Janelle Monáe delivers a show-stopping Season 44 episode

Austin City Limits presents one of today’s most celebrated artists, Janelle Monáe, in a thrilling new hour of euphoric funk.  The award-winning singer, songwriter, performer, producer, activist and actor showcases songs from her widely acclaimed Dirty Computer in a must-see episode.

Monáe stole the show at this year’s namesake ACL Festival; now the visionary funk songstress delivers a show-stopping master class for her Austin City Limits debut, featuring songs from her third solo album, Dirty Computer, one of 2018’s most lauded releases.  Performing with a predominantly female ensemble, including a four-woman dance team, the Kansas City native slays in a breathtaking, eight-song set packed with exuberant choreography and elaborate costumes.  “I come in peace, but I mean business,” the powerhouse proclaims to the Austin audience. She performs Dirty Computer gems, singing the funky “Django Jane” refrain “Black girl magic, y’all can’t stand it,” atop a golden throne; the sizzling “Pynk,” a cleverly costumed celebration of female empowerment, and the sensual “Make Me Feel,” opening in silhouette to showcase her Michael Jackson and James Brown-inspired dance moves.  Saying “We love you, Prince,” Monáe pays tribute to her late mentor and collaborator with “Primetime,” from 2013’s The Electric Lady, as her guitarist evokes the unmistakable coda of the icon’s “Purple Rain.” She dazzles with back-to-back highlights from her Grammy-nominated 2010 debut The ArchAndroid, including her smash “Tightrope,” then wraps up her stunning ACL debut with a climactic “Come Alive.”

“The artistry of Janelle Monáe is stunning,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “She can do it all. There’s nobody else out there like her. I’ve never seen anybody like her on Austin City Limits – in over three decades, and that says a lot!”

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 an encore episode featuring singer/songwriters James Bay and Rhiannon Giddens.

Giveaway: Willie Nelson 11/19

UPDATE giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Willie Nelson on Monday, November 19th 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 noon on Thursday, November 15th.

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.

The modern Americana of Kacey Musgraves and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real on ACL 44

Austin City Limits showcases left-of-center country with Kacey Musgraves and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real in a new episode. Two-time Grammy Award-winning Kacey Musgraves returns for the first time since her 2014 appearance and roots rocker Lukas Nelson and his band Promise of the Real make their ACL debut.

One of country music’s most critically acclaimed singer-songwriters, Kacey Musgraves returns to the ACL stage with songs from Golden Hour, her third album, and a career highlight. The release has generated glowing reviews and recently earned a coveted Album of the Year nomination from the Country Music Association for the upcoming CMA Awards (on November 14), along with a nod for Musgraves as Female Vocalist of the Year. With a sequin-studded saddle suspended over the stage, the boundary-pushing country artist delivers a radiant seven-song set showcasing Golden Hour, opening with the lush “Slow Burn,” an introspective stunner reflecting the more personal direction of her latest collection. The East Texas native made a name for herself with her piercing observations and irreverent brand of country and reaches back to her 2013 breakthrough for the fan-favorite “Follow Your Arrow,” letting the crowd take over on the final verse. “Get on your roller skates Austin,” she instructs the rapt audience for the disco-fied set-closer “High Horse,” as Musgraves treats the crowd to some smooth moves, turning the ACL stage into her very own dance floor.

After more than a decade on the road barnstorming across the U.S.A. and around the world, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have developed into one of music’s most impressive live acts, earning a 2018 Group of the Year nomination from the Americana Music Awards. The band’s sound draws on many of Nelson’s influences including his own father, outlaw country icon Willie Nelson, and Neil Young, with whom the band has regularly toured and recorded in recent years. In their ACL debut, the six-piece outfit delivers on their promise with a powerhouse set filled with songs from their acclaimed self-titled album. Opening with the fierce rocker “Something Real,” the band showcase their bona fides segueing seamlessly into country heartbreaker “(Forget About) Georgia.” The Austin-born Nelson performs a sterling solo acoustic “Just Outside of Austin,” a crowd-pleaser steeped in the Texas singer-songwriter tradition, before closing out the set with the stirring social anthem “Turn Off the News” for a memorable ACL debut.

photo by Scott Newton

“Both Kacey Musgraves and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real represent the new generation of Country and Americana music,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “but their talents really transcend those traditional labels. What they both have in common is attitude – and lots of it!”

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 progressive soul artist Janelle Monáe.

Miguel and Alessia Cara spotlight contemporary R&B and pop in ACL’s 44th season

Austin City Limits presents an uplifting hour showcasing two standouts from the worlds of contemporary R&B and pop: Grammy Award-winning R&B phenom Miguel and hitmaker Alessia Cara in their ACL debuts. Miguel performs cuts from his acclaimed album War & Leisure and Alessia Cara, the 2018 Grammy Award-winning Best New Artist, shines with mega-hits and new songs.  

