Encore: Sleater-Kinney and Heartless Bastards

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents two of indie-rock’s finest in a must-see installment featuring Sleater-Kinney splitting the episode with Heartless Bastards.

Legendary punk group Sleater-Kinney make their inaugural appearance on the ACL stage armed with songs from their first new album in a decade, No Cities To Love. The surprise release landed on top of many 2015 year-end best lists including the New York Times’ Jon Pareles, who raved “Reunited for its first album in 10 years, Sleater-Kinney returns as joyfully rigorous as ever, sinewy and ready to grapple.” Consisting of guitarists/vocalists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein (also the co-creator/star of IFC’s Portlandia), and drummer Janet Weiss, the powerhouse trio came crashing out of the Pacific Northwest in the mid-90s, setting a new bar for punk’s political awareness and emotional impact. The seminal band perform a searing, musically thrilling, career-wide seven-song set with ferocious new material alongside classic anthems including “Dig Me Out,” the title track from their 1997 breakthrough, and songs from 2005’s The Woods.

Austin-based Heartless Bastards, fronted by dynamic vocalist Erika Wennerstrom, return for their second ACL appearance since their Season 35 debut, focusing on their acclaimed new release Restless Ones. Heartless Bastards have spent the past decade in motion, bolding pushing their unique brand of rock ‘n’ roll into new shapes over four albums and nearly non-stop touring. Rich with purpose, passion, seasoned songwriting and commanding musicianship, Restless Ones, their fifth studio album, captures the idiosyncratic band exploring their craft and soul in an effort to reach a place that’s both real and transcendent. With a voice NPR describes as “warm yet gritty, throaty yet sweet, gigantic yet intimate,” singer-songwriter-guitarist Wennerstrom opens the set with the effervescent country rocker “Hi-Line.” As she switches from acoustic to electric guitar for the garage rock gem “Black Cloud,” the rockers hit their stride, juxtaposing dark subject matter with up-tempo style. The band reach back to 2012’s Arrow for “Parted Ways,” closing out the sublime set on a pitch perfect note.

photo by Scott Newton

“This show is all about women who rock, not to mention awesome singers!” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “It took a decade for Sleater-Kinney to bring us new music, but it was worth the wait. They’re living proof that a band can keep getting better and better. Same goes for Heartless Bastards. Always hometown favorites, Erika’s voice is one-of-a-kind – raw and polished at the same time!”

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 indie rockers Father John Misty and The Black Angels.

Encore: Sturgill Simpson and Asleep at the Wheel

Sturgill Simpson ©KLRU photo by Scott Newton

stin City Limits welcomes breakout country artist Sturgill Simpson sharing the bill with legendary Western swing institution Asleep at the Wheel.  Two acts steeped in old-school tradition but beamed through a contemporary prism, the must-see episode features rising star Simpson making his full set ACL debut while Texas swing veterans Asleep at the Wheel return for their 11th appearance. ACL Hall of Fame members AATW are joined by guest stars The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee and the Quebe Sisters in a special tribute to musical forebear Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing.   

Forty years after Willie Nelson made his iconic debut on ACL on October 14, 1974, country rebel Sturgill Simpson arrives at the top of his game in a standout ACL debut.  With his acclaimed breakthrough Metamodern Sounds In Country Music topping Best of 2014 Album lists and a stack of accolades to call his own—including a Grammy nomination, top honors at this year’s Americana Awards, slots at the year’s biggest music festivals, including Bonnaroo, Coachella and ACL Fest—ACL captures Simpson on the verge of full-blown stardom.  Playing an acoustic guitar, the Kentucky native and his ace four-piece band launch into a scorching seven-song set that makes a believer out of everyone. He pays tribute to the outlaw country scene that inspired him, acknowledging his debt to Willie, and to Austin cosmic cowboy Steve Fromholz, with an impassioned rendition of “I’d Have to Be Crazy,” a Fromholz song Nelson made famous in the ‘70s, and a perfect showcase for Simpson’s rich baritone.  The full span of Simpson’s influences is evident with the inspired set-closer, a brilliant crossbreed of the Osborne Brothers’ bluegrass classic “Listening to the Rain” to glam-rock band T-Rex’s “The Motivator.”

