Merle Haggard 1937-2016

We at Austin City Limits were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of the great Merle Haggard on his 79th birthday, due to complications from pneumonia. An American original often cited as the greatest country singer of all time, Haggard made an incalculable contribution not just to country music, but American music in general. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know at least a handful of his many classics. “Mama Tried,” “Big City,” “Silver Wings,” “Workin’ Man Blues,” “Okie From Muskogee,” “Daddy Frank,”  “If We Make It Through December,” Mama’s Hungry Eyes,” “Sing Me Back Home” – these songs are essentials threads in the fabric of the American musical tapestry. 

Haggard appeared on our show a total of nine times, in 1978, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1991, 1994 and 1996 (twice). “Other than Willie, Merle Haggard was the first major country artist to appear on Austin City Limits in its early years (season 3), and he appeared many times since,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.” He told me once that he was so proud of his ACL performances that he considered them ‘a scrapbook’ of that time in his career. He was a maverick and a true original.”

Below is Haggard from his first appearance on ACL in Season 3, 1978. May he rest in peace.

James Bay 4/12

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by JAMES BAY on Tuesday, April 12th, 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 9 am on Friday, April 8th. 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 or recording devices allowed in venue.

Natalia Lafourcade dazzles with ACL debut

Natalia Lafourcade isn’t a household name to a lot of Americans. A superstar in Mexico, a  2016 Grammy winner and multiple Latin Grammy Award-winner, the indie pop singer/songwriter has the goods to conquer the world outside her home, as she proved on her debut ACL taping, which was streamed live around the world.

Lafourcade and her backing quintet began with a set of songs from her latest album Hasta La Raíz, a platinum-selling, number one LP in Mexico and Grammy-winner for Best Latin Rock album here. Following a pre-taped ambient intro, “Vámonos Negrito”- sitting somewhere between romantic balladry and modern pop – kicked the show off in fine style. She followed with her acclaimed two-time Latin Grammy-winning title track, an intimate, melodic anthem about holding on to one’s roots, which showcased her sweet, airy vocals. Seguing into “Lo Que Construimos,” a jazzy pop confection featuring complementary guitar and trumpet solos, “Ya No Te Puedo Querer” moved back toward anthem territory, the breakup message of the lyrics couched in a tastefully dramatic rock arrangement. “Nunca Es Suficiente” set its lyrics of romantic disappointment to a wistful cumbia.

Lafourcade then announced a special treat – she would sing in English for the first time, just for our audience, nailing Nina Simone’s challenging ballad “Lilac Wine.” Still in tribute mode, she moved to the piano for the sweeping love song “Amore De Mis Amores,” from her tribute album to the classic Mexican singer and songwriter Agustín Lara. She went back to original material for the 70s pop of “Casa,” the title track to her bestselling 2005 album of the same name. She then reached even further back to the catchy “En El 2000,” her breakthrough radio hit and a song she explained that she’d come to hate due to constant requests for it, but now “we’re friends again.” The audience enhanced the rhythm with their own handclaps.

Lafourcade went back to Raíz for “Mi Lugar Favorito,” paying tribute to her “favorite place” with an infectious melody, a dazzling trumpet solo from Alfredo Pino, syncopated band dancing and crowd participation. Then she presented another song rendered especially for ACL – a lovely voice and guitar version of Elvis Presley’s immortal “Love Me Tender” that earned her enthusiastic applause. Her band rejoined her for the equally pretty, bossa nova-influenced gem “Para Qué Sufrir,” a clear fan favorite.

Lafourcade took a moment to express how excited she and the band were to be on our stage, which she kneeled to touch. She then moved back to her piano for the closing song “Palomas Blancas,” a grand pop ballad about being connected to the world. She and the band took well-deserved bows as the audience called out for more. Their enthusiasm was rewarded when Lafourcade and the band returned for “Estoy Lista,” a confident slice of melody-rich piano pop. It was a perfect closer to a remarkable ACL debut, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it broadcasts during Season 42 this fall on your local PBS station.


New tapings: James Bay and Andra Day

Austin City Limits is pleased to announce a pair of new tapings: British folk-rock sensation James Bay on April 12 and soul singer Andra Day on June 12.

Coming off three 2016 Grammy nominations and a recent BRIT Award win for Best Male Solo Artist, singer-songwriter-guitarist James Bay is busily conquering the States with his debut LP Chaos and the Calm. Recorded in Nashville with producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, R.E.M.), the album went to #1 in the U.K and top 15 in the U.S. and produced the breakout hits “Let It Go” and “Hold Back the River.” The 25-year-old began playing music at age 11, growing up in the London suburb of Hitchin, strumming along to his parents’ Van Morrison and Derek & the Dominos records. At 18, Bay moved to the seaside city of Brighton to study music and hit every open mic night he could. When a fan recorded one of his performances it caught the attention of Republic Records, who signed him in 2013. Since then Bay has gone on to perform at iconic festivals including Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, Sasquatch, Outside Lands, Austin City Limits Festival and more. Internationally, Chaos And The Calm has gone on to become one of the “Biggest New Artist Album Releases of 2015” and has been certified Gold in Australia & Switzerland, double platinum in the UK and has sold one over million albums worldwide. Currently in the midst of a sold-out Stateside headlining tour, Bay makes his Austin City Limits debut on April 12. You can enter our drawing for passes to this taping here

