New tapings: Colter Wall and Cage The Elephant

Austin City Limits is proud to announce two new tapings for our milestone Season 45. Canadian country singer Colter Wall makes his debut on August 30, while Kentucky modern-rock stars Cage The Elephant make their highly-anticipated ACL debut on September 27.  

After two years of nonstop touring, Colter Wall wanted to make an album about home. Drawing on the stories of his native Saskatchewan, the young songwriter’s corner of the world takes shape throughout his second full-length album, Songs of the Plains. Produced by GRAMMY® Award-winning Dave Cobb in Nashville’s Studio A, the project combines striking original folk songs, well-chosen outside cuts, and a couple of traditional songs that reflect his roots growing up in the small city of Swift Current. “One thing I’ve noticed over the last few years, in the United States and playing in Europe, is that people all over the world really don’t know much about Canada at all,” he says. “When you talk about Saskatchewan, people really have no idea. Part of it is because there are so few people there. It’s an empty place—it makes sense that people don’t know much about it. But that’s my home, so naturally I’m passionate about it. With this record, I really wanted people to look at our Western heritage and our culture.” “I went into the studio and knew exactly the story I wanted to tell,” Colter says of the release. “That made it easier on a sonic level and a musical level, to be able to tell Dave that it’s a record about my home. That changes it at the roots level because it’s like having a mission statement, saying, ‘All right, let’s make a Western album.’” Indeed, Wall captures the expansiveness of the Western Canadian plains by relying on minimal production and his resonant baritone, which he’s strengthened into a mighty instrument in its own right. It’s a deep and knowing voice you wouldn’t expect of a man who just turned 24 years old. The New Yorker declared, “Wall is among the most reflective young country singers of his generation… His ace in the hole is his showstopping voice: a resonant, husky baritone, wounded and vulnerable.” “Wall pushes in close against the untenanted space of the middle provinces, filling their geographic gaps with an intoxicating rasp,” notes Pitchfork. “He sings with a serrated edge, his voice digging crevices rich with heartbreak, homeland, and heritage.” Noisey calls Songs of the Plains “ a heartbroken triumph, a statement suggesting that all that’s missing is perhaps not forever lost.”

photo by Neil Krug

Currently on a national co-headlining tour with ACL veteran Beck, Cage The Elephant is one of rock’s biggest live acts, and the band makes their highly-anticipated ACL debut on the heels of their recently released fifth studio album Social Cues. Produced by John Hill (Santigold, Florence + The Machine, Portugal. The Man, tUnE-yArDs), Social Cues is the follow up to their 2015 GRAMMY®-winning Tell Me I’m Pretty for Best Rock Album.  The acclaimed Social Cues is garnering raves with Rolling Stone calling it “their best album yet” and The Chicago Sun-Times saying “the band has pushed their sonic boundaries further and created their most personal record to date.”  The majority of the material on Social Cues was written during the unraveling of frontman Matt Shultz’s marriage. In order to make sense of such a difficult experience, he explored the hidden recesses of his psyche, creating characters to tell different parts of his personal story. He explains, “when I’m creating, I try to put myself in a reactive state of improvisational thought. I let images just arise in my mind and wait for it to evoke an emotional response and then when it does, I know I’m on to something.” Deeply inspired by punk music, brothers Brad and Matt Shultz began playing music in their Bowling Green, KY high-school with fellow students Jared Champion and Daniel Tichenor. Shortly after forming the band, they made the bold move to London to launch their career. Their self-titled 2008 debut album generated international attention, catapulting them up the Billboard Alternative and Rock charts and achieving Platinum certification. Cage The Elephant has released three additional studio albums – 2011’s Thank You, Happy Birthday, the Gold-certified Melophobia in 2013 and 2015’s Tell Me I’m Pretty. They have had 7 Billboard #1 singles with 11 singles landing in the Billboard Top 10 and digitally have a combined 1.5 billion streams worldwide. Cage The Elephant is lead singer Matt Shultz, rhythm guitarist Brad Shultz, drummer Jared Champion, bassist Daniel Tichenor, lead guitarist Nick Bockrath and keyboardist Matthan Minster.  

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 later this year as part of ACL’s upcoming milestone Season 45.