A national as well as Texan treasure, the nine-time Grammy Award-winning Austin supergroup Asleep at the Wheel has kept the Western swing flame burning for forty-five years.  Still led by larger-than-life founder Ray Benson, AATW appeared in the first official episode of Austin City Limits in 1976, and returns for a remarkable eleventh appearance to perform selections from their recent Bob Wills tribute album Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, a salute to the great bandleader.  Wills’ music, born in the 1920s and ‘30s, continues to inspire younger generations, and AATW is joined on the ACL stage by some very special guests, including soul singer Amos Lee, fiddle trio the Quebe Sisters and Americana sensations The Avett Brothers, who put their own spin on Western swing classics.  A highlight of the set comes when two former Texas Playboys—singer Leon Rausch, 88, and 92-year old saxophonist Billy Briggs—take the stage.  The entire ensemble returns for a crowd sing-along of the signature “Texas Playboys Theme,” winding “Happy Trails” into the old chestnut for a perfect close.  

Asleep at the Wheel with special guests ©KLRU photo by Scott Newton

“This show goes back deep to the roots of where Austin City Limits began,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “Sturgill would’ve fit perfectly into the Austin music scene of the ‘70s, and it speaks volumes that his own progressive country sound resonates so strongly and stands in contrast to much of the country pop today.  Asleep at the Wheel appeared on the very first episode of our very first season, and they’re still kicking it 41 years later – just like 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. Tune in next week for another encore episode, featuring rock icons The Pretenders.

Encore: TV on the Radio and The War On Drugs

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases left of the dial faves TV On The Radio and The War On Drugs, splitting the bill in a brand new installment. Two of today’s most critically-acclaimed indie rock bands, both acts make powerful debuts in their first appearance on the ACL stage.  

First up is TV On The Radio, formed in Brooklyn in 2001 and considered one of the most influential bands of the decade. The quartet showcase tracks from their latest and widely-acclaimed album Seeds. TVOTR’s originality and eclectic musical spirit—encompassing psychedelia, soul, electronica and urgent punk rock—is evident in their masterful five-song set, opening with the hard-driving “Lazerray” and grappling with pain and loss in the soulful, emotional closer “Trouble.” Witness an act that continues to make music boldly on their own terms, always pushing forward to become one of the best bands of its generation.

Philadelphia band The War On Drugs perform songs from their 2014 breakthrough Lost in the Dream, which earned widespread praise and landed the top spot on many critics’ album-of-the-year lists. Kicking off a gorgeous set with “Under the Pressure”, the song Spin declared record of the year, the rock outfit build momentum creating lush soundscapes filled with musical craft and intricate instrumentation. Bandleader Adam Granduciel’s Dylanesque vocals, cathartic lyrics and grand-scale guitar solos unfold to reveal expansive, dreamy atmospherics for a memorable debut.

The War on Drugs ©KLRU photo by Scott Newton

photo by Scott Newton

“Indie music has been an important part of ACL’s musical legacy over the past two decades, but it’s a big umbrella that covers a vast musical landscape,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Both TV On The Radio and The War On Drugs stand out as virtuoso live musicians, but their songs and vocals are what caught my ear. They are personal yet accessible to anyone who is a fan of great music.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. This episode will also make its debut on American Airlines’ in-flight entertainment channel in June. 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 hour with global pop star Ed Sheeran.

 

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.

Tedeschi Trucks Band closes out ACL Season 41

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits caps a standout Season 41 with a sensational hour of music from American roots superstars Tedeschi Trucks Band in their ACL debut.   

