Taping recap: Zac Brown Band

photo by Scott Newton

Grammy-award winning, multi-platinum Zac Brown Band has been a consistent presence in the music world since 2008’s major label debut The Foundation, and it was inevitable that they would eventually make their way to our stage. So we were pleased to welcome one of music’s biggest live acts, celebrating the success of their latest record Welcome Home with a career-spanning set in front of a crowd practically vibrating with excitement.

Said crowd cheered wildly as the octet took the stage. ZBB launched into the easygoing country rock of “Home Grown,” both a statement of purpose and a clear fan favorite. Brown kept the theme of home and comfort going with Welcome Home’s poppy “Family Table,” before entering a more philosophical mode with the anthemic “Quiet Your Mind,” which he called “one of my favorite things we’ve ever recorded.” The group brought down the intensity with the rolling country ballad “Sweet Annie,” before starting back up that ramp with the power-of-music testament “Day That I Die.” “I never get tired of playing this song,” Brown declared before easing into “Free,” a flowing anthem that smoothly segued into Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” to the crowd’s delight.

The band dipped into its country bag for “Goodbye in Her Eyes” and “2 Place at 1 Time,” an ode to trying to be on the road and with one’s family at once. ZBB then cranked up the congas and the clavinet for the rocking grooves of “Day For the Dead,” a salute to Hallowe’en and the Day of the Dead that allowed the musicians to really stretch out with both their instruments and some impressive counterpoint vocals. The band slowed down the tempo but turned up the heat for the #1 hit “Colder Weather,” a power ballad in the grand tradition. Welcome Home contributed “Roots,” once again affirming the inextricable bond Brown has with music, before ZBB stripped their sound down for the ballad “My Old Man,” a tribute to father figures everywhere. The rock returned for the power waltz “The Muse,” before the band closed the main set in tribute to Gregg Allman, burning through the Allman Brothers Band classic “Whipping Post” with keyboardist/guitarist Clay Cook on soulful lead vocals and Brown taking lead guitar. 

Of course, it wasn’t really over. After the audience showed its loud appreciation, the octet returned for “All the Best,” a heartfelt take on John Prine’s great ballad. After expressing his love for Prine, Brown immediately launched into the fingerpicking pattern of “Chicken Fried,” the band’s biggest smash. The crowd cheered wildly and began singing along immediately, amping up even further when the band brought on a member of the United States Armed Services in appreciation of their service. To close out the night, Brown donned a bass guitar and thanked the band’s crew, before launching into a surprise (well, except to longtime ZBB fans): a pounding cover of Metallica’s greatest hit “Enter Sandman,” sung by guitarist John Driskell Hopkins and highlighted by Jimmy DeMartini’s effects-laden electric violin solo. Brown introduced the band as the finally satiated audience showed its love. It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs as part of our upcoming Season 43 which premieres this fall on your local PBS station.

New taping: Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires

photo by Danny Clinch

Austin City Limits is happy to announce a rare double shoot on August 21, featuring top-notch Americana with Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Amanda Shires.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s acclaimed new album, The Nashville Sound, is a beautiful piece of American music-making. As with Isbell’s 2013 breakthrough, Southeastern (which Isbell showcased on his debut ACL appearance in Season 39) and his double-Grammy-winning follow up, 2015’s Something More Than Free, The Nashville Sound was produced by Dave Cobb. Isbell says that he and Cobb created a simple litmus test for the decisions they made in the two weeks they spent at RCA Studios (which was known as “The home of the Nashville Sound” back in the ’60’s and ’70s): they only made sonic moves that their heroes from back in the day could’ve made, but simply never did. It’s a shrewd approach—an honest way to keep the wiz-bang of modern recording technology at arm’s length, while also leaving the old bag of retro rock ’n’ roll tricks un-rummaged. It’s also the best way to keep the spotlight on Isbell’s stock-in-trade: great songs. Simply put, Isbell has a gift for taking big, messy human experiences and compressing them into badass little combustible packages made of rhythm, melody and madly efficient language. The songs are full of little hooks—it could be guitar line that catches one listener, or a quick lyric that strikes to the heart of another—and an act of transference takes place. The stories Isbell tells become our own. The music is coming not from Jason and the band, but from within us. Lyrically, The Nashville Sound is timely. Musically, it is timeless.