photo by Myriam Santos

Singer and songwriter Andra Day also turned heads at this year’s Grammys, performing her uplifting song “Rise Up” from her Grammy-nominated debut album Cheers to the Fall.  With a vintage flair and a voice for the ages, Day proved she’s ready to take her place in the pantheon of soulful vocalists and deliver her truth to the world. Her acclaimed debut, Cheers to the Fall, produced by heavyweight soul man Raphael Saadiq, is self-described as “a biography told in the form of music,” with themes centered on truth, fearlessness, vulnerability, forgiveness and love. The Boston Globe says, “This confident, stylish pop R&B record ushers in a sophisticated vocalist who faithfully reflects past influences while remaining contemporary and relevant,” and Vibe raves, “The beauty in Andra’s art is that the message applies to all. All we need to do is listen.” Singing in the church choir and studying, dance, theater and music at San Diego’s School of Creative and Performing Arts, Day always knew she wanted to sing professionally. She was performing in local nightclubs when none other than Stevie Wonder discovered her.

Day then filmed a series of popular YouTube clips, including a mashup of Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse, which caught the attention of Warner Bros. Records and led to a record deal. Known for her standout live performances, Day is currently on a U.S. tour, including upcoming dates with ACL alum Leon Bridges and a performance at this year’s Bonnaroo on deck.  Join us in welcoming Andra Day in her ACL debut on June 12.

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

Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters tape new show for the ages

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters are a class act. Few rockers of Plant’s generation have matured as well and kept as open a musical mind as he has, as evidenced by the eclectic material he’s recorded in the decades since Led Zeppelin ceased, as well as the diverse skills of his multi-cultural band. The last time Plant appeared on ACL in 2002, he gave us a show for the ages that’s still talked about and referenced. Fourteen years later, he and his six-piece band (a variation on the one that accompanied him last time) did it again, this time livestreamed for fans everywhere.

Plant grabbed the audience by the heart immediately by playing a recording of the song “Twine Time” in tribute to Austin’s late blues/soul/jazz DJ Paul Ray. He and the Shifters then launched into his former band’s “The Lemon Song,” re-imagined as a shuffle that emphasizes the classic blues lyrics Zep borrowed when it was first recorded. Sending a clear signal that he wasn’t living in the past, he followed up with the spacy, bendir-and-eBow-enhanced anthem “Rainbow,” from his most recent album Lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar. Then it was back to the Zep catalog for the immortal “Black Dog,” given a roiling tempo, electronic frosting, an extended coda featuring Gambian musician Juldeh Camera’s ritti (a West African bowed instrument) and enthusiastic call and response from the crowd. Plant then Roared back with the groovy powerhouse “Turn It Up,” a song he explained was inspired by his years living in Austin.

Plant followed that slice of modern rock by taking on Howlin’ Wolf’s classic “Spoonful,” giving it a crawling Afro-psychedelic makeover and a duet between Camara’s ritti and guitarist Justin Adams’ tehardant, a West African lute. He then revisited one of his earliest solo hits, the atmospheric, incomparable “In the Mood,” given an acoustic guitar/banjo/piano reading here. Plant went back to the well of the mighty Wolf, taking the heavy blues “No Place to Go” (AKA “How Many More Years”) into spacier, more exotic territory thanks to Camara’s bowing and keyboardist John Baggot’s exotic sounds. He continued his trip through the past by seguing directly into the classic “Dazed and Confused” and following it with that band’s mighty rearrangement of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” – both staples of Zeppelin’s repertoire. “Can you feel it?” Plant asked, and the answer was a definite affirmative, with “Babe” earning a standing ovation.      .

Plant and the Shifters stayed with music history, but given a 21st century update: the Ralph Stanley-popularized folk song “Little Maggie” became a droning worldbeat tour-de-force, while Bukka White’s “Fixin’ to Die” became the freight-train rhythmed anthem they performed the last time they were here. The main set crashed to a close as Plant and the Shifters gave the audience a treat, running Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You” into the titanic “Whole Lotta Love,” which itself incorporated an Africanized “Hey Bo Diddley.” The audience sang the chorus back to them in ecstasy.

There was no way that didn’t leave us hungry for more, of course, and the band soon returned. First up for the encore was a redo of “Rainbow.” Then the Shifters and Plant essayed a brooding version of the traditional gospel blues “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” which Plant recorded for Band of Joy. Plant and the Shifters left us with a major crowdpleaser: the “old English folk song” most of us know as the immortal “Rock and Roll,” taken into a new, groovy place via Baggot’s keyboards, Camara’s ritti and some more audience call-and-response. Plant and the Shifters took a well-deserved bow to a standing ovation. It was a sensational show from a music giant never content to rest on his laurels, and we can’t wait for you to see the broadcast episode when it airs this fall as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.

