Encore: Jim James and The Black Angels

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits explores new sonic directions in a double bill with Jim James and Austin’s own Black Angels. My Morning Jacket leader Jim James plays songs from his acclaimed debut solo album Regions of Light and Sound of God while Texas psych-rockers The Black Angels highlight songs from their latest release Indigo Meadow.

The versatile Jim James commands a spellbinding set in his first-ever solo outing on ACL, marking his sixth appearance on the program—having performed twice with his main outfit My Morning Jacket, in addition to appearances with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk. Declaring his solo project a “new adventure,” James invites the Austin audience to come on the journey with him, and they are more than happy to oblige. He reaches into new territory in an intimate and hypnotic performance that combines hints of old school R&B, flickers of hip hop, operatic pop and delicate instrumentation. James and his four-piece band open with the 70s soul of “State of the Art” and “Know Til Now” and segue into the spiritual love song “A New Life” and the atmospheric “Actress.” It’s a captivating and completely danceable set, with James himself getting in the groove while holding a bronze panda up and adding his own sliding dance steps.

“Jim James has found many ways to pursue his musical muse, and it’s amazing that this is his very first solo album,” notes ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “What better way to bring it to his legions of fans than ACL?”

photo by Scott Newton

Carrying on the long Texas tradition of psychedelia, Austin’s Black Angels round out the episode, making their long-awaited ACL debut with their unique brand of psychedelic music for the 21st century. It’s a fitting showcase for ACL, as the psych rock movement has its roots in the Lone Star State thanks to 60s acid-rock heroes the 13th Floor Elevators, who were the first band to apply the term psychedelic to rock & roll. Named in tribute to the Velvet Underground number “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” The Black Angels found themselves the spearhead of a new psychedelic revival soon after their formation in 2004. The band’s carefully crafted blend of melody and noise won over fans of both modern indie rock and old school acid rock, and established it as a major force in underground rock & roll, even starting its own festival in 2008, Austin Psych Fest (now known as Levitation). Opening with the heavy duty headbanger “Evil Things,” the Angels create a dark, brooding mood with their trademark vocal reverb and fuzzy, distorted guitars on a stage complete with fun-house optic, psychedelic images swirling on projection screens. The Black Angels take the Austin crowd into the psychedelic heart of darkness and back out into the light, proving why they have become one of the foremost acts in the psych and garage rock revival.

“Whether you remember 60’s acid-rock first-hand or this is your first ‘psych’ experience, The Black Angels have taken a classic rock form and turned it into their own,” Lickona says. “It’s got an other-worldly vibe but at the same time it’s totally accessible.”

Check out the episode page here and tune in this Saturday to see the show for yourself. Click over to our Facebook and Twitter pages or our newsletter for the latest ACL skinny. Next week: Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear.


Encore: Ed Sheeran and Valerie June

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents two innovative singer-songwriters: UK sensation Ed Sheeran and rising star Valerie June. Ed Sheeran makes his ACL debut in a must-see episode that features the breakout star performing his entire set solo. Sheeran exudes the raw talent that has made him a worldwide superstar, with charged versions of hits from his landmark debut and new songs from the chart-topping follow-up release. Acclaimed Southern singer-songwriter Valerie June shares the bill, making a captivating ACL debut with her starry-eyed roots music.  

Ed Sheeran brings his A-game in his ACL debut, with a remarkable one-man solo performance that demonstrates why he’s one of music’s most popular live performers.  Clad in an ACL t-shirt, the 23 year-old three-time Grammy nominee performs his  breakthrough hits “The A Team,” “Lego House” and songs from his new release x.  With an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal as his only accompaniment, Sheeran creates a perfectly balanced mix of hip-hop and acoustic balladry. He showcases the honest songwriting and vocals that have earned him legions of fans across the globe.  Closing out the crowd-pleasing set, Sheeran leads the rapturous audience in an epic sing-along of his hit “Sing,” with the Austin crowd still chanting as Sheeran leaves the stage.

Striking Southern singer-songwriter Valerie June makes her first appearance on the ACL stage performing songs from her luminous debut Pushin’ Against a Stone. The Washington Post raves of the release: “Shades of Nina Simone, Dolly Parton and blueswomen of decades past flicker throughout; you can easily picture it crackling out from a timeworn record player.” The Tennessee native’s heartfelt sound and beautifully timeless voice have earned her critical raves and a 2014 Americana Awards nomination for emerging artist. With one foot in country blues, the other in mountain folk music and her head in the stars, June and her band conjure a distinctive brand of genre-blending that she calls “organic moonshine roots music” for a memorable ACL debut.

photo by Scott Newton

“In some ways, Ed Sheeran and Valerie June are as different as night and day,” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona, “but they are both distinctly original in their music. Through their intimately personal songs and unique onstage personas, they represent everything that Austin City Limits is all about.”