photo by Josh Wool

photo by Josh Wool

Texas native Amanda Shires began her career as a teenager playing fiddle with the Texas Playboys. Since then, she’s toured and recorded with John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider, Justin Townes Earle, Shovels & Rope, and most recently her husband and creative collaborator Jason Isbell, with whom she first-appeared on ACL in 2013. Along the way she’s made three solo albums, each serving to document a particular period in her life while improving on the perceptive qualities of the previous record. The songs on her latest My Piece Of Land deal with family, anxiety, and the phases of one young woman’s life, but the primary focus is the concept of home. Shires addresses the similarities and differences between the home she was born into, the two homes she was eventually split between, and the home she has finally made for herself. She recorded the album under the guidance of producer Dave Cobb at his Low Country Sound studio. Cobb believes in the spontaneity of early takes, and with the proficient rhythm section of Paul Slivka and Paul Griffith, the studio band was able to record the album in a relatively short amount of time without sacrificing performance quality. This approach gives each song on the album emotional urgency along with a groove that’s loose and effortless. With My Piece Of Land, Amanda Shires has reached a personal pinnacle. This album is the creative milestone suited to accompany the recent milestones in her life: becoming a mother, developing into a true artist, and finally finding a home.

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.

ACL to livestream Angel Olsen’s July 25th taping

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Austin City Limits is proud to announce that we will be streaming the upcoming taping of Angel Olsen on July 25, live and in its entirety, directly from the Austin City Limits stage at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel.  

An artist who reigns over the land between being an elliptical outsider and a pop personality with a haunting obliqueness and sophisticated grace, Angel Olsen hits our stage in celebration of her third LP My Woman, which Uncut calls “another giant progression in an already distinguished career.” The St. Louis native began her journey in Chicago as a backing vocalist for Bonnie Prince Billy, but her talent soon manifested in her first EP Strange Cacti and album Half Way Home in 2012. Signing to respected indie Jagjaguwar, Olsen released 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness to great fanfare, setting the stage for My Woman. Recorded with producer Justin Raisen (Charlie XCX, Santigold) after her relocation to Asheville, NC, the record expands on the reverb-shrouded poetic swoons, shadowy folk and grunge-pop workouts of her previous work via 70s country rock, vintage electronic pop and languid psychedelic soul. “These are controlled, tempered, well-steered songs, capable of navigating genres,” notes Q. An intuitively smart, warmly communicative and fearlessly generous record, My Woman speaks to everyone. “Contradictory, complex, and worthy of endless re-listens,” says DIY, “Angel Olsen has crafted her most compelling record to date.”

Please join us July 25 for this full-set livestream on our ACLTV YouTube channel. The broadcast version will air on PBS later this year as part of Season 43.

New tapings: Ed Sheeran, Father John Misty and Herbie Hancock

photo by Greg Williams

Austin City Limits is excited to announce upcoming tapings with a trio of music’s finest.  UK superstar Ed Sheeran returns on August 20 for his second Austin City Limits appearance, supporting his chart-topping new album ÷. Indie rock star Father John Misty arrives on August 22 making his ACL debut, in support of his third album Pure Comedy and iconic Herbie Hancock makes his long-awaited ACL debut on October 12.

Ed Sheeran – an eleven-time Grammy nominee and multiple Grammy winner – has quickly established himself as one of music’s biggest acts with over 22 million albums sold and 4.7 billion Spotify streams. His latest release ÷ (pronounced “divide”) debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and finds the 26-year-old sensation in his finest form yet. Drawing inspiration from a wide array of experiences and subjects, Sheeran takes us through a hugely personal journey by reflecting on past relationships, family memories, his musical career and his time off traveling the world in 2016. Musically, ÷ is a varied collection of beautifully orchestrated and emotive ballads, impassioned raps laid over hip hop beats, timeless acoustic guitar masterpieces, and innovative, idiosyncratic pop music. Rolling Stone notes that “Sheeran’s musical history lesson is both well-timed and rip-roaringly fun,” while The New York Times calls it “a batteries-fully-charged assault on the pop charts from a performer skilled in musical osmosis.” Sheeran made chart history this year with the first two singles from ÷, “Shape Of You” and “Castle On The Hill,” debuting at #1 and #6 respectively on Billboard’s Hot 100, making him the first artist in the chart’s 58-year history ever to debut two singles in the top 10 simultaneously.  Sheeran continues to break records, with lead single “Shape Of You” recently becoming the third song ever to hit an incredible 1 billion streams on Spotify.  His follow-up single “Castle On The Hill” has logged over 185 million views on YouTube and has already begun its ascent up the charts.  This June, Sheeran received the prestigious Hal David Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall Of Fame.  

