Taping recap: Miranda Lambert

photo by Scott Newton

We here at Austin City Limits were proud to welcome back country superstar Miranda Lambert for her third appearance on our stage. Riding high on her best selling double album The Weight of These Wings, which won Album of the Year at the 2017 ACM Awards, she was named ACM Female Vocalist of the Year for a record-breaking eight consecutive years, the Lindale, Texas native delivered a power-packed show full of indelible hits and stunning performances.

Lambert and her eight-piece band hit the stage with a rocking “Kerosene,” the title track to her 2005 idebut album and her traditional show opener. She then dipped into the new album with “Highway Vagabond,” a choogler about the road life, before going into the crowd favorite “Heart Like Mine.” “I wrote this one from the perspective of not giving a s**t about what people think about me,” Lambert said by way of introduction to “For the Birds,” a deceptively easygoing ode to defiant self-confidence. She continued sampling the new record with the hit rocker “Vice” and the cheeky “We Should Be Friends.” The band then went back to the earlier Four the Record for the soulful ballad “Over You” and the celebratory anthem “All Kinds of Kinds,” which had the crowd waving in time to the beat. Then it was time for “The House That Built Me,” Lambert’s Grammy-winning ballad that shifted her from star to superstar.

The mood shifted from serious to fun with the slow grind “Pink Sunglasses.” “Ugly Lights,” the defiant paean to justifiable bad behavior segued directly into the freight train fan fave “Mama’s Broken Heart.” The party vibe kept flowing with “Fastest Girl in Town,” a thumbs-up to bad girls everywhere. After introducing the band, Lambert then led them in a lighter-waving cover of Little Feat’s classic “Willin,” which came across like she wrote it. The musicians shifted to heartland rock for “Automatic,” before adding some countrified garage rock with “Little Red Wagon.” The set ended with her killer one-two punch of declarative defiance: “White Liar” and “Gunpowder and Lead,” complete with shotgun mic stand.

Lambert returned to the stage alone for her latest single: the poignant “Tin Man,” co-written by fellow Texan singer/songwriters Jack Ingram and Jon Randall. The stark, heartfelt performance was a perfect way to end the show. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.

ACL to stream Benjamin Booker taping live

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Austin City Limits is proud to announce a livestream featuring red-hot rocker Benjamin Booker, taping April 27 as part of our 43rd season. The taping will be streamed live in its entirety directly from the Austin City Limits stage, and fans worldwide can watch the concert Thursday, April 27 at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel as it happens.

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and rocker Benjamin Booker comes to ACL in advance of his greatly anticipated sophomore platter Witness, out in June. With Witness, the New Orleans-based Booker has created his most ambitious work yet by digging deep into his passion for eccentric soul, R&B, and blues – drawing on everything from William Onyeabor’s 70s African psych-rock to Freddie Gibbs and Pusha T, while never straying too far from the garage-punk intensity that made his self-titled 2014 debut such a creative breakthrough. Born in Virginia Beach and raised in Tampa, Booker attended a magnet school for the arts before matriculating at the University of Florida, studying music journalism. After self-releasing his 2012 EP Waiting Ones, he signed to ATO, who released his eponymous debut in 2014. “Singing with a maturity beyond his years,” said The Guardian about the critically-adored LP, “he crafts hooks that pay homage to Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke and the shambolic punk he grew up listening to.” Following the album’s release, Booker hit the road and the festival circuit, touring with Jack White and Courtney Barnett and playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival and Lollapalooza. Now Booker is ready to unleash Witness on the world, preceded by the title track, released as a single and featuring gospel legend and ACL alum Mavis Staples.

Please join us April 27 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: ZAC BROWN BAND, ANGEL OLSEN, BENJAMIN BOOKER

photo by Danny Clinch

Austin City Limits continues its mission of presenting music’s best and brightest with new Season 43 tapings from Zac Brown Band on August 3, Angel Olsen on July 25 and Benjamin Booker on April 27, all making their ACL debuts.

