Encore: Chris Stapleton and Turnpike Troubadours

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a scorcher of an encore: country superstar Chris Stapleton, riding country’s hottest hand with a trio of acclaimed, chart-topping albums and a trio of 2018 Grammy Awards, sharing an episode with one of roots music’s most revered acts, red-dirt country-rockers Turnpike Troubadours.

After years penning hits for some of Nashville’s biggest acts, singer, songwriter and guitarist Chris Stapleton took the country world by storm in 2015 with his multi-platinum, double Grammy-winning debut Traveller. Just three years later, Stapleton is the reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, and a five-time Grammy winner, taking a trio of top honors at this year’s ceremony, including Album of the Year for From A Room: Volume 1. The Kentucky native delivers a powerhouse ACL debut with a blistering six-song set fueled by his show-stopping voice, searing guitar and stellar songwriting. Opening with “Hard Livin’,” from his latest, the companion album From A Room: Volume 2, Stapleton follows with an early hit, the crowd-favorite folk-rambler “Traveller.” Joined by wife Morgane on harmony vocals, the couple wrap their voices around each other for the spellbinding gut-punch “Fire Away,” revealing a powerful onstage intimacy, and the pair dazzle on blowtorch stunner “Second One To Know.” Standing solo and acoustic for “Whiskey and You,” the country outlier brings the room to hushed silence pierced only by scattered whoops from the audience between verses. Stapleton closes out the masterful set with the breakout hit from his debut, Southern soul-burner “Tennessee Whiskey,” unleashing the full power of his scorching vocals and earning multiple standing ovations from the can’t-get-enough crowd.

Road-tested country rockers Turnpike Troubadours topped the red-dirt touring circuit this past decade, earning legions of fans the old-fashioned way, through word-of-mouth for their rousing live shows anchored by frontman Evan Felker’s singular songwriting. Their acclaimed new release A Long Way From Your Heart has launched the Oklahoma sextet onto the national stage, and the band opens their ACL debut with the album’s lead song “The Housefire.” The Troubadours perform a six-song, career-spanning set with Felker’s trademark character-driven tunes exploding behind rowdy strings. Throughout their four albums, the band has used a running cast of characters to weave a narrative for their dedicated fans with songs that chronicle the highs, hangovers and heartbreaks of Middle America. “Tell everyone in Austin I love y’all to death” yells Felker during the blazing crowd-pleaser “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead.” Steel guitarist Hank Early switches to a Dobro for an acoustic duet with Felker on “Diamonds and Gasoline.” Felker calls out to bring the band back for set-closer “Something To Hold Onto,” as the ace musicians ignite in a three-way solo blaze of glory with Early, lead guitarist Ryan Engleman and fiddler Kyle Nix.

photo by Scott Newton

“We take pride in bringing the best of the best of every genre to our audience, and Chris Stapleton is at the top of his game right now,” said ACL executive producer, Terry Lickona. “Few bands on the scene, if any, deliver a better live experience than Turnpike Troubadours, and this show makes you feel like you’re right on the front line.”

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 rap superstars Run the Jewels.

Encore: Dan Auerbach and Shinyribs

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a feel-good hour featuring Black Keys superstar Dan Auerbach, performing songs from his acclaimed solo album Waiting On A Song and joined by a stellar band of legendary Nashville musicians, in a double-bill with Austin’s country-soul juggernaut Shinyribs.

Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach takes a break from his main outfit, the eight-time Grammy-winning Black Keys, and returns to the ACL stage to showcase songs from his radiant solo release Waiting On A Song. Conceived in his adopted hometown of Nashville with an all-star cast of Music Row’s finest musicians, NPR raves “Each track on Waiting On A Song sparkles like a long-lost gem of early-’70s AM radio.” The restless creative and his ace seven-piece backing crew, featuring many of the record’s legendary silver-haired sidemen, perform a blissed-out seven-song ACL set.  Highlights include a pair of timeless tunes co-written with songwriting icon John Prine: the buoyant set-opening title track and an unrecorded gem, “Somewhere Between Eau Claire and East Moline.” In old-school soul revue style, Auerbach introduces his own Easy Eye Sound label signee, 63-year old soul singer Robert Finley, who takes center stage to deliver a dose of his show-stopping “Medicine Woman.” Auerbach closes out the sparkling set with the sunny, melodic delight “Shine On Me” and the crowd is happy to sing-along.