photo by Guy Lowndes

photo by Guy Lowndes

The erstwhile Josh Tillman (under which name he first appeared on ACL in 2012 as drummer for Fleet Foxes) grew up in Rockville, Maryland. Discovered in Seattle by singer/songwriter Damien Jurado, he began touring and making records, releasing eight under his own name and joining Fleet Foxes for the recording and touring cycle of 2011’s Helplessness Blues. As Father John Misty, he gained immediate attention with 2012’s Fear Fun, solidifying the status of his lyric-heavy, melodic folk rock with 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear. Misty’s artistry comes to a head on the madly ambitious new album Pure Comedy. Inspired by the chaos and uncertainty of modern life, Misty writes “about the dubious privilege of being here, the elusiveness of meaning, true love and its habitual absence, random euphoria and the inexplicable misery of others, truth and its more alluring counterfeits, the sophistication of answers that don’t make any sense, the barbarism of our appetites, lucky breaks and injustice, faith and ignorance, crippling, mind-numbing boredom, and the terror of it all ending too soon.” Heady stuff, wrapped in lyrical wit and the kind of melodies Harry Nilsson would’ve killed to write. “This is a big-idea album in a way none of his work was before,” notes Paste, while Exclaim says that it’s “packed with so much meaning and complexity, it feels as overwhelmingly absurd, joyous, curious, tragic, extraordinary and contradictory as life itself.” Under the Radar puts it far more simply: “Pure Comedy is big and clever, and oh so very brilliant.”

Herbie Hancock for blogSix decades into an extraordinary career, 14-time GRAMMY Award winner Herbie Hancock remains at the forefront of world culture, technology, business and music. In addition to being recognized as a legendary pianist and composer, the ardent music ambassador has been an integral part of every popular music movement since the 1960s. As a member of the Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet, he pioneered a groundbreaking sound in jazz. He also developed new approaches on his own classic ‘60s recordings like Maiden Voyage, followed by his work in the ‘70s with record-breaking albums such as Head Hunters, combining electric jazz with funk and rock in an innovative style that continues to influence contemporary music. His trailblazing 1983 cross-over smash “Rockit,” an early hip-hop touchstone, is considered one of the first songs to feature “scratching,” and with the album Future Shock marked Hancock’s foray into electronic dance sounds; during the same period he also continued to work in an acoustic setting with V.S.O.P., which included ex-Miles Davis bandmates Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Hancock received an Academy Award for his Round Midnight film score and fourteen Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year for River: The Joni Letters – only the second jazz album in the Recording Academy’s history to ever receive that award – and two Grammy Awards for 2011’s globally collaborative CD The Imagine Project. He was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor in 2013, published his memoir Herbie Hancock: Possibilities in 2014 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. Many of his compositions, including “Cantaloupe Island,” “Maiden Voyage,” “Watermelon Man” (a tune from his first album that has been recorded over 200 times) and “Chameleon,” are modern standards. Hancock will be touring across the globe this summer and fall and is currently at work on a new studio album.

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.

Taping recap: Norah Jones

photo by Scott Newton

Norah Jones is a longtime friend of Austin City Limits, so we’re always happy to have the Texas native back on our stage. For her fourth visit, the nine-time Grammy Award-winner performed selections from her latest album Day Breaks, alongside choice gems from her multi-platinum 2002 breakout debut Come Away With Me.  Critics have hailed the jazz-inflected Day Breaks as a kindred spirit to the landmark Come Away With Me, expanding on its bestselling sound by incorporating the musical influences she’s absorbed since her breakthrough.

Jones and her five-piece band took the stage for the title track of Day Breaks, its gentle funk underpinning her melancholy lines about “raining in my heart.” Making the debt to her debut explicit, she then went into the overtly jazzy “I’ve Got to See You Again,” from Come Away With Me. Joined only by bassist Josh Lattanzi and drummer Greg Wieczorek, Jones performed an elegant take on Horace Silver’s standard “Peace.” Guitarist Jason Roberts and keyboardist Pete Remm came back to the stage for a return to Come Away via the light, folky “Something is Calling You,” enhanced by flautist Jacob Duncan. Jones and band, with guest steel player Dan Iyeta, then essayed a countrified take on Neil Young’s classic “Don’t Be Denied,” another cut from Day Breaks. Duncan returned on sax for “Burn,” an ethereal epic that took full advantage of Jones’ underrated piano skills.