“I’ve watched many episodes of ACL and to be on this stage, this legendary stage, and share it with you tonight means the world to me,” says Miguel from behind his fringe-covered mic stand.  Los Angeles-raised, with black and Latino roots, the singer-songwriter—born Miguel Jontel Pimentel—is one of the most adventurous voices in contemporary R&B. A magnetic performer, he sends a message of love through a soaring set that inspires sing-alongs to his biggest hits.   Opening with fan-favorite “How Many Drinks?” from his 2012 breakthrough Kaleidoscope Dream, Miguel moves across the stage with style, showcasing his signature falsetto.  He delivers a solo acoustic version of the social consciousness anthem “Now,” saying, “I can’t think of a better time or more fitting place to sing this song…now is the time when we have to stop looking at other people for the answers and every day take a moment to do something ourselves to move things in a positive direction.”  Miguel closes out the thrilling set with his euphoric smash “Sky Walker,” chanting the refrain “You gotta stay up!” as the willing Austin audience is on their feet.

22-year-old pop breakout star Alessia Cara earned the coveted Grammy Award for Best New Artist this year,  and delivers a crowd-pleasing set of her irresistible songs in a sparkling ACL debut. The Toronto native catapulted onto the charts in late 2015 with her spellbinding smash “Here,” from her platinum debut album KNOW-IT-ALL.  Cara performs the number in her ACL set, saying “This is the first song I ever released, and it changed my life, so sing along,” even dropping a bonus new verse on the eager audience.  The vocal stunner performs show-stopping versions of the mega-hits that have earned her legions of fans, including her emotional ode to self-love, “Scars To Your Beautiful,” and “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney blockbuster Moana.  Her band exits the stage as she dons an acoustic guitar for a soulful solo performance of her new song “A Little More”.  With smoke effects and flying confetti, Cara closes the set with an ecstatic rendition of her #1 pop collaboration with renowned DJ/producer Zedd, “Stay,” sparking an instant crowd sing-along as she playfully urges the enthralled ACL crowd to jump along.

photo by Scott Newton

“Miguel and Alessia Cara represent the best of a new generation of contemporary singer-songwriters,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Rather than wallow in self-pity or self-indulgence, their songs aren’t afraid to confront the challenges and realities of life today, but always with hope for a better world.”

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 Americana stars Kacey Musgraves and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.

New tapings: Willie Nelson and August Greene

Austin City Limits is proud to announce the final two tapings of Season 44 – one with an old friend and the other featuring some new ones. On November 19, we welcome back an American music icon: Willie Nelson, who anchored the pilot episode of ACL back in 1975, returns for his eighteenth appearance on the program and his first headlining appearance in almost a decade. We’re also thrilled to report that this highly-anticipated homecoming will be live streamed worldwide direct from the ACL stage. On November 26, we open the stage for the first time to supergroup August Greene, the collective of rap superstar Common, jazz keyboardist/producer Robert Glasper and drummer/producer Karriem Riggins.

With a seven-decade career and two hundred-plus albums, Willie Nelson needs no introduction. A bronze statue of Nelson at the entrance to ACL’s studio home on the Austin street that bears his name, honors the Texas native.  He spearheaded the Outlaw country movement in the 1970s, and has since become a musical and cultural treasure whose artistic vision has held steady for over half a century. Inducted into the ACL Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2014, the Red Headed Stranger has earned every conceivable award as a musician and amassed reputable credentials as an author, actor, and activist.  With a staggering legacy of classic songs and enduring influence, the 85-year-old continues to tour regularly throughout North America. In recent years, he has delivered more than then twelve new album releases, released a Top 10 New York Times’ bestseller, again headlined Farm Aid (an event he co-founded in 1985), received his 5th degree black belt in Gong Kwon Yu Sul, headlined the last three years of the on-going Luck Reunion food and music festival during SXSW at his ranch in Luck, TX, announced the launch of his cannabis company Willie’s Reserve, and graced the cover of Rolling Stone. In 2015, the Library of Congress honored him with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song for his contributions to music – the first country artist ever to receive the distinguished award. 2016 brought the releases of the Grammy-winning Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, which debuted at #1 on both the Top Current Jazz chart and the Top Traditional Jazz chart, and For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price, an album of newly recorded interpretations.  Nelson also released Pretty Paper, a novel inspired by his classic holiday song of the same title. In 2017, he released God’s Problem Child, an album with thirteen new songs that debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Country album chart and #10 on the Billboard 200. Nelson continues his restless streak in 2018 releasing two LPs: the all-originals Last Man Standing and My Way, a collection of songs associated with Frank Sinatra. Nelson released a new single, “Vote ‘Em Out,” this October urging citizens across the country to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.  We are honored to welcome Willie Nelson back to “the house that Willie built” to carve his name in the ACL stage once again.