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, a three-time ACL veteran who first appeared on the program in 1999, and her guitar hero husband Derek Trucks merged their solo careers to form the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010.  The now 12-piece strong powerhouse—one of music’s most talented and admired ensembles—lights up the ACL stage in their debut, arriving at the top of their game and presenting gems from their newly-released third studio album, Let Me Get By.  Opening with the uplifting new track “Don’t Know What It Means,” the virtuoso outfit, complete with horns and back-up singers, perform a thrilling seven-song set combining their distinctive hybrid of Memphis soul, R&B, blues, rock and classic song craft.  Tedeschi puts down her guitar to let her powerful vocals shine on several standout covers including a Joe Cocker-inspired version of the Box Tops’ hit, “The Letter,” and the Leonard Cohen classic “Bird On A Wire.”  As they close out the stellar set with a highlight, “Midnight in Harlem” (from their Grammy-winning 2011 debut Revelator), featuring Trucks’ mesmerizing slide-guitar solo, TTB turn the soulful ballad into a gorgeous wall of sound for a perfect close to a thrilling performance and an outstanding season.  The transcendent set has the Austin crowd walking on air inspired by the undeniable power of great music.

“Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are a match made in blues-rock heaven, and are proof-positive of the old maxim that the whole is greater than the sum of these musical partners,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “Together they show how their new songs are a big leap forward for these road veterans.”

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 of our 2015 Hall of fame special.

Leon Bridges and Nathaniel Rateliff bring soul to ACL’s 41st season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits gives you the best seat in the house for two of today’s hottest soul sensations: Leon Bridges sharing the bill with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats.  

Rising retro-soul singer-songwriter Leon Bridges makes his first appearance on the ACL stage performing tracks from his breakthrough 2015 debut Coming Home, a current Grammy nominee for Best R&B Album. “My name is Leon Bridges and I am straight out of Fort Worth Texas, baby,” says the 26-year old phenom by way of introduction. It’s been a near meteoric rise for the golden-voiced young singer who has taken the music world by storm with a silky smooth delivery rooted in ‘50s and ‘60s R&B and a classic style that sounds brand new. Rolling Stone described him as “the second coming of Sam Cooke” saying he’s “staked out his own identity as the new voice of gospel and soul music.” Bridges and his band, which includes ACL alumni, White Denim’s Austin Jenkins and Joshua Block (the pair also co-produced Coming Home), deliver an irresistible six-song set filled with genuine heart and feeling, with the stylish soul man “twistin’ & groovin’” throughout for a stunning ACL debut.

Denver-based soul rockers Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nights Sweats make their ACL debut performing tracks from their 2015 self-titled breakout album on Stax Records. You’ll hear both Sam & Dave and The Band in their sound, with what Rateliff describes as “a bit of honkytonk and a bit of working class soul.” NPR raves of the front man, “The born again spirit of vintage soul music poured out of the man, measurable mostly in gallons.” The road-tested, acclaimed live outfit is performing at some of the year’s biggest music festivals, including Coachella and Bonnaroo. Charismatic belter Rateliff tells the Austin crowd, “We’re all out here risking our marriages and our lives to play music for you guys, so we hope you enjoy it!” Fueled by a rocket-powered three-piece horn section, Hammond organ and Rateliff’s scorching tenor voice, the hard-driving band perform a soul-stirring six-song set filled with take-us-to-church choruses that has the Austin audience on their feet from the first notes of the opener “I Need Never Get Old” to their set-closing, crowd-pleasing breakout hit “S.O.B”.

photo by Scott Newton

“Great soul singers and bands have been a recurring theme this season, and Leon Bridges and Nathaniel Rateliff cover both sides of the spectrum – from smooth to raucous,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Leon proves why he’s a serious contender to pick up a couple of Grammy trophies, and you’d have to live under a rock not to have heard Nathaniel Rateliff’s sing-along favorite, ‘S.O.B.'”

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 our Season 41 finale, featuring the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Sleater-Kinney and Heartless Bastards rock ACL’s 41st season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents two of indie-rock’s finest in a must-see new installment featuring Sleater-Kinney splitting the episode with Heartless Bastards.

Legendary punk group Sleater-Kinney make their inaugural appearance on the ACL stage armed with songs from their first new album in a decade, No Cities To Love. The surprise release landed on top of many 2015 year-end best lists including the New York Times’ Jon Pareles, who raved “Reunited for its first album in 10 years, Sleater-Kinney returns as joyfully rigorous as ever, sinewy and ready to grapple.” Consisting of guitarists/vocalists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein (also the co-creator/star of IFC’s Portlandia), and drummer Janet Weiss, the powerhouse trio came crashing out of the Pacific Northwest in the mid-90s, setting a new bar for punk’s political awareness and emotional impact. The seminal band perform a searing, musically thrilling, career-wide seven-song set with ferocious new material alongside classic anthems including “Dig Me Out,” the title track from their 1997 breakthrough, and songs from 2005’s The Woods.