Taping recap: Lucy Dacus

Though only 24, Lucy Dacus has already made a big impact. The Richmond, Virginia indie rocker’s second album Historian, released last year, was hailed “ a career album” by Paste, who also noted “she’s really only just getting started.” Widespread critical acclaim and consistent performances brought her to the ACL stage for her debut taping, and she delivered with a powerful set drawing from across her catalog. (Note: the appearance was scheduled to be a dual taping with fellow singer-songwriter Julien Baker, but due to unforeseen medical circumstances Baker was unable to perform).

Taking the stage and strapping on an acoustic guitar, Dacus talked about the relationship between performer and audience, noting that it revolved around mutual trust. That led, naturally, into the introspective “Trust,” a song she wrote when she was sixteen. “Beauty is the only way/To make the nightmares go away,” she sang softly as she strummed. Guitarist Jacob Blizard, bassist Dominic Angelella and drummer Ricardo Lagomasino then joined her – “They’re cute and nice, and good people” – as she donned her Telecaster for “Addictions,” a shuffling rocker keying on the contrast between her smoky croon and the fuzzy guitars. “Green Eyes, Red Face” followed, unrolling like a carpet, starting quietly and building to a near-anthemic reach. The social commentary of “Yours & Mine” followed a similar path, from folky placidity to rock power. 

Blizard and Angelella (wielding Dacus’ acoustic) sat on the floor with their instruments while their leader, accompanying herself on a handheld synthesizer, sang “My Mother & I” – a new song and one of a string of holiday-themed singles she’s releasing this year. The band resumed their customary positions for “Forever Half Mast,” a new July Fourth themed midtempo folk rocker amplified by a noisy guitar solo. She flipped that script for her breakout 2015 single, the witty “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” starting with fuzzy decay and moving into a brisk jangle. “I’ve always understood and felt very at home here,” Dacus commented about Austin, before starting the slow strum that heralded the wry, thoughtful “Night Shift,” which almost casually evolved from pensive tranquility to a wall of distortion – much to the appreciation of the crowd. 

After the rhythm section left the stage, Dacus delivered a stately “Historians,” with only Blizard’s effects-soaked guitar swells as consort. Then Blizard also quit the stage, leaving Dacus alone with her Tele to deliver “Fool’s Gold,” a beautiful unrecorded tune. The audience went wild following its conclusion. It was a lovely show by an important new talent, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs as part of ACL’s upcoming milestone 45th season.  

R.I.P. Art Neville of the Neville Brothers

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Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of the death of ACL Hall of Famer Art Neville, keyboardist, songwriter, singer and co-founder of funk/soul legends the mighty, mighty Neville Brothers and the Meters, and an ambassador for New Orleans music worldwide, on July 22. He was 81. 

The eldest Neville Brother, Art was born in 1937 in the Big Easy. Though he claimed that the brothers had no radio or records growing up, Art still discovered music, falling under the spell of both the 1950s doo-wop groups like the Orioles and the Drifters and the New Orleans piano greats Professor Longhair and Fats Domino – obvious influences on both his instrument of choice and the R&B harmonies of his brothers’ band. He scored a regional hit early on with the Hawketts, recording “Mardi Gras Mambo” when he was only 16. The song is still a staple of New Orleans Fat Tuesday celebrations. 

Following a stint in the Navy, Art formed Art Neville & the Neville Sounds, becoming the house band for Allen Toussaint’s many productions and eventually evolving into the beloved funk outfit the Meters. With the Meters, Art contributed the classics “Hey Pocky Way” and “Cissy Strut” to the musical lexicon, recorded acclaimed instrumental albums like Rejuvenation (named one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time) and backed artists like the late Dr. John (“Right Place, Wrong Time”), LaBelle (“Lady Marmalade”) and Robert Palmer (Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley). 

Following the expiration of a contractual obligation that prevented them from working together, Art joined forces with his younger brothers Cyril, Aaron and Charles, backing their uncle, Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief George “Jolly” Landry on the landmark 1976 Wild Tchoupitoulas album, and released their self-titled debut as the Neville Brothers in 1978. The siblings recorded frequently and toured relentlessly for over thirty years, issuing classic albums like Fiyo On the Bayou, Yellow Moon and Valence Street and iconic songs “Sitting in Limbo,” “Brother John,” “Yellow Moon,” “Congo Square” and, of course, the immortal N’awlins anthem “Iko Iko.” Art also resurrected the Meters as the Funky Meters, continuing to perform with both groups as his health allowed until he retired from the stage in 2018.  