Three-time GRAMMY Award-winning multi-platinum artists Zac Brown Band will tape their first-ever ACL appearance August 3, on the heels of their highly-anticipated new release WELCOME HOME, the band’s upcoming album out May 12, and their first release on Southern Ground/ Elektra Records. Produced by GRAMMY Award-winning producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell) and In The Arena Productions, and recorded at Southern Ground Nashville Studio, WELCOME HOME is what the band calls not only a return to their roots, but also a return to The Foundation, the band’s 2008 breakthrough debut that is now 5X platinum. 2016 was a record-breaking year for Zac Brown Band. Their “Black Out the Sun” tour broke attendance records at Camden’s BB&T Pavilion and Boston’s Fenway Park, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum hosted a career-spanning exhibition exploring the group’s rise to fame. All this built on the group’s three platinum-selling albums (Uncaged, You Get What You Give, and Jekyll + Hyde), 5x platinum The Foundation, their 2013 project The Grohl Sessions Vol. 1, 25 million singles and eight million albums sold, and a historic fifteen #1 radio singles, along with the distinction of becoming the second act ever to top both the country and active rock formats.

photo by Amanda Marsalis

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.”

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and rocker Benjamin Booker comes to ACL in advance of his greatly anticipated sophomore platter Witness, out in June. With Witness, the New Orleans-based Booker has created his most ambitious work yet by digging deep into his passion for eccentric soul, R&B, and blues – drawing on everything from William Onyeabor’s 70s African psych-rock to Freddie Gibbs and Pusha T, while never straying too far from the garage-punk intensity that made his self-titled 2014 debut such a creative breakthrough. Born in Virginia Beach and raised in Tampa, Booker attended a magnet school for the arts before matriculating at the University of Florida, studying music journalism. After self-releasing his 2012 EP Waiting Ones, he signed to ATO, who released his eponymous debut in 2014. “Singing with a maturity beyond his years,” said The Guardian about the critically-adored LP, “he crafts hooks that pay homage to Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke and the shambolic punk he grew up listening to.” Following the album’s release, Booker hit the road and the festival circuit, touring with Jack White and Courtney Barnett and playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival and Lollapalooza. Now Booker is ready to unleash Witness on the world, preceded by the title track, released as a single and featuring gospel legend and ACL alum Mavis Staples.

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.

The Pretenders rock the first taping of ACL season 43

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits was thrilled to kick off our 43rd taping season with the legendary rock & roll band The Pretenders, streamed live around the world. Led, as always, by singer/songwriter/guitarist Chrissie Hynde, the band blazed through a catalog packed with hits and favorites, stopping along the way to sample the group’s latest LP Alone as well.

In that vein, the Pretenders opened the show with the rollicking title track, guitarist James Walbourne and steel player Eric Heywood trading licks like Keith Richards and Ron Wood, and Hynde singing the paean to singlehood with confident swagger. Hynde donned her trademark Telecaster for the pounding “Gotta Wait,” original drummer Martin Chambers bashing his kit like a jackhammer. His shift to a glam rock beat signaled the first classic, as Hynde led the band into the indelible rocker “Message of Love,” from the band’s second record II. “You don’t have to be polite, as we don’t plan to be,” she asserted. Then it was into the dub reggae-flavored “Private Life,” another hit and one that highlighted how good her voice still sounds, nearly 40 years into her career. The band then dipped into Stockholm, Hynde’s 2014 solo album, recasting “Down the Wrong Way” as a Pretenderized rocker. Rhythm section Chambers and bassist Nick Wilkinson then took a break, as Hynde crooned Meg Keene’s lovely ballad “Hymn to Her,” recorded for the Pretenders’ fourth album Get Close.

Reclaiming her Telecaster, Hynde hit the instantly recognizable chord of “Talk of the Town,” bringing the audience to their feet. They stayed there for that other rhythm guitar-centered hit, “Back On the Chain Gang” – both songs proven, timeless classics. The group ventured back into ballad territory with “I’ll Stand By You,” the top 20 hit from the mid-90s’ Last of the Independents that really showcases Hynde’s spectacular singing. She then lightened the mood, asking “Do you feel like dancing?” before the sprightly pop song “Don’t Get Me Wrong.” To the crowd’s delight, the band reached all the way back to 1979 for “Stop Your Sobbing,” the Kinks cover that served as the first Pretenders single. After commenting on the group’s time in Austin, including a shout-out to longtime Austin music fixtures Charlie Sexton and Willie Nelson, Hynde led them into the loping, bass-driven fan favorite “My City Was Gone.” The Pretenders then extracted a truly deep cut from its self-titled first LP, rolling through the shoulda-been-hit “Mystery Achievement,” before closing out the main set with a pulse-pounding rip through the hit “Middle of the Road” that left the audience on fire.  