photo by B+

In early 2016, musicians and friends Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins found themselves in the studio, crafting the soulful backdrop of Common’s eleventh album Black America Again.  “It was such a real form of expression,” says Common. “It felt natural. We all have an affinity for great music.” As the trio created, they began to notice something different taking shape—something rooted in the warm R&B sounds of yesteryear but still very much in the present. It was soul music with a modern bounce, a jazz-rap hybrid in the spirit of A Tribe Called Quest. It fully encapsulated the black experience: the serenity and pain through which we channel gorgeous art, the beauty and struggle of simply trying to exist. Equally peaceful and profound, the music they captured laid the foundation for August Greene. The artists come to this project having reached major respective milestones over the years. Since 1992, the Chicago-born, Grammy-, Emmy- and Oscar-winning Common has uplifted listeners with his emotive blend of hip-hop and soul, releasing some of the genre’s greatest work. The four-time Grammy-winning Glasper, a Houston-born pianist/producer known for his esoteric mix of jazz, rock and soul, has long created music that defies expectation. Riggins, a Detroit native, is a world renowned percussionist and producer whose work can be heard on many modern recordings, including the Emmy-winning “Letter to the Free,” his collaboration with Common and Glasper for Selma director Ava Duvernay’s acclaimed documentary 13th. Featuring the singles “Black Kennedy” and “Optimistic,” which guest-stars R&B great Brandy, August Greene culminates years of mutual respect and friendship, channeling the musicians’ various talents into a cohesive project. The perfect marriage of jazz, hip-hop and soul, it’s music that just is, speaking to those pushing through the dark for brighter days, and a masterpiece from which virtue can shine.

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 versions will air on PBS in early 2019 as part of our Season 44.

Tony Joe White R.I.P.

Austin City Limits is saddened to learn of the sudden death of singer/songwriter Tony Joe White of a heart attack at 75.

The Louisiana native started playing music while still in high school, inspired to start writing songs after hearing Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.” “Polk Salad Annie,” his fifth single, reached the top ten in 1969 and was the herald of his distinctive swamp rock sound, a funky blend of blues, soul, country and rock & roll that took advantage of his wah-wah guitar and deep, growling voice. While he never gained that kind of chart standing again, he had plenty of success as a writer with classic songs “Rainy Night in Georgia” (B.J. Thomas, Brook Benton), “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” (Dusty Springfield), “Steamy Windows” (Tina Turner), “I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby” (Elvis Presley, who also recorded “Polk Salad Annie”) and “¾ Time” (co-written and performed by Ray Charles), along with many others. He appeared on Austin City Limits in 1981 with a wide-ranging survey of his brilliant catalog. White continued to tour and record throughout the decades, with his most recent LP Bad Mouthin’ released in September of this year.

Tony Joe White was one of a kind, a pioneering iconoclast who can never be replaced. Here he is from his episode of ACL with “Polk Salad Annie.”

Brandi Carlile brings uplift to ACL Season 44

Austin City Limits presents acclaimed singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile in a sparkling new hour. Carlile showcases her acclaimed By The Way, I Forgive You, her sixth studio album and a career high point, which has earned “Best of 2018” raves at NPR, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard and more.  The Seattle area native delivers a radiant performance marking her first return to the ACL stage since her 2010 debut in Season 36.  An outspoken social activist, Carlile dedicates her hit anthem “The Joke” to the marginalized, saying “This is a song for anybody that feels unloved or unaccepted or unnatural or illegal.” Joined by her longtime bandmates and songwriting partners Tim and Phil Hanseroth—twin brothers on guitar and bass—and augmented by a string quartet, the hour is an emotional tour de force.  She introduces “Most Of All” saying “We’re gonna sing you a song about your first love—your parents,” in a gorgeous salute to acceptance in family dynamics.  A set highlight is a solo acoustic version of “The Mother,” a poignant song that grapples with her recent entry into motherhood with signature frankness, featuring a surprise onstage visit from her 4-year-old daughter.  Carlile closes the cathartic hour on piano with the declaration of love, “Party Of One;” a blissful show stopper as the strings play her offstage.

“Brandi Carlile has that uncanny ability to channel universal emotions that are part of life’s highs and lows into a song,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Her voice alone is like a salve that soothes. Her performance on this show is nothing short of uplifting!”

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 contemporary R&B artists Miguel and Alessia Cara.

ACL Hall of Fame 2018 taping an emotional, exciting evening

It goes without saying that an ACL Hall of Fame taping is something special. The combination of ACL greats being saluted by their peers and fans always makes for an emotional, exciting evening. For the HOF’s fifth anniversary, we were privileged to honor Austin blues icon Marcia Ball, East L.A. rock pioneers Los Lobos and the late American music giant Ray Charles. With an all-star roster of talent to celebrate these tremendous artists’ work, it’s no wonder the Hall of Fame is something we look forward to every year.