Called “the captain of the ship” by New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival director Quint Davis, Art Neville made three iconic appearances on ACL with the Neville Brothers, the first Big Easy band to grace the ACL stage: in Season 4 (1979), Season 11 (1986) and Season 20 (1995).  We were proud to honor them with an induction into the ACL Hall of Fame in 2017, featuring tributes from some of New Orleans finest including Trombone Shorty and the late Dr. John.  Here is Art singing the first number in the band’s 1979 ACL debut: the Neville Brothers classic “Sitting in Limbo.” 

CANCELED: ACL to live stream Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus double shoot

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Due to unforeseen medical circumstances, Julien Baker will not tape Austin City Limits tonight. Lucy Dacus will still perform but it will not be live streamed.

Austin City Limits is excited to announce that we will be live streaming our upcoming taping featuring critically-acclaimed singer/songwriters Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus. The taping will stream on July 30, starting at 8 pm CT on our YouTube channel

2018 was a milestone year for Richmond, VA’s Lucy Dacus. Her widely celebrated sophomore record, Historian, was met by a cavalcade of critical elation, with NPR, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NBC News, Slate, The Atlantic, Billboard, Paste, Stereogum, and more choosing it as one of the year’s best albums. Dacus’ remarkable sense of melody and composition are the driving force throughout, giving Historian the immersive feel of an album made by an artist in full command of her powers. “This is the album I needed to make,” says Dacus, who views Historian as her definitive statement as a songwriter and musician. “Everything after this is a bonus.” She played revelatory sold-out shows at clubs and festivals alike, along with multiple high profile television appearances. A glance at her worldwide touring schedule in 2019 shows little sign that Dacus is slowing down, and in fact, she will release a series of songs titled 2019 to celebrate. Recorded in here-and-there studio spurts over the last two years, 2019 will be released later this year as a physical EP on Matador Records, and will be made up of originals and cover songs tied to specific holidays, each of which will drop around their respective date: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day (and Taurus season!), Independence Day, Springsteen’s Birthday, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Memphis native Julien Baker’s chilling solo debut, Sprained Ankle, was one of the most widely acclaimed works of 2015. The album, recorded by a then 18-year-old and her friend in only a few days, was a bleak yet hopeful, intimate document of staggering experiences and grace, centered entirely around Baker’s voice, guitar, and unblinking honesty. Sprained Ankle appeared on year-end lists everywhere from NPR Music to The AV Club to New York Magazine’s Vulture. With 2017’s Turn Out The Lights, Baker claimed a much bigger stage, but with the same core of breathtaking vulnerability and resilience. From its opening moments — when her chiming, evocative melody is accompanied by swells of strings — Turn Out The Lights throws open the doors to the world without sacrificing the intimacy that has become a hallmark of her songs. The album explores how people live and come to terms with their internal conflict, and the alternately shattering and redemptive ways these struggles play out in relationships. “Turn Out The Lights is beautifully crafted throughout,” noted Spin, “full of the kinds of songs that linger long after they’ve ended.” Under the Radar declared, “Baker is writing faultless songs that will always have a home in our hearts because finding comfort in even the saddest moments means we’re still feeling. And if we’re feeling, there’s hope for us yet.” 

In addition to their successful solo careers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus (along with Phoebe Bridgers), comprise the indie rock supergroup boygenius, whose 2018 EP landed on the year-end best-of lists of Newsweek, The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times and more, with Pitchfork raving “(boygenius) sing like hell together in lung-shattering harmony.”

Join us on July 30 here for both sets by these fast-rising young singer/songwriters. The broadcast episodes will air on PBS later this year as part of our upcoming Season 45.

 

Giveaway: Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus

UPDATE giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus on Tuesday, July 30th 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 2 pm on Thursday, July 25th.

Winners will be chosen at random and a photo ID will be required to pick up 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.

Amazing Rhythm Aces’ Russell Smith R.I.P.

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Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of the July 12 passing of Amazing Rhythm Aces singer Russell Smith of cancer. He was 70. The group appeared on Austin City Limits in our second season in 1977. 