Swamp-pop band Shinyribs keep the party going, delivering a high-energy, full-throttle four-song tour de force in one of the most entertaining performances on the ACL stage. Flamboyant frontman Kevin Russell, aka the “shaman of soul,” is no stranger to legions of music fans as the former leader of beloved Austin band The Gourds (who appeared on ACL in 2007). Russell has ramped up the showmanship in Shinyribs, and the East Texas rockers have become one of Austin’s favorite live acts since forming in 2010. The eight-piece outfit is a party machine, complete with horns, back-up singers and dancers. Performing songs from across their four albums, powerhouse singer Russell is a bigger-than-life force of nature with stage theatrics as lively as the music, delivering delightful repartee, guitar solos, enviable dance moves, call-and-response with back-up singers the Shiny Soul Sisters, all while whipping up a brew of Texas country soul with a side of hip-shaking swamp-funk. The band’s trio of onstage dancers –  dubbed the “Riblets” – drape the frontman in a glittery silver robe tricked-out with colorful flashing lights for the roof-raising set-closer “East Texas Rust” as Russell wails on electric guitar. You in Texas baby.

photo by Scott Newton

“You can’t not watch this show without feeling good afterwards,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Dan Auerbach has five times more creative energy than anyone with half his credits! And ‘seeing is believing’ with Shinyribs. Kevin Russell goes above-and-beyond to ‘Keep Austin Weird’!”

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 another encore, featuring African powerhouse Angelique Kidjo.

Encore: Gary Clark Jr. and Courtney Barnett

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases two of today’s most original and exciting live acts: Grammy-winning songwriter, vocalist and virtuoso guitarist Gary Clark Jr. and singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett. Two talked-about artists worthy of the buzz, both rising stars have gained recognition around the globe for their dynamic live shows.  

Austin’s Gary Clark Jr. arrives on ACL’s stage at the top of his game for his second headline performance, showcasing songs from the acclaimed new top-10 album The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. The young Texan has had a whirlwind ascent from the Austin club scene to earning slots on festival stages, on the road with superstars Foo Fighters and his own headlining tours. The LA Times hailed him “the most exciting blues-based experimentalist since Jack White.” Clark writes another chapter to his story with this appearance, firmly establishing himself as a sonic force of nature in a confident, blazing five-song set filled with searing, soulful new songs. The guitar phenom opens with a new album highlight “Grinder” and demonstrates his astonishing musical chops with scorching renditions of the deeply personal originals. Closing the thrilling set with the uplifting, gospel-infused anthem “Healing,” Clark sings with newfound passion, owning the ACL stage and receiving a heartfelt standing ovation.

Australian singer/songwriter and guitarist Courtney Barnett released one of the most arresting music debuts in years, 2015’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, and received critical acclaim in spades: Rolling Stone hails Barnett “one of rock’s most beguiling young stars and deftest lyricists,” calling the album “2015’s sharpest debut.” Paste says she’s “one of the most charming, whipsmart performers currently touring the world,” and NPR raves “the new album will thrill any fan of smart, biting guitar driven rock,” calling her “the best lyricist in rock music today.”  Spin calls it “one of the most thrilling albums you’ll hear this year,” and hails the garage rocker a “goddamn rock star.”  Riding the wave of media acclaim, Barnett proves she has the talent to match in her standout ACL debut. The six-song set is a great introduction to her signature style: mixing straightforward, four-chord crunch with witty, often hilarious, occasionally heartbreaking observations with unflinching self-assessment. Aided by her tight band featuring bassist Bones Sloane and drummer Dave Mudie, she brings the ACL set to a crashing close with the crowd-favorite single “Pedestrian at Best,” proving she’s nothing of the sort, but one of the most distinctive and compelling new voices in modern rock.

photo by Scott Newton

“Gary Clark Jr. and Courtney Barnett are the rock stars of tomorrow, if not today, and they’re doing it the old-fashioned way – with their guitars,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “They are both blazing different trails, but they are totally original, and that’s why this makes for such a great double bill!”

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. Next week: high-powered rock and soul from Alabama Shakes and Vintage Trouble.

Encore: Father John Misty and The Black Angels

Father John Misty on Austin City Limits ©️KLRU photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a deep dive into the unconventional with two acts whose music provides a soundtrack to uncertain times: indie sensation Father John Misty in his ACL debut and modern psych-rockers The Black Angels in a return appearance.

Father John Misty, the pseudonym for the singer-songwriter also known as Josh Tillman, dazzles in his 5-song debut, offering a fascinating glimpse of one of today’s most charismatic artists. The indie-rock provocateur performs songs from his latest, Pure Comedy, a 2018 Grammy nominee for Best Alternative Album. Hailed “a sprawling masterwork” by NPR, the New York Times called it “an ideal album for the era of outrage.” Father John delivers an epic performance filled with his dry wit and keen insights on religion, fame, social media, technology and the overall state of humanity, backed by a 16-piece orchestra, including a full string and horn section. For the set-closer, the sweetly cynical “I Love You, Honeybear” (title track from his 2015 sophomore album), the magnetic bandleader playfully dances with the mic stand and waltzes offstage to embrace the crowd, a cult leader for the ages, as the audience sings along for an ecstatic climax.