Tune in this Saturday 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 goodies. Next week: Jim James and The Black Angels.

Encore: ACL Hall of Fame 2015

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a special encore featuring musical highlights and tributes from the 2015 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. Hosted by Dwight Yoakam on June 18, 2015, this unique special showcases one-of-a-kind performances and collaborations from the ACL Hall of Fame celebration, honoring the artists who’ve helped make the award-winning tv series an American music institution.  An all-star line-up including Lyle Lovett, Jason Isbell, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam, Gillian Welch and more come together for one night to perform in honor of the newest class of inductees: Asleep at the Wheel, Guy Clark, Flaco Jiménez, Loretta Lynn and Townes Van Zandt.   

ACL reaches back to its roots with a show-opening tribute to country trailblazer Loretta Lynn, who first appeared on the series in 1983. Country singer Patty Loveless, also a coal miner’s daughter, pays tribute to the living legend, and is joined by Vince Gill for a spirited duet of the Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn classic “After the Fire Is Gone.” Lynn accepts her honor saying “Texas has always been so good to me. They fed me when my kids was hungry. They fed me when I was hungry.” Lyle Lovett takes the stage to honor Texas songwriting legend Guy Clark, saying “He is my friend.  He is my hero,” with a stunning reading of the first song Clark ever wrote: “Step Inside This House.” Acclaimed singer-songwriter  Jason Isbell performs a moving solo rendition of a Clark classic, “Desperados Waiting For A Train.”  

Superstar Tex-Mex accordionist Flaco Jiménez makes a joyous show-stopping cameo during his own tribute, joining Dwight Yoakam, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and conjunto masters Los Texmaniacs to show off his nimble accordion style. The late, great Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt, who first appeared in ACL’s debut season in 1975, is honored beautifully in acoustic performances by roots outfit Gillian Welch and British singer-songwriter Laura Marling. Austin’s own Asleep at the Wheel, who performed on the very first episode of ACL in 1975, are inducted by longtime fan Vince Gill, who joins the Western swing institution for a lively take on their early recording “Take Me Back to Tulsa.”

The special comes to a perfect close with the night’s entire cast returning to the ACL stage for a grand finale, trading verses on a Townes Van Zandt classic, “White Freightliner Blues.”

photo by Gary Miller

“We created our own Hall of Fame as part of our 40th anniversary last year to recognize and celebrate those artists who were there in the beginning and helped make Austin City Limits what it is today,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “The annual event is a unique showcase for some amazing performances and emotional moments, and we’re thrilled to be able to capture it all to bring to our fans at home.”

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 with Ed Sheeran and Valerie June.

Encore: Tom Waits

Tom Waits. KLRU photo by Scott Newton

The Tom Waits episode of Austin City Limits is one of the most requested shows in our 40-year archive. Recorded in December 1978, the show features the iconoclastic singer/songwriter supporting his classic LP Blue Valentine and deep in the transitional phase of his career, evolving out of the jazzy beat poetry of his early work (“I Wish I Was in New Orleans”) and into the bluesier, more dissonant sounds (“Sweet Little Bullet From a Pretty Blue Gun”) for which he became known in the 80s and beyond. He acknowledged the season with the streetwise but lovely “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis,” which incorporates a few bars of a better-known Xmas hymn. And he debuted “On the Nickel,” one of his greatest ballads, and which wouldn’t be released on record until Heartattack and Vine in 1980.

You can check out the episode page for pics, the set list and the original liner notes for the episode. Don’t forget to visit our Facebook and Twitter pages and/or sign up for our newsletter for the latest news on ACL happenings. Next week: Phoenix.

Encore: Emeli Sandé and Michael Kiwanuka

photo by Scott Newton

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: an ACL classic with Tom Waits.

Encore: Portugal. The Man and Michael Kiwanuka

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents Portugal. The Man and Local Natives in their ACL debuts.  