Following a delightful set of tunes from Austin’s own Mariachi Los Toros and remarks from KLRU-TV CEO Bill Stotesbery and ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, host Chris Isaak took the stage to introduce the first honoree: singing/songwriting/piano-pounding ATX veteran Marcia Ball. Inducted by her longtime friend and collaborator Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Ball gave a lovely speech that paid tribute to her inspirations (including Thomas), her family and band, and music charities HAAM, HOME and SIMS. She took her seat behind the piano and introduced Thomas and singer Tracy Nelson. Together the trio reprised their 1998 appearance on ACL with the joyful “Sing It,” the title track from their Grammy-nominated collaboration of the same name. The threesome went back to the blues for the shuffling “I Want to Do Everything For You,” from the same record. Ball then brought up her old friend and Austin treasure Lou Ann Barton, along with next-generation blues singers Shelley King and Carolyn Wonderland. Together the sextet paid tribute to Dreams Come True, the 1990 album Ball and Barton made with the sadly absent Angela Strehli, rolling through Ike Turner’s classic “Fool in Love.” Ball, King, Wonderland, Nelson and Thomas closed out the segment with the funky, uplifting “Shine Bright,” the title tune to Ball’s latest record, and proof that she’s as vital an artist now as she’s ever been.

Gary Clark Jr., Shelley King, Carolyn Wonderland and Ruthie Foster pay tribute to Ray Charles at HOF 2018; photo by Gary Miller

One quick set change later, Chris Isaak returned to introduce the next inductee, “one of the most important music artists in American music history,” the late, great Ray Charles. The genre-defiant musical giant nicknamed the Genius was inducted by Concord Records president John Burk, who produced Charles’ final album Genius Loves Company and told the story of proposing that album to Charles in his office. Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation, accepted the award as the house band and Norah Jones took the stage. Joined by former Ray Charles Orchestra keyboardist and musical director Dr. James Polk, the ivories-tickling singer opened with the quietly dramatic ballad “Seven Spanish Angels,” originally recorded in 1984 as a duet between Charles and Willie Nelson. Jones then reached back three decades to the mid-fifties for the blues ballad “What Would I Do Without You,” one of her favorite Charles tunes. Host Isaak came on to gracefully sing one of Charles’ iconic recordings: Don Gibson’s classic country tune “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Two of Austin’s own rounded out the tribute. Equally genre-agnostic singer and songwriter Ruthie Foster put her remarkable voice to the service of “Georgia On My Mind,” Hoagy Carmichael’s immortal standard that will forever be associated with Charles – though Foster’s gospel-influenced reading gave the master a run for his money. Foster remained onstage, joined by Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King, to back up blues rock star Gary Clark Jr., eschewing his trademark guitar slinging for a swaggering take on the sizzling “(Night Time is) the Right Time.” Isaak returned to praise house band director Lloyd Maines, who introduced the ACL All-Stars: guitarist David Grissom, organist Red Young, hornmen John Mills, Jon Blondell, Eric Burnheart and Adrian Ruiz, bassist Bill Whitbeck and drummer Tom Van Schaik.

Following an intermission, Isaak returned to introduce the night’s final honoree: one of America’s greatest, most versatile rock & roll bands, Los Lobos. Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez inducted the band, telling the story of how they scored his movie Desperado. Accepting the award, David Hidalgo talked about how the Austin musical royalty of the early eighties welcomed them to town. Then it was time for Los Lobos to do what it does best, as they picked up their instruments and launched right into “Will the Wolf Survive,” the song that took the rock underground by storm in 1984. Steel guitar master Robert Randolph then came on stage for “Don’t Worry Baby,” the blazing blues rocker that opens Lobos’ first album and a standard of their shows since. The band donned acoustic instruments for one of their catalog highlights – the title track of La Pistola y El Corazón, the group’s tribute to its Mexican-American roots. Then came what may have been a surprise to Los Lobos’ fanbase, as singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs arrived to join the band to add vocals and guitar to “Hearts of Stone,” a groovy, soulful Lobos classic.

Los Lobos, Boz Scaggs, Robert Rodriguez close HOF 2018 with “La Bamba”; photo by Gary Miller

Of course, Los Lobos couldn’t leave the stage without playing their biggest hit. But they didn’t do it alone, inviting all the night’s performers, plus Rodriguez and guitarist Adrian Quesada, up for a rousing “La Bamba,” with a big rock ending and plenty of streamers. You couldn’t ask for a better ending than that, and we can’t wait for you to see it when the ACL Hall of Fame 2018 Special airs on New Year’s Eve on your local PBS station.