Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and Sam Smith

Austin City Limits has a pair of highlights coming up this summer: new tapings featuring roots rocker Lukas Nelson in his ACL debut on July 2 and the second appearance of international pop superstar Sam Smith on July 23.

After more than a decade on the road barnstorming across the U.S and around the world, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have developed into one of America’s most dazzling live acts, attracting a dedicated, ever expanding following.  Still, with a bounty of invaluable experience under their belts, nothing foretold the artistic leap of their latest album, the self-titled Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, a mesmerizing, emotionally genuine, endlessly rewarding slice of cosmic country soul.  Released via Fantasy Records last summer, the widely acclaimed album draws on many of Lukas’ country and rock influences including literate Texas songsmiths like his dad, Willie Nelson, ‘uncles’ Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, and iconoclasts such as J.J. Cale, The Band, Clapton-era Delaney & Bonnie and of course, the band’s mentor Neil Young, for whom the young devotees have toured and recorded with the past few years. 

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real features Lukas Nelson (guitar, vocals), Tato Melgar (percussion), Anthony LoGerfo (drums), Corey McCormick (bass, vocals) and Jesse Siebenberg (steel guitars, Farfisa organ, vocals) along with back-up vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Lessig of the indie-pop group Lucius, and Lady Gaga who added stirring vocals to two of the album’s 12 tracks.  The album’s lilting, Glen Campbell inspired gem, “Just Outside of Austin” also features a classic Willie Nelson guitar solo, and piano from Lukas’ 86-year-old Aunt Bobbi. “Their latest displays a newfound confidence, brokering country-soul, Southern rock and R&B with some panache,” proclaimed Uncut.  “The band’s best work, the record is a huge leap forward for Nelson,” raved Entertainment Weekly, and American Songwriter declared, “Ultimately, Lukas is carrying on Willie’s tradition, pushing the outlaw boundaries his famous father established in the ’70s and proving that the musical apple truly does not fall far from the tree.”  Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real were recently honored with a 2018 Americana Music Awards nomination for Group of the Year.

Multi-platinum GRAMMY ® award winning artist Sam Smith wowed ACL audiences with his 2014 debut during our milestone Season 40 and now, he returns with his chart topping, acclaimed sophomore album The Thrill Of It All.  Rolling Stone awarded it four stars and hailed Smith as “one of the mightiest, most expressive singers of his generation.”  The album includes the hits “Pray” and “Too Good At Goodbyes,” which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Digital Song Sales chart and is certified Platinum by the RIAA.  The British native’s breakout 2014 album, In The Lonely Hour was the biggest selling U.K. male debut in the SoundScan era and went on to sell 13 million albums worldwide. In 2015, Smith set a GRAMMY® record, winning a total of four awards – the most ever received by a U.K. artist following the release of a debut album. He was named Best New Artist, In The Lonely Hour took Best Pop Vocal Album honors and his single “Stay With Me” won awards for both Record and Song of the Year. Smith has also earned an Oscar, a Golden Globe, three Billboard Music Awards and three BRIT Awards.  He’s currently on his global headline The Thrill Of It All world tour.

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. The broadcast episodes will air on PBS this fall as part of our Season 44.

Encore: Zac Brown Band

Austin City Limits presents a heartwarming hour with Southern country-rock act Zac Brown Band. The multi-platinum, three-time Grammy Award-winning group make their series debut with a career-spanning performance.

The acclaimed Atlanta octet showcase career highlights alongside new songs in a spirited, 11-song triumph. The country-rockers claimed Best New Artist at the 2010 Grammy Awards with their breakthrough release, The Foundation (now five-times platinum) and today are one of music’s biggest live acts. “We’re super-proud to be on the ACL stage,” says bandleader Zac Brown as he welcomes the crowd to pull up a seat at the “Family Table,” a gem from the band’s latest release Welcome Home. Brown shares the heartfelt stories behind many of their songs including the chart-topping ballad “Colder Weather” and the power-of-music testament “Day That I Die,” from 2012’s Uncaged, the Grammy Award-winning Best Country Album. The band cap the soaring set with a masterful hat-trick showcasing the musical range that has made them a fan-favorite; starting with “The Muse,” originally recorded with the Foo Fighters’ ubiquitous Dave Grohl, followed by their stirring cover of songwriting legend John Prine’s “All the Best,” and ending in tribute to their Southern-rock roots with a roof-raising finale of the Allman Brothers’ classic “Whipping Post.”