For the encore, the band returned to the latest album Alone with the shimmering “Let’s Get Lost” and subtly defiant “I Hate Myself.” Then it was back to rocking with “Up the Neck,” an unheralded blaster from the band’s first album. Speaking of which, the band went back for the only song that could end a set this hit-packed: “Brass in Pocket,” the early single that marked the Pretenders as a major band in three minutes. Hynde encouraged the audience to come to the lip of the stage, even bringing a member onstage to serenade. The crowd went as wild as one might expect, the band quitting the stage to rapturous applause. It was a great set, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.   

ACL to livestream Pretenders taping on March 13

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Austin City Limits kicks off Season 43 with what’s sure to be the talk of the town: a livestream of rock legends The Pretenders’ ACL debut, taping March 13. The taping will be streamed live in its entirety directly from the Austin City Limits stage, and fans worldwide can watch the concert Monday, March 13 at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel as it happens.

Led by iconic singer/songwriter/guitarist Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders have blazed a trail in rock ‘n’ roll for four decades and come to ACL in support of latest album Alone. Recorded with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach at his Easy Eye Studio in Nashville, the album was initially conceived as the follow-up to Hynde’s acclaimed 2014 solo debut Stockholm. But as its songs and sonics took shape, the collection soon revealed itself as the first all-new Pretenders LP since 2008′s Break Up The Concrete. Backed by a team of what Hynde proudly calls “real people playing real instruments,” Akron natives Hynde and Auerbach made for ideal foils, two idiosyncratic songwriter/musicians possessing a deep knowledge and even deeper love of rock ‘n’ roll.

Alone bears all the trademarks of The Pretenders’ legendary canon: raw and rollicking riffs, poignant balladry, taut hooks and indelible melodies – all in service of Hynde’s heartworn, ever-unsentimental songcraft. Nearly four decades on from the band’s epochal 1980 debut album, Hynde’s instantly identifiable voice, called “one of rock’s finest,” by The Guardian, is perhaps more emotional and aggressive than at any other time in her career.  That extra bit of edge only serves to add fire to new Pretenders classics like the brutally candid “I Hate Myself” and the defiant title track, a spiky rocker that sees Hynde extolling the joys and virtues of solitude. “At 65, she’s still mouthing off over brass-knuckled rock & roll,” notes Rolling Stone, “flexing command and carnality with no apology.”

Other highlights include “Roadie Man,” a softly sung paean to the hard working touring crew that has been kicking around Hynde’s unrecorded songbook for more than 25 years, the seductive “Let’s Get Lost,” and “Never Be Together,” featuring an appropriately twangy contribution from pioneering guitar hero Duane Eddy. The UK’s The Independent asserts that Alone is “a fine album, subtly varied in both musical style and lyrical slant,” while Magnet declares it’s “as good a Pretenders record as has been made.” Armed with original drummer Martin Chambers, a new landmark and their catalog of undeniable classics, The Pretenders finally make their long-awaited ACL debut.

Please join us March 13 for this full-set livestream on our ACLTV YouTube channel. The broadcast version will air on PBS later this year as part of our Season 43.

New tapings: Miranda Lambert, The Head And The Heart, Norah Jones

photo by Daniela Federici

Our 43rd season on PBS is getting off to a great start! We’ve already announced the Pretenders on March 13th, and we’re thrilled to report we’ll be taping Miranda Lambert on April 19th, The Head and the Heart on May 22nd and Norah Jones on June 11th.