Born in Nashville, the Tennessean started his music career in the state’s other Music City, Memphis and co-founded the eclectic roots rockers Amazing Rhythm Aces in 1972. The band scored two hits from their 1975 debut Stacked Deck: the top 20 pop hit “Third Rate Romance” and the top 10 country hit “Amazing Grace (Used to Be Her Favorite Song).” The Aces won a Grammy in 1976 for ‘The End is Not in Sight,” which took home the award for Best Country Vocal Performance By a Group. The band dissolved in 1980. 

Smith then moved into country music, writing songs for a wide variety of artists. He penned number 1 country hits for Randy Travis (“Look Heart, No Hands”), T. Graham Brown (“Don’t Go to Strangers”), Ricky Van Shelton (“Keep It Between the Lines”) and Don Williams (“Heartbeat in the Darkness”), as well as placing cuts with Tanya Tucker, Rosanne Cash, Kenny Rogers, the Oak Ridge Boys and many others. Smith even scored a hit of his own with 1989’s “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight.” 

Following two albums in the 1990s with the bluegrass novelty band Run C&W (which also included the Eagles’ Bernie Leadon), Smith rejoined the reformed Aces in 1994. The band continued to record and perform up to the present day. He will be missed by the Aces’ loyal fan base. 

Here he is from the Aces’ ACL episode, performing “Third Rate Romance”:

Taping recap: H.E.R.

H.E.R. has had an eventful couple of years. Scoring a gold record with her full-length self-titled debut, a NPR Tiny Desk concert and two 2019 Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance, the erstwhile Gabriella Wilson has moved from strength to strength since beginning her performance career ten years ago. The fast-rising singer and songwriter brought her award-winning artistry to the ACL stage for the first time with a set of songs guaranteed to slow jam the night away. 

After a brief intro from her six-piece band, multi-instrumentalist H.E.R. took the stage with an acoustic guitar for the funky “Carried Away,” also contributing bass and electric piano solos before the song’s end. She picked up a pair of drumsticks to pound out the intro of the Latin-influenced “2.” Hands-free, she said she was proud to be on “this legendary stage,” before giving her husky alto a workout on the roiling “Feel Away” and the lush “Avenue.”  Donning her acoustic guitar, she sang a couple of verses of Deniece Williams’ “Free,” leading directly into her hit ballad “Best Part,” with backup singer Malik Spence delivering original duet partner Daniel Caesar’s lines. Built on a fingerpicked acoustic guitar figure, “Fate” danced gracefully on the line between folk and soul. 

While engaging the crowd in call-and-response “whoa’s,” H.E.R. switched to a plexiglass Stratocaster for the soulful, gospel-informed anthem “Hard Place,” a clear audience fave. After that bag of originals, she pulled a surprising cover: Northern Irish songwriter Foy Vance’s lighter-waving ballad “Make It Rain.” Though it was originally popularized by Ed Sheeran on the soundtrack for the TV show Sons of Anarchy, H.E.R. made it her own with blues rock guitar soloing and powerhouse singing. The crowd agreed, going nuts as she paused at the end for dramatic effect. She moved back to the electric piano for the slow jamming hit “Focus,” a song that allowed her to really show off her liquid vocal flexibility. That tune also served as a jumping-off point for a grooving cover of Ms. Lauryn Hill’s “X Factor,” clearly a key influence. The band kept that rhythm going for “As I Am,” namechecking Hill by comparing her lover to “my favorite Lauryn song.” Then it was time for “Lights On,” one of her earliest hits and a song that actually required phone participation, as everybody held their lights into the sky. H.E.R. responded by re-donning her electric guitar and seguing into the guitar solo coda for Prince’s “Purple Rain.” With the backing vocalists and crowd singing the “ooo-ooo’s,” H.E.R. took us all home on her Strat and quit the stage to thunderous applause. And that was the end of a remarkable show from an explosive young talent. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station. 

Taping recap: Patty Griffin and Steve Earle & The Dukes

Singer/songwriters Patty Griffin and Steve Earle have been frequent visitors to the ACL stage in the past couple of decades. Griffin first appeared in 2000 as part of a songwriters’ special, getting her own show the next year, while Earle debuted way back in 1987. It’s always a pleasure to welcome back old friends, and doubly so under such special circumstances: Griffin to showcase songs from her highly-acclaimed, self-released and self-titled new album, and Earle, joined by some special guests, spotlighting Guy, his tribute to his songwriting mentor Guy Clark. Both turned in shows for the ages, which we live streamed around the world.  