“To call them ‘Country’ or ‘Southern Rock’ doesn’t begin to describe the breadth and depth of what Zac Brown Band is really all about,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Singing songs that tell great stories and playing music that just plain makes you feel better is definitely a big part of who they are and where they’re from.”

Zac Brown Band ©️KLRU photo by Scott Newton

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 a brand new episode, featuring the debut of acclaimed country troubadour Sturgill Simpson and the return of ACL frequent flyers Asleep at the Wheel.

St. Vincent lights up her second ACL taping

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Few rock artists are as creative, acclaimed and wildly imaginative as St. Vincent. Nine years after her first appearance, the erstwhile Annie Clark hit our stage for the second time to support her widely praised fifth St. Vincent LP MASSEDUCTION, which hit the top ten on the album charts and topped many year-end best-of lists. In front of an impressive strobe-lit set, St. Vincent gave us a show unlike anything we’ve had before, which we streamed live around the world.

Taking their places in front of massive blocks of futuristic strobe lights, Clark, clad in a red vinyl bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, and her three-piece band began with a throbbing electronic pulse and flashing silhouettes for the kinetic Masseduction track “Sugarboy.” The rhythm got funkier for “Los Ageless,” Clark singing full-throated and casually extracting steely riffs from her guitar. “Pills” followed, twisting blatantly hooky synth-pop into a distinctly St. Vincentized shape, complete with anthemic guitar coda. Setting aside her guitar, Clark stepped forward, mic in hand, for the unabashed pop of “New York,” before re-donning her ax for the bluesy electropop of the sensual “Savior.” The lights dropped, and when they came back the spotlight was on bassist/keyboardist Toko Yasuda, who sang out the opening chant of Masseduction’s hypnotic title track, before Clark and her fuzz-soaked slide guitar retook control.  

When the lights came back from their dip to black, Clark was joined for “Huey Newton” by a black-coated, masked creeper (actually her tech in disguise) holding her guitar. As the first half of the song reached its crescendo, the figure strapped her instrument on in time for her to shred the heavy riffs that drove the tune’s second half – a nice bit of theater that earned appreciation from the crowd. After that track from her 2015 Grammy-winning self-titled album, she went all the way back to her second LP Actor and the thrilling “Marrow,” a devilishly catchy rocker that tastefully showed off her superior six-string skills. The band then dipped into the album Strange Mercy for a pair of tunes: the dramatic pop tune “Cruel” and the dynamic alt-anthem “Cheerleader.” Then Clark returned to the eponymous album for the diabolical “Digital Witness,” its melange of electro-funk, fetching melody and effects-laden slide shifting into another dimension. Switching to black and white, the strobes went crazy for “Rattlesnake,” another catchy groove rocker that featured some extended soloing in the coda. Shifting back to Masseducation, the band blasted out the flashy “Fear the Future,” the paranoia of which was leavened by more hooks and guitar. St. Vincent closed the set with the appropriately-titled “Slow Disco,” in which Clark adapted Giorgio Moroder’s synthesized danceability to a perfect set-closing anthem. The audience agreed, going crazy as the band quit the stage.

“I can’t even count the times I’ve seen mindblowing performances on this TV show,” said Clark as she and the band returned to the stage, “so it’s an honor to be back for the second time.” The group went into “Hang On Me,” a lush ballad from Masseduction. Then her band left Clark alone on the stage, so she could play a couple of songs “that I used to play in coffee shops, bad bars and, in a couple of embarrassing instances, pizza parlors.” She then performed a lovely “Severed Crossed Fingers” and a dignified “Prince Johnny,” as a reminder that, stagecraft and effects aside, the core of St. Vincent’s artistry has always been strong songwriting. The lights went to black and the show ended.  We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall as part of our upcoming Season 44 on your local PBS station.

