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.

Encore: Eric Church

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits proudly presents an hour with country sensation Eric Church. Church has blazed his own trail to superstardom and now makes his ACL debut with his signature brand of no-holds-barred country music.

Famous for a game-changing live show, Church performs songs from his critically-acclaimed, chart-topping 2014 album The Outsiders in his ACL debut.  The music rebel’s distinctively hard-rocking spin on country, influenced as much by AC/DC and Metallica as Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, has earned him a huge audience outside the confines of country radio.  Church appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone this year and was named one of their “50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now.” NPR raves, “Eric Church is working on a level that few other country artists of his generation can touch.”

“This is gonna be fun,” says the North Carolina native, clearly enjoying his first visit to the ACL stage. Church’s appearance is a twelve-song tour-de-force that presents the performer at the top of his game. Delivering a host of hits in his trademark aviators, Church’s crowd-pleasing set is filled with anthems about youth, family and outliers that ignite through songwriting skill, powerful riffs and energetic vocals. Highlights include the rebellious “The Outsiders”, the autobiographical title track “Sinners Like Me” from his 2006 debut and the Grammy-nominated anthem “Springsteen” from his 2011 breakthrough Chief, with the Austin audience providing the “whoa-ohs” of the chorus. Church brings it all home solo, showcasing his softer side with the heartfelt set-closing ballad “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young.”

photo by Scott Newton

“Eric and his band know how to rock harder than many rock ‘n roll bands,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “and his music and the words behind it have a way of reaching fans way beyond the usual borders of country music. He’s a perfect fit for ACL.”

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: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell.

Encore: Tweedy

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a Season 40 highlight—the return of ACL veteran Jeff Tweedy for a very special hour of music. The Wilco leader showcases his new solo project Tweedy, joined by son Spencer and their special guests, as they perform a mix of new songs and Wilco classics.

As a longtime favorite son of ACL, it’s only fitting that Jeff Tweedy returns to the ACL stage with his own son for the show’s milestone 40th anniversary season. The esteemed singer-songwriter has appeared on ACL four times previously with his main outfit Wilco, starting back in Season 25.  This new installment marks his first-ever solo outing for ACL, accompanied by his 18-year-old son Spencer Tweedy on drums, with lush harmonies from Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of the band Lucius.

“It took me 18 years to have a solo record because I had to grow a drummer,” jokes Tweedy to the ACL audience, as the father-son team begin the strikingly intimate hour with songs from the critically-acclaimed 2014 release Sukierae. In a recent four-star review, Rolling Stone hails the debut as “another tour de force from a guy who’s made a few.” Closing the five-song band set of new material with the new folk-rocker “Nobody Dies Anymore”, the Grammy-winning frontman treats the Austin crowd to a solo acoustic set of fan favorites from Wilco’s vast catalog including “Via Chicago” and “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”.  Tweedy also performs a spirited version of Austin songwriter Doug Sahm’s classic “Give Back the Key to My Heart”, a song he recorded more than twenty years ago as a member of the legendary Uncle Tupelo. The episode comes to a captivating close with Jeff Tweedy taking the stage solo for a powerful rendition of Wilco’s “Misunderstood”.

photo by Scott Newton

“This show has special meaning for all of us at ACL,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “A few years ago I introduced Wilco from the stage as the band that best sums up everything that Austin City Limits is all about. Jeff Tweedy continues to be one of the most creative voices in modern music, and together with his son they continue to build on two incredible legacies – his and ours!”

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: Eric Church.

Encore: Los Lobos and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents true American originals—the legendary Los Lobos and folk rock wonders Thao & The Get Down Stay Down. Los Lobos return to the ACL stage for their fifth appearance, while innovator Thao Nguyen and her band The Get Down Stay Down make their ACL debut. Music mavericks with far-reaching influences, both acts exemplify ACL’s outstanding legacy of “Great Music, No Limits.”

More than forty years into their run, Los Lobos are one of America’s great rock ‘n roll bands. The influential and enduring East L.A. band return to the ACL stage celebrating their recent 40th anniversary alongside ACL’s. “Los Lobos are still one of America’s best, bravest, and most satisfying bands, and their skills and their instincts remain razor-sharp,” raves AllMusic. After four decades together the beloved band continue to create music that resonates with audiences around the world, and the three-time GRAMMY winning group will be honored this year with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Latin Recording Academy. Opening their ACL set with the fan favorite “La Pistola y el Corazon”, the group perform highlights from their vast catalog. The crowd-pleasing performance displays their world-class musicianship, as the veteran rockers perform their signature style of “Chicano rock” with an eclectic set of rock ‘n roll, country, folk, R&B, blues and norteño music. The group close out the masterful set with “Mas y Mas”, joined by Austin’s own Grupo Fantasma on horns, showing great music is universal.

“Los Lobos and ACL have always felt like kindred spirits,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “We share the same impulse towards originality, experimentation and fun with music. They’re still one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands in America!”

photo by Scott Newton

Led by enigmatic singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen, the San Francisco-based Thao & the Get Down Stay Down have built a devoted following based on their spirited live shows and their catalog of smart, genre-blending indie rock. The band’s ACL debut features them performing songs from their 2013 release We the Common. The group’s blend of rhythms and Thao’s folk-influenced fingerpicking give the band a distinctive sound that truly makes it stand out from the pack. Bandleader Thao’s natural exuberance and wide-ranging songwriting acumen make for a joyful, must-see ACL appearance. The band close out the scorching set with the singalong folk pop of “We the Common,” with the Austin crowd happy to oblige.

“Thao is a true artist for the 21st century,” says Lickona. “Her influences are wide-ranging, and her live performances are mesmerizing and infectious!”

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: Tweedy.