Austin-based Heartless Bastards, fronted by dynamic vocalist Erika Wennerstrom, return for their second ACL appearance since their Season 35 debut, focusing on their acclaimed new release Restless Ones. Heartless Bastards have spent the past decade in motion, bolding pushing their unique brand of rock ‘n’ roll into new shapes over four albums and nearly non-stop touring. Rich with purpose, passion, seasoned songwriting and commanding musicianship, Restless Ones, their fifth studio album, captures the idiosyncratic band exploring their craft and soul in an effort to reach a place that’s both real and transcendent. With a voice NPR describes as “warm yet gritty, throaty yet sweet, gigantic yet intimate,” singer-songwriter-guitarist Wennerstrom opens the set with the effervescent country rocker “Hi-Line.” As she switches from acoustic to electric guitar for the garage rock gem “Black Cloud,” the rockers hit their stride, juxtaposing dark subject matter with up-tempo style. The band reach back to 2012’s Arrow for “Parted Ways,” closing out the sublime set on a pitch perfect note.

photo by Scott Newton

“This show is all about women who rock, not to mention awesome singers!” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “It took a decade for Sleater-Kinney to bring us new music, but it was worth the wait. They’re living proof that a band can keep getting better and better. Same goes for Heartless Bastards. Always hometown favorites, Erika’s voice is one-of-a-kind – raw and polished at the same time!”

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 new episode, featuring the ACL debuts of soul revivalists Leon Bridges and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.

Angelique Kidjo brings energy and joy to ACL’s 41st season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a joyous, irresistible hour with international superstar Angélique Kidjo making her highly-anticipated ACL debut. A two-time Grammy Award winner, the world-renowned African singer-songwriter delivers a high energy performance celebrating the universal power of music.    

Hailing from the West African country of Benin, Kidjo has been a major force in world music since the early 1990s. Her extraordinary musical achievements span a 25-year discography and thousands of concerts around the world. TIME Magazine has called her “Africa’s premier diva” and The Guardian named her one of the Top 100 Inspiring Women in the World.  Kidjo has enjoyed a long history of notable collaborations with greats from the jazz and pop worlds, including Bono, John Legend, Josh Groban, Peter Gabriel, Carlos Santana, Branford Marsalis, Vampire Weekend and Alicia Keys. In addition to her music she is known as a powerful advocate for women’s rights, education and public health issues in Africa. She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002 and a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, honoring individuals “who not only excel in their art, but also help to improve the world around them.”

In her ACL debut, Kidjo performs a buoyant, career-spanning, eleven-song set including songs from her 2015 release Sings, a 2016 Grammy nominee for Best World Music Album. Backed by her four-piece band, the spirited artist takes the stage resplendent in colorful dress, letting her powerful voice soar and her feet move. “I can see you’re ready for singing and dancing,” she tells the Austin crowd, “so don’t hold back.” Kidjo is accompanied by Austin choir Veritas for a soulful rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” She pays homage to the pioneering South African singer Miriam Makeba, widely known as Mother Africa, with a version of her classic “Pata Pata,” delivered in Swahili as a funky, infectious call to dance. Kidjo ventures out into the audience for “Afirika,” a celebration of the human family, as the crowd happily joins in. The revelry continues as she invites the audience onstage for the luminous “Tumba.” Kidjo leads the packed stage in dance, closing out the hour in a jubilant crescendo, with the entire audience on its feet, showering the singer with cheers and applause in appreciation.

photo by Scott Newton

“This is an amazing hour — a very joyful and emotional musical experience,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “You will want to dance, and you will cry. It really stands out in an otherwise great season, and represents what makes Austin City Limits unique. Angélique is a special artist — and she makes the best dance music on the planet!”

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 the Austin City Limits debut of Sleater-Kinney and the return of Heartless Bastards.