Austin City Limits announces 2018 Hall of Fame honorees

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Update: Tickets on sale now!

Austin City Limits announces the fifth anniversary class of Austin City Limits Hall of Fame inductees, recognizing three American originals: blues stalwart Marcia Ball, the legendary Ray Charles and pioneering rockers Los Lobos. The 2018 ACL Hall of Fame inductees will be saluted at a star-studded ceremony to be held October 25th, 2018 at ACL’s studio home, ACL Live at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. Music great Chris Isaak is back by popular demand to host the celebratory evening, which will feature an all-star line-up of guest performers including rock superstar Dan Auerbach, New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas and powerhouse vocalist Tracy Nelson. More information about performances, presenters and additional guest stars will be announced prior to the event. Musical highlights and inductions from the ceremony will air in a special New Year’s Eve broadcast of Austin City Limits as part of the program’s Season 44 which premieres in the fall on PBS.   

The event will be open to the public and tickets are on sale May 18th at 10am CT at acltv.com/hall-of-fame. Sponsor packages are available now at acltv.com/hall-of-fame. All proceeds benefit KLRU-TV, Austin PBS.

The fifth class of inductees features a diverse group of music legends with longtime ties to Austin City Limits: celebrated blues pianist and vocalist Marcia Ball debuted on the program’s first season in 1976, making three more standout appearances in 1979, 1990 and 1998. The one and only Ray Charles made two classic appearances on ACL starting in Season 5 in 1980 and again in 1984, playing an instrumental role in validating the nascent show’s reputation as a live music beacon. Los Lobos’ musical kinship with ACL includes six appearances on the series, debuting in Season 14 in 1989, and returning to celebrate their milestone forty years as a band during ACL’s own 40th anniversary season in 2014.

The honorees and their legacies shared their reactions to joining the ranks of outstanding artists who have been inducted into the Austin City Limits  Hall of Fame:

Marcia Ball: “Austin City Limits put Austin on the map all over the country. Whenever we are touring, when I say where we are from, the immediate response is, “Austin City Limits.” People in outlying towns would drive to major cities, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Atlanta, because they had seen us on the show. In the years when my broadcasts were current, I could have filled a 90 minute tape with the words, “I never heard of you before, but I saw you on Austin City Limits.” ACL opened the door into millions of homes for us and other regional bands. It is, as far as I know, the longest running and only hour-long pure music performance outlet with major national distribution. Some of my most memorable musical moments have been as a performer or in the audience at an Austin City Limits show.  I was always honored to be asked to play ACL and I am thrilled and grateful to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame.”

“Ray Charles’ life force was to create and perform ever-lasting great music,” said Valerie Ervin, President, The Ray Charles Foundation. “Austin City Limits shares this philosophy, which is the reason it is one of the most enduring shows ever. Mr. Charles enjoyed appearing on the show twice and he would be touched with this honor.”

Los Lobos: “We could not be more honored to receive this award from the Austin City Limits folks. We have effectively grown up together and it’s remarkable what we have seen in the 40+ years that we have both been plowing our field, so to speak. We look forward to a wonderful time in Austin with our good friends at ACL and hopefully with some old friends all along for the ride as well.”

“Our 2018 Hall of Fame honorees clearly show how diverse our talent choices were even back in the early years of ACL,” says executive producer Terry Lickona, “as well as the priority we’ve always given to artists who stand out as originals in their genres.”

The Austin City Limits Hall of Fame was established in 2014 to celebrate the legacy of legendary artists and key individuals who have played a vital part in the pioneering music series remarkable 40+ years as a music institution. The inaugural induction ceremony in 2014 honored Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Lloyd Maines, program creator Bill Arhos and Darrell Royal. 2015’s second annual ACL Hall of Fame ceremony honored Asleep at the Wheel, Loretta Lynn, Guy Clark, Flaco Jiménez and Townes Van Zandt, along with the original crew of the show’s first season in 1974-75. The 2016 Hall of Fame honored Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King, alongside former ACL executive producer Dick Peterson. Last year’s Hall of Fame honored Roy Orbison, Rosanne Cash and The Neville Brothers, and the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act.