Since forming in Austin in 2004, The Black Angels have become standard-bearers for modern psych-rock. The New York Times raves they “play psychedelic rock as if the 1960s never ended, and they are absolute masters of it.” The quintet debuted on ACL in 2013 and make their return appearance with a charged set of songs from their first full-length release in four years, the acclaimed Death Song. NPR raves, “The Black Angels have delivered an enormous and frighteningly timely fifth album full of uniquely trippy anthems to oblivion.” Frontman Alex Maas’ keening vocals channel 21st century outrage on hypnotic set opener “Currency,” which pillories our capitalism-above-all-else society. Surrounded by screens swirling with kaleidoscopic images, the music serves as part protest, part emotional catharsis in a climate dominated by division, anxiety and unease, anchored by cutting wordplay and the distorted fuzz of menacing guitars.

“‘These are perilous times,’ somebody once wrote, and writing songs that define or defy today’s times can be a perilous exercise,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Nobody does it better than Josh Tillman and Alex Maas. They infuse their songs with a musical urgency that is really hypnotic. The impact of their two sets together makes this a unique ACL episode.”

The Black Angels on Austin City Limits ©️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. Tune in next week for another encore episode, featuring Americana giants Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires.

Encore: The Head and The Heart and Benjamin Booker

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases two standout acts featured on this year’s namesake ACL Festival: The Head and the Heart and Benjamin Booker. Both acts are highlights on the touring circuit, drawing raves for soulful live performances.

Seattle folk-rock band The Head and the Heart make their second ACL appearance with a luminous performance featuring songs from their newest release Signs of Light. The indie favorites are one of live music’s biggest draws, with high-profile 2017 festival appearances including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk in addition to Austin’s own ACL Festival. The sextet deliver an uplifting, singalong set filled with new musical touchstones including “All We Ever Knew” and “City of Angels.” A moving cover of “Hunger Strike” honoring late Seattle icon Chris Cornell is a set highlight, rich with three-part harmonies. The band bring the passionate set to a glorious close with the soaring “River and Roads” from their 2011 self-titled debut, a fan favorite.

Florida-raised, New Orleans-based guitarist and singer-songwriter Benjamin Booker delivers a raw, impassioned ACL debut packed with songs from his acclaimed 2017 album Witness and his 2014 self-titled breakout debut. Opening with his rocking radio hit “Violent Shiver,” the twenty-eight year old phenom draws on soul, blues and gospel, showcasing stirring soul-rockers “Carry,” “The Slow Drag Under” and “Believe” backed by a gospel choir. A powerful performance of his Civil Rights anthem “Witness” combines Booker’s husky, soulful voice with a profound message on racism in America. 

“The Head and the Heart and Benjamin Booker are prime examples of artists who just keep getting better,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Rather than finding a groove and just staying with it, they are constantly searching for new ways to express their voices, and new sounds to go along with them. The end result can be surprising but always inspiring.”

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 another encore episode, featuring jazz singer Cassandra Wilson performing a tribute to Billie Holiday.

 

Encore: The Pretenders

The Pretenders - photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits rocks on with a hit-filled hour starring the great Pretenders in their first-ever appearance on the ACL stage. The legendary rock band sends a message of love to viewers with an eleven-song hit parade.

Influential punk new-wave veterans the Pretenders are in fighting form as they kick off an electrifying hour with new classic “Alone,” a swagger-fueled gem that fits right into the band’s canon, and the title track from their first album in almost a decade. Iconic bandleader Chrissie Hynde informs the crowd, “You don’t have to be polite, because we don’t plan to be.” The defiant frontwoman commands the stage, showcasing her still-radiant voice in a career-spanning performance featuring fan-favorites including “Back On The Chain Gang,” “My City Was Gone,” “Mystery Achievement,” and “Middle of the Road.” Pretenders’ trademark tough and tender lyrics resonate as they did when the band arrived on the London scene in 1978. Hynde fondly introduces original member Martin Chambers as “the world’s greatest rock drummer,” as he plays the stirring intro of “Message Of Love.” The band caps the powerhouse set with their signature hit “Brass In Pocket,” as Hynde pulls a spellbound fan onstage to join her on the timeless tune.

“One thing that hasn’t changed in almost 40 years,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “Chrissie Hynde is still a badass! There’s no doubt about who’s in charge, and musically her voice still rings as clear and strong as ever. Whether you’re an old fan or a newbie, this is a show for the ages.”

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 of expert songwriting and soulful singing with Norah Jones and Angel Olsen.

Encore: Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band ©️KLRU photo by Scott Newton

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.

Encore: Florence + the Machine and Andra Day

photo by Scott Newton

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.