Jones strapped on a guitar and reached into the catalog of Puss N Boots, her alt.country side band, for the two-stepping “Hey You.” Iyeta returned to the stage as Jones moved to her electric piano for the soulful ballad “Rosie’s Lullaby,” then it was back to the guitar for “Nightingale,” a widescreen tune from Come Away With Me highlighting Roberts’ rocking guitar solos. She returned to her signature grand piano stylings for the jazzy pop tune “Tragedy” and the lovely piano ballad (with pedal steel enhancement) “Humble Me.” She went back to Day Breaks for the smoky “Sleeping Wild,” before really digging into her jazz training for a stunning cover of Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine” (“African Flower”), humming the melody with Duncan’s alto sax in tow.

The rest of the band came back for the galloping rocker “Flipside,” before ending the main set with “Carry On,” a bluesy ballad with gospel organ that’s tailor-made for a set-closer. The crowd showed its appreciation, even more so when Jones returned, acoustic guitar in hand, with Lattanzi on double bass, Roberts on resonator guitar and Wieczorek on portable snare. The quartet pulled a surprising cover out of its collective hat: the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple,” reimagined as a folk classic.  It was a fitting way to bring a gorgeous show to a close, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.  

Taping recap: The Black Angels

photo by Scott Newton

It’s no surprise that we at ACL love to showcase Austin’s finest acts when we have the opportunity. So we were thrilled to welcome back Central Texas’ modern psychedelic sons The Black Angels for their livestreamed second appearance. Performing the entirety of their latest album, the critically-acclaimed Death Song, alongside crowd favorites, the Angels delivered a scorching set of darkly droning, acid-kissed rock & roll.

Surrounded by screens projecting trippy kaleidoscopic images, the band kicked things off with new album opener “Currency” a politcally charged tirade that rolled off the stage on a wave of reverb anchored by frontman Alex Maas’ keening vocals. A twanging guitar line signaled the start of “The Prodigal Sun,” from the band’s striking debut Passover, much to the approval of the crowd. Backed by the otherworldly display of abstract lighting, the Angels launched into the droning but rocking “Entrance Song,” before upping the energy level for “Better Off Alone.” The quintet returned to the new record for the menacing “I Dreamt,” aptly displaying the darker side of the hippie dream as implied by their name. The rhythm-driven “Medicine” added a side of funk to the group’s smoky acid rock, while “Hunt Me Down” glowered its way through the grungy riffs of guitarists Christian Bland and Jake Garcia.

The Angels returned to social commentary with “Grab As Much (as you can),” another spear in the side of greed. Bland sat down at the keyboard for the dreamy open of “Half Believing,” its idyll altered by drummer Stephanie Bailey’s insistent thump and Garcia’s fuzzed-out Rickenbacker. The energy level blasted off immediately after for the growling “Bloodhounds,” the guitars competing with multi-instrumentalist Kyle Hunt’s cutting Farfisa organ, and stayed high for the cheerfully threatening “I’d Kill For Her.” The dramatic, arresting “Comanche Moon” came next, as Maas imagined vengeance on behalf of First Peoples everywhere. The Angels ended the main set with the melancholy atmospheres of “Life Song,” Maas’ cries of “I’ll see you on the other side” belying the song’s title.   

It wasn’t over, of course; after the appropriate amount of cheering, the band returned for the blurry, meditative “Estimate.” An insistently buzzing guitar snapped the atmosphere into sharper focus for “Death March,” one of Death Song’s standouts. The Angels returned to the beginning for the final number, swirling its fuzzy guitars, pounding rhythms and seething rage for “Young Men Dead,” a warning shot from Passover that got the audience riled up on first lick. It was a perfect closer for this terrific show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.    

Taping recap: The Head and the Heart

photo by Scott Newton

The Head and the Heart returned to the Austin City Limits stage for its second appearance on the show, on the heels of its acclaimed third LP Signs of Light. The livestreamed performance left no fan disappointed, as the Seattle band hit the stage with its effervescent melodies and poignant harmonies intact.

The band took the stage, tuned up and went into the hyper-melodic “All We Ever Knew,” from Signs of Light. The sextet stuck to the new record for “City of Angels,” a rocking paean to Los Angeles. Kenny Hensely’s piano pounding then signaled a look back to the band’s beloved first album in the form of the rollicking tune “Ghosts.” “Rhythm and Blues” followed, its title genre subtly woven into the rhythm, before the pace slowed a bit with the shimmering “Another Story.” The Head and the Heart then essayed the lovely “Let’s Be Still,” the lush duet between leader Jonathan Russell and violinist Charity Rose Thielen that became a stirring anthem and serves as title track to the combo’s second record.