The 5th Anniversary Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Induction and Celebration is presented by NetApp and is sponsored in part by AXS, Dell, Keller Williams, Stratus Properties and Texas Monthly.

 

About the 2018 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Honorees:

Marcia Ball

photo by Scott Newton

In a remarkable career spanning 50 years, Marcia Ball—the official 2018 Texas State Musician— has earned worldwide fame and countless fans for her ability to ignite a full-scale roadhouse rhythm and blues party every time she takes the stage. Her rollicking Texas boogies, swampy New Orleans ballads and groove-laden Gulf Coast blues have made her a one-of-a-kind favorite with music lovers all over the world. Born in Orange, Texas and raised across the border in Vinton, Louisiana, Ball began piano lessons at age 5, falling under the spell of blues and soul music at 13 after witnessing a performance by New Orleans great Irma Thomas. Moving to Austin in 1970, Ball led progressive country band Freda and the Firedogs until 1974, when she began her solo career. Debuting on Austin City Limits during the first season in 1976, Ball has gone on to appear on the show three more times, and has released sixteen albums (including 1998’s Grammy-nominated Sing It! with fellow blues/soul enthusiast Tracy Nelson and inspiration Irma Thomas). Ball has won 10 Blues Music Awards, 10 Living Blues Awards, and is a five-time Grammy nominee. Her love of the road has led to gigs from roadhouses to the White House, and the living legend shows no signs of slowing down, releasing her seventeenth album in 2018, the critically-acclaimed Shine Bright (produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin).

Ray Charles

photo by Scott Newton

Singer, songwriter, pianist, producer and visionary, Ray Charles is one of the most important and influential musicians in American history. In five decades of recording, the music of the man nicknamed the Genius encompassed blues, jazz, R&B, country & western, pop and every permutation in between. His landmark 1954 single “I’ve Got a Woman” combined elements of gospel, jazz and blues to create what we now call soul. His list of hits is seemingly endless – “What’d I Say?,” “Hit the Road Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “Busted,” “Drown In My Own Tears,” “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” “Let’s Go Get Stoned” and his immortal version of “America the Beautiful” are merely the tip of the iceberg. Albums like Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Genius Loves Company, True to Life and The Genius Sings the Blues are considered classics. With multiple Grammys, an Oscar-winning biopic (Ray, starring Jamie Foxx), millions of records sold and everyone from Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Van Morrison to James Taylor, Billy Joel and Norah Jones citing him as an inspiration, Charles is one of the titans of American song. His 1980 appearance on Austin City Limits helped break the show’s talent roster wide open, and his 1984 episode has become equally lauded. Fourteen years after his death, Ray Charles remains a musical icon.

Los Lobos

photo by Scott Newton

One of America’s great bands, Los Lobos have carved out their own distinctive space in a career that’s spanned over 40 years. Formed by David Hidalgo, Louis Perez, Cesar Rosas and Conrad Lozano in the early seventies in East Los Angeles, the band started out playing rock & roll, before transitioning to traditional Mexican cumbia, norteña and corridos. The postpunk explosion in L.A. encouraged them to shift back to rock while retaining their Mexican-American heritage, giving them a unique sound in the American underground. With the addition of multi-instrumentalist/producer Steve Berlin, Los Lobos released a steady stream of LPs now considered classics, including 1985’s How Will the Wolf Survive, 1992’s Kiko and 2006’s The Town and the City, and scored a number one hit with its 1987 cover of Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba.” The band’s wide-ranging musical vision and dedication to expanding their craft has earned widespread acclaim, with over 20 albums, three Grammy Awards and tours with Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and U2. Los Lobos has brought catalog favorites like “Don’t Worry, Baby,” “One Time, One Night,” “La Pistola y El Corazon” and “Mas y Mas” to the ACL stage six times starting in Season 14, including five headlining slots and as part of the Season 24 Mexican Roots Music Celebration show.