Natalia Lafourcade’s ACL taping to livestream on Mar. 23


Austin City Limits is pleased to announce that we will be streaming our taping with international sensation Natalia Lafourcade live on March 23 at 8pm CT/9 pm ET. Fans around the world can watch the concert on  ACLTV’s  YouTube channel as it happens.

Singer-songwriter Natalia Lafourcade is one of Mexico’s biggest music stars. Her infectious mix of pop, rock, folk and bossa nova has earned her multiple chart-topping albums in Latin America and her first Grammy Award this year for her acclaimed album Hasta La Raíz.  Lafourcade became a breakout success in her homeland at the age of nineteen, releasing a self-titled debut which soared to #1 on the Mexican charts and delivered the first of many Latin Grammy nominations.  Lafourcade emerged the night’s big winner at this year’s Latin Grammy Awards, winning Best Alternative Music Album for Hasta La Raíz, with the record’s title track sweeping top honors for Record, Song and Alternative Song of the Year.  The best-selling album is being hailed “her most profound and enduring statement” by the Village Voice, thanks to what AllMusic calls “extremely well-written songs in the grand romantic Latin American tradition…but with a contemporary perspective.”

Please join us online on our ACLTV YouTube channel as we welcome Natalia Lafourcade.

Iggy Pop’s raucous performance opens Season 42 taping season

There’s no one in rock & roll like Iggy Pop, and we jumped at the chance to present the proto-punk pioneer on the tour for his latest album Post Pop Depression. The new LP – released at the end of this week – also features our old pals Josh Homme, who’s appeared before leading Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures, and Dean Fertita, who’s been our guest with Queens and the Raconteurs, joined onstage by Queens guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and indie rock sessioneer Matt Sweeney. With a setlist drawn not only from Depression, but its 1977 spiritual kindred The Idiot and Lust For Life, this raucous performance was a mix of old friends and new.

Following a pre-recorded Indian chant, the band, dressed in red smoking jackets, came out swinging with a blazing “Lust For Life,” its unselfconscious leader a ball of energy from the moment he stepped forward to a standing ovation. From that potent hit Iggy moved into the creeping “Sister Midnight,” one of the highlights of The Idiot. Jacket off and chest bare, Iggy thanked the audience for coming, before launching into the brooding “American Valhalla” from the new LP, sounding as if it was recorded at the same time as his classic 70s albums. The volume and power amped back up for Lust deep cut “Sixteen.” That song went right into Depression’s slinky “In the Lobby,” which found Iggy joining the audience, as is his wont. Remarkably, he stayed at the mic for a powerhouse “Some Weird Sin,” channeling his energy into a monster vocal. The groovy “Funtime” followed,with Homme taking the vocal sung by Iggy’s late friend and co-writer David Bowie on the original.  

“Turn all the lights on, I wanna see,” Iggy demanded so he could greet the crowd. Then he was off celebrating “Tonight,” an exceptionally poppy Lust tune that featured a tasty Homme guitar solo. After a monologue about having a job, no matter what is, he rejoined the audience for new song “Sunday,” a chugging pop rocker driven by a danceable groove and a pair of 12-string guitars. The band stayed with Depression for the slow, gnarly “German Days,” before revisiting The Idiot for the even slower and more metallic “Mass Production.” Iggy then took a seat (briefly) as the groove moved into hipswinging territory for The Idiot’s classic “Nightclubbing,” a sarcastic swipe at disco culture that boasted some incendiary Homme solos. A chunky guitar riff announced the arrival of “The Passenger,” another acknowledged classic and an opportunity for the audience to sing along with its “la la” chorus. Iggy and company finished the main set with “China Girl,” a passionate cut from The Idiot made famous in the 80s by its co-author Bowie and brought home by an extended instrumental coda.

After a break to let the audience breathe, the band came back for one of the most generous encores in our history. “Break Into Your Heart,” the first song on the new album, kicked it off, Iggy making another pilgrimage into the crowd. “This is a good one!” he said as preface to the irresistibly danceable “Fall in Love With Me,” a Lust deep cut. Then it was straight into a real surprise – the hard-rocking title track to the beloved cult film Repo Man. Iggy returned to Depression for the soon-to-be classic single “Gardenia,” a song that sounds like it could have been co-written by Bowie all those years ago. He went back to those actual years for the William Burroughs-inspired “Baby,” a song from The Idiot he sang for only the second time since he recorded it. Back to the latest album, Iggy introduced the groovy “Chocolate Drops” with a reminiscence of playing Austin’s Club Foot and the adage, “When you get to the bottom you’re near the top.”  He and the band then went straight into the epic “Paraguay,” punctuated by power chords and a cheerfully profane Iggy rant. Lust For Life’s raucous “Success” closed out the show on a celebratory note, with Iggy making his final trip into the crowd, who sang along lustily during the call-and-response chorus. The audience went wild as Iggy waved, ending the show on the same high with which it began. It was one of the most fun and memorable season opening tapings we’ve ever had, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it broadcasts this fall on PBS.