The cut-time strumming of Russell’s acoustic guitar brought the folk-popping “Lost in My Mind,” one of the band’s hits and, from the sound of the cheers, a clear crowd favorite. The group showcased its trademark harmonies on “Winter Song,” a fingerpicked folk tune of surpassing beauty. Then came a surprise – the Seattleites paid tribute to late Soundgarden leader Chris Cornell with a gently faithful take on Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” sung by new guitarist Matthew Gervais and Russell, that found great favor with the audience. Following that triumph, Russell commanded the stage solo for “Oh My Dear,” a dramatic ballad that segued into the full band thumper “I Don’t Mind,” both from Signs of Light. The Head and the Heart returned to its debut for the tunefulness overload of “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” before cranking the amps and the rhythm for Let It Be Still’s “Shake.” The main set ended with “Down in the Valley,” the fan favorite folk pop anthem that distills the band’s essence into one memorable number.

One boisterously cheering crowd later, Russell, Thielen and Gervais returned to the stage for “Library Magic,” putting their own stamp on the guitar ‘n’ three part harmony sound of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The rest of the band came back onstage to close with the crowd-pleaser “Rivers and Roads,” one of the group’s most potent folk rock anthems. The crowd went appropriately wild, and the band quit the stage to rapturous applause. It was a great show, and we’re happy for you to see it this fall when it airs on your local PBS station.

ACL to livestream tapings from The Head and the Heart and The Black Angels

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Austin City Limits is proud to announce a pair of back-to-back livestreams with two of today’s most thrilling live acts. We will be streaming the upcoming tapings of Seattle’s The Head and the Heart on May 22 and Austin’s own The Black Angels on May 23, live and in their entirety, directly from the Austin City Limits stage at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel.  Both acts are making return appearances to the ACL stage armed with acclaimed new albums.

When Seattle band, The Head and the Heart, who first appeared on ACL in Season 37, regrouped in 2016 to start writing together again after a sabbatical, “it almost felt like we were a new band, trying things we hadn’t tried,” bassist  Chris Zasche recalls. “We stayed at a bungalow on the beach. We’d wake up, have coffee and go boogie boarding. We were ready and excited to be back together.” That renewed sense of purpose can be felt throughout their major label debut, Signs of Light, the group’s third album and first release for Warner Bros. Records. “This album isn’t about us now having achieved our dreams,” says vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Charity Rose Thielen. “The day we started being able to live off our art was the day we achieved our dreams, in my mind. This is the album where we really fell into our true voices as those artists.” Recorded in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Cage The Elephant), Signs of Light crackles with the upbeat, singalong energy of the band’s finest work. Throughout, the colors are brighter, the electric guitars are louder and the musical touchstones more universal. Lead single “All We Ever Knew,” written during the Let’s Be Still era but never captured to the band’s satisfaction until now, is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, while “Turn It Around” seems primed to be a future concert staple, matching its inspirational message with a lush and multi-layered soundscape. Blurt say the album “fulfills the aim the band’s handle appears to indicate. This is after all, music that connects with the head and the heart, and imparts a dual sense of resilience and delight in its wake.” Join us on May 22nd for The Head and the Heart’s highly-anticipated second ACL taping.

BlackAngels_Livestream_43_squareAustin psych rock masters The Black Angels appear with charged new songs from Death Song, their first full-length release in four years, and their debut for Partisan Records. NPR raves, “The Black Angels have delivered an enormous and frighteningly timely fifth album full of uniquely trippy anthems to oblivion.”  Written and recorded in large part during the recent election cycle, the music serves as part protest, part emotional catharsis in a climate dominated by division, anxiety and unease. Recorded between Seattle and Austin, the eleven-track collection offers a sharply honed elaboration on their signature sound – menacing fuzz guitar and cutting wordplay, steeped in a murky hallucinatory dream. Since forming in Austin in 2004, The Black Angels have become standard-bearers for modern psych-rock, and the New York Times has said they “play psychedelic rock as if the 1960s never ended, and they are absolute masters of it.” The Black Angels made a stellar ACL debut in 2013 and we look forward to their return.

Please join us May 22 and May 23 for these full-set livestreams on our ACLTV YouTube channel. The broadcast versions will air on PBS later this year as part of Season 43.