Portugal. The Man‘s roots are in Wasilla, Alaska, but their music knows no bounds. The shape-shifting psych-rock band’s latest release Evil Friends was produced by five-time Grammy Award winner Danger Mouse (The Black Keys, Gnarls Barkley) and P.TM draw heavily from the record in a stellar ACL debut. Opening with “Evil Friends”, the band weave the title track into the widescreen coda of “So American.” The band’s chemistry and spontaneity has generated a huge following for their live shows, and is evident in their ACL set, with frontman John Gourley stopping mid-song during “Senselesss” to admit “I got really nervous,” before effortlessly picking up where he left off. The band’s guitar-centric performance of their chart-topping single “Modern Jesus” incorporates a subtle Beatles feel, updating classic 60s psych pop for a new generation. P. TM begin their set closing hit “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” with the first verse and chorus of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” a mashup that works wonderfully due to the similarity between the rhythm guitar parts and illustrates P. TM’s entrancing sound and style that’s all their own.

“You could almost call this an accidental booking,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “I knew their music, but when I caught their live set at the ACL Festival, I was so impressed that I booked them immediately. Three weeks later they were on our stage taping a show! They are that good—see for yourself!”

photo by Scott Newton

Sharing the bill is something new and original from Los Angeles—Local Natives. The Silverlake-based band formed in 2008 and immediately garnered attention for their dramatic and eclectic brand of indie-rock. Local Natives have been steadily building a loyal, passionate audience ever since and have toured with Arcade Fire and The National. The National’s Aaron Dessner produced their recent sophomore release Hummingbird. A highlight of their ACL set is the profoundly emotional performance of “Colombia” with lyrics written to bandmember Kelcey Ayer’s deceased mother, which Pitchfork hailed “one of the best songs the band’s ever written.” In their ACL debut, the band trade vocal duties and foster a highly collaborative sound, proving why they’re one of the most dynamic bands in contemporary indie rock.

“There are few bands that can take wild drumming, soaring harmonies and dreamy melodies and make musical sense out of it all,” says Terry Lickona. “Local Natives can do all that and more. This is serious music for serious music fans.”

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 goodies. Next week: Emeli Sandé and Michael Kiwanuka.

Encore: Jason Isbell and Neko Case

photo by Scott Newton

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.

You can see Isbell’s performance in its unedited entirety on the DVD Jason Isbell: Live at Austin City Limits. You can purchase a copy here.

“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.”

photo by Scott Newton

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.

“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: Portugal. The Man and Local Natives.

Encore: Sarah Jarosz and The Milk Carton Kids

photo by Scott Newton

Join us this weekend as we present Americana music originals Sarah Jarosz and The Milk Carton Kids in a brand new episode. Both artists showcase their bona fides in an all acoustic hour with roots/folk singer-songwriter Jarosz making a return appearance on the ACL stage and newcomers The Milk Carton Kids in their ACL debut. The episode showcases the young folk acts who were both nominated for Best Folk Album at this year’s Grammy Awards.

Pushing the limits of Americana with her own distinctive style, multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz takes the ACL stage for her second appearance performing highlights from her recent album Build Me Up From Bones. The incredibly talented Jarosz has already released three albums at the age of 22. With her two-piece band featuring a fiddle player and cello, Jarosz begins a stellar set with the Grammy-nominated title track in an acoustic performance that showcases her musicianship and songwriting. Switching between mandolin and banjo, Jarosz also dips into the songbooks of others, treating the audience to an accessible take on Joanna Newsom’s “The Book of Right On” and a solo rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Kathy’s Song”. She invites The Milk Carton Kids out to join her and the band for “Annabelle Lee” (based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem), displaying their complementary visions of contemporary folk music.

“We are so proud of Sarah, we feel like she’s part of the family,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “The last time she graced our stage she was on her way to college, now she’s graduated with honors and her remarkable talent has grown exponentially. We couldn’t resist having her back!”

photo by Scott Newton

The Milk Carton Kids, the L.A. acoustic folk duo consisting of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, make their ACL debut playing songs from their critically-acclaimed new album The Ash & Clay. The besuited pair “play a sweetly dazzling variation on close-harmony vocals, part Simon and Garfunkel and part Everly Brothers” (LA Times) for a sound NPR calls “gorgeous contemporary folk.” With flat-picking harmonies and a touch of twisted humor, the duo play purely acoustically on the ACL stage—no guitar amplification and one vocal mic—to beautiful effect. In a skillful performance infused with their signature wit, the Kids charm the Austin crowd with their playful, deadpan banter, exquisite guitar work, rich harmonies and timeless folk.

“I first saw Kenneth and Joey perform on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium last September, and it was obvious that they are world-class entertainers beyond their years,” says Lickona. “They are traditionalists with a modern spin and a mischievous sense of humor.”

photo by Scott Newton

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 goodness. Next week: Kacey Musgraves and Dale Watson.