Austin City Limits and the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame are produced by KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. KLRU is a non-profit organization providing public television and educational resources to Central Texas as well as producing quality national programming.

Encore: Florence + the Machine and Andra Day

Austin City Limits presents a breathtaking hour with two of today’s most inspirational acts: Florence + the Machine in their return appearance and Andra Day in a standout ACL debut.

UK hitmakers Florence + the Machine first-appeared on the ACL stage in 2012. Now international superstars and one of rock’s biggest live acts, the unstoppable band make a triumphant return with a high-energy, buoyant five-song set. Dynamic leader Florence Welch dances barefoot across the stage performing songs from their recent, chart-topping LP How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Her knockout vocals and remarkable rapport with fans captivate throughout as she enlists the crowd as a “hungover choir of angels” for the Grammy-nominated “Shake It Out” from 2011’s Ceremonials, closing with a rapturous performance of the band’s 2009 breakthrough smash, the anthemic “Dog Days Are Over.”

“Florence brings a unique performance art to all of her shows, and she took it to a new level this night,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “She went out of her way to establish a real connection with her audience, and at times the fans seemed to be as much a part of the show as she was. It’s very magical to watch it happen in real time.”

Rising star Andra Day dazzles with her unique mix of R&B, soul and jazz in her first ACL outing, performing songs from her Grammy-nominated debut Cheers to the Fall. A singer with astounding vocal range, she showcases her powerhouse vocals in a stellar, four-song set. The performance turns topical as Day addresses the events of the Orlando tragedy (her taping was the same day) and dedicates her anthem of resilience “Rise Up” to the victims and their families. In a raw, emotionally cathartic moment, she asks the audience to join her in song sending healing energy in the hopes that the families might feel some comfort. Closing with a cover of Queen’s “I Want It All,” altering the original’s rock arrangement into a pleading blues ballad, the song brings the singer to her knees and the audience to their feet.

“It was the day of the Orlando tragedy, and emotions were already running high,” says Lickona. “Andra’s powerful performance reminded us all that music can be a universal healer and a force for good. When she sang ‘Rise Up,’ there was hardly a dry eye in the house.”

photo by Scott Newton

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 an encore episode featuring the ACL debut of Zac Brown Band.

 

R.I.P. Sammy Allred of the Geezinslaw Brothers

Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of the death of Sammy Allred, Austin radio DJ and one half of ACL three-timers the Geezinslaw Brothers. He was 84.

As noted in the May 10 Austin Chronicle, the Geezinslaws were one of “Austin’s first breakout acts,” with a career going back to the fifties and stints on the Louisiana Hayride with Elvis Presley. Allred and Dewayne “Son” Smith released twelve albums over the course of forty-plus years, starting in 1963 with The Kooky World of the Geezinslaw Brothers and concluding with 2005’s Eclectic Horseman. The duo scored via tunes like “Five Dollar Fine,” “I Wish I Had a Job to Shove,” “Help I’m White and I Can’t Get Down” and unique takes on classic tunes like the Eagles’ “Take It to the Limit” and Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Besides ACL, the band appeared on The Tonight Show, The Smothers Brothers Show and The Roger Miller Show. Meanwhile, Allred’s work in Austin radio spanned decades, including a long stint on KVET-AM that proved both contentious and beloved.

“To really appreciate Sammy Allred, you had to have a slightly – maybe very – warped sense of humor, which is probably why I considered him my favorite DJ of all,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “He also came to be a good friend in later years, and we had many laughs together. His on-air persona stirred some controversy, but as he often said, ‘That’s just a character’ (think: Stephen Colbert back in the day). As for the Geezinslaws, their fans loved them dearly, and there were many of them – in Austin and far beyond. They did their part to ‘Keep Austin Weird’ before it became a ubiquitous slogan. To borrow one of his favorite expressions (stolen from Fatty Arbuckle), ‘Choo-choo bug, Sammy…and goodnight, nurse.'”

Allred and the Geezinslaws appeared on ACL in 1982, 1986 and 1989. Here they are doing their distinctive version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”