Patty Griffin comes off of a four-year hiatus while the singer dealt with breast cancer, and her performance pulled generously from it. After a boisterous welcome from the crowd, she opened with the album’s “Mama’s Worried,” essentially a duet between David Pulkingham’s flamenco guitar and her own resonant singing. Next up was “The Wheel,” a bluesy declaration built on its writer’s jagged rhythm guitar and multi-instrumentalist Conrad Choucroun’s bass guitar/kick-drum rhythm. She followed with “Boys From Tralee,” a Celtic folk-tinged tune about Irish immigrants (of which Griffin’s grandparents were two), tying it into the current situation at the U.S. border. From the Emerald Isle to the American swamp: Griffin moved back to her 2004 LP Impossible Dream for the shuffling, tremolo-heavy “Standing,” allowing her to draw from her love of gospel. But she quickly shifted from the sacred to the secular, with the sly “Hourglass,” inspired by the great Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and featuring a Pulkingham solo that earned cheers. 

Guitars went to their stands as Pulkingham moved to the piano and his boss to the mic for the gorgeous “Luminous Places,” a well-titled standout from Patty Griffin. Then it was on to the “Truth #2,” a fan favorite, as evidenced by the cheers at the opening chords, and “Where I Come From,” a narrative Patty Griffin highlight. “River,” the self-titled album’s single, once again showcased her rich vocals, accompanied by Pulkingham’s acoustic guitar and the ridiculously multi-tasking Choucroun on piano, and greatly appreciated by the audience. Wielding a mandolin, Griffin finished her set with the rocking, inspirational “Shine a Different Way,” to the crowd’s delight. 

photo by Scott Newton

Joined by his long-running five-piece band The Dukes, Earle hit the stage kicking off his Guy Clark tribute with the classic “Dublin Blues,” receiving exuberant cheers at the opening line “Wish I was in Austin.” Earle immediately went into “Texas 1947,” featuring the expert pedal steel work of Ricky Ray Jackson. After sharing a short story about how he met Guy Clark while hitchhiking around Texas, the band performed the ode to the Hill Country honky-tonkin’ queen “Rita Ballou,” featuring Eleanor Whitmore on violin. Following a tale about Clark’s loyalty to Texas BBQ over Tennessee style BBQ, Joe Ely joined Earle on stage to perform “Desperadoes Waiting For a Train” – two Texas music legends trading verses on one of the state’s most influential songs. The Dukes quit the stage temporarily, so Earle could essay “The Last Gunfighter Ballad,” a Clark song made famous by Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. The band returned for “The Randall Knife,” one of Clark’s most autobiographical and arresting tunes, followed by the beloved “L.A. Freeway,” one of his most famous. With Earle donning his mandolin, he and The Dukes got acoustic for “New Cut Road,” an explicitly bluegrass-flavored tune that threw another spotlight on Whitmore, as well as her flatpicking husband Chris Masterson. After introducing the band, Earle went into “Heartbroke,” going through the first verse before being joined onstage by another Clark mentee – songwriting great Rodney Crowell, who originally recorded the song in 1980, before it became a hit for Ricky Skaggs in 1982. 

“I guess I should play a couple of songs of mine so y’all won’t think Guy didn’t teach me anything,” Earle quipped before launching into “Guitar Town,” the song that put him on the map as a writer and performer. After that hit, there was only one other song The Dukes could hit, and sure enough: the opening synth riff of “Copperhead Road” – the powerhouse rocker that served notice that Earle was simply country – got the crowd going wild. “That’s what Guy taught me,” he asserted. After that explosion, Earle brought Crowell and Ely back, joined by Lubbock legends Terry and Jo Harvey Allen, for “Old Friends,” Clark’s beautiful evocation of friendship, with each singer taking one of the spoken verses. Earle led the audience in a round of the chorus, before an instrumental coda and the singers laying down one last “old friends” to close. A better elegy for Clark would be hard to imagine. It was a beautiful moment, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.