Miranda Lambert makes her third appearance on ACL on April 19th in support of her sixth album The Weight of These Wings. Since the Lindale, Texas native’s first appearance in 2006, she has earned widespread acclaim, including two Grammy Awards, thirteen Country Music Association Awards, and an astonishing twenty-five Academy of Country Music Awards. Lambert is the reigning ACM Female Vocalist of the Year, having been bestowed this honor for seven consecutive years. A sprawling double-album, The Weight of These Wings debuted at #1 on Billboard’s country albums chart, as well as at #3 on the Billboard 200 chart, and spawned the current hit singles “Vice” and “We Should Be Friends.” Rolling Stone calls The Weight of These Wings Lambert’s “most ambitious LP…the sort of Great Album rock acts used to spit out regularly back in the day,” while the Boston Globe says the album “matches the take-no-prisoners attitude of her lyrics with music that travels unexpected routes but often winds up touching the soul.” The record ended up on over a dozen Best of 2016 lists, including those from Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Billboard, Spin and more.

photo by James Minchin

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 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 second ACL taping.

photo by Danny Clinch

Norah Jones made her first appearance on the ACL stage in 2002, just prior to the release of her landmark debut Come Away With Me, which propelled her to the world stage, sweeping the 2003 Grammy Awards and signaling a paradigm shift away from the prevailing pop music of the time. Since then, Jones has sold 50 million albums worldwide and become a nine-time Grammy-winner, returning to ACL in 2007 and again in 2013. But when the Texas native first moved to New York City in the Summer of 1999,  it was with the hope of being a jazz singer and pianist, and her jazz influences — from Bill Evans and Miles Davis to Billie Holiday and Nina Simone — have always remained. Now Jones has come full circle with Day Breaks, her sixth album which finds her returning to the piano and her jazz roots, while still retaining her unmistakably unique sound that weaves together several bedrock styles of American music: country, folk, rock, soul, jazz. Day Breaks is a kindred spirit to Come Away With Me, though it is unquestionably the work of a mature artist who has lived life and grown immensely in her craft. The album features jazz luminaries including saxophonist Wayne Shorter, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, and drummer Brian Blade, who played on Norah’s debut and became the backbone of the new album. Rolling Stone calls it “A marvelous consolidation, floating buoyantly between past tradition and her own unique present,” while MOJO declares Small-hours jazz perfection … her masterpiece to date … inspired and breathtaking.” Jones returns to the ACL stage on  June 11th.

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before the taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings.

New taping: The Pretenders

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Austin City Limits is pleased to announce our first taping of Season 43—with the legendary rock & roll band The Pretenders on March 13, 2017.   

Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders come to ACL in support of latest album Alone. Recorded with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach at his Easy Eye Studio in Nashville, the album was initially conceived as the follow-up to Hynde’s acclaimed 2014 solo debut Stockholm. But as its songs and sonics took shape, the collection soon revealed itself as the first all-new Pretenders LP since 2008′s Break Up The Concrete. Backed by a team of what Hynde proudly calls “real people playing real instruments,” including most of Auerbach’s side band the Arcs, Akron natives Hynde and Auerbach made for ideal foils, two idiosyncratic songwriter/musicians possessing a deep knowledge and even deeper love of rock & roll.

Alone bears all the trademarks of The Pretenders’ legendary canon: raw and rollicking riffs, poignant balladry, taut hooks and indelible melodies – all in service of Hynde’s heartworn, ever-unsentimental songcraft. Nearly four decades on from the band’s epochal 1980 debut album, Hynde’s instantly identifiable voice is perhaps more emotional and aggressive than at any other time in her nearly 40-year career. That extra bit of edge only serves to add fire to new Pretenders classics like the brutally candid “I Hate Myself” and the defiant title track, a spiky rocker that sees Hynde extolling the joys and virtues of solitude. “At 65, she’s still mouthing off over brass-knuckled rock & roll,” notes Rolling Stone, “flexing command and carnality with no apology.”

Other highlights include “Roadie Man,” a softly sung paean to the hard working touring crew that has been kicking around Hynde’s unrecorded songbook for more than 25 years, the seductive “Let’s Get Lost,” and “Never Be Together,” featuring an inimitable contribution from legendary twang bar hero Duane Eddy. The UK’s The Independent asserts that Alone is “a fine album, subtly varied in both musical style and lyrical slant,” while Magnet declares it’s “as good a Pretenders record as has been made.” Armed with original drummer Martin Chambers, a new landmark and their catalog of undeniable classics, The Pretenders finally make their long-awaited ACL debut.

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before the taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings.

Alejandro Escovedo rocks ACL Season 42 to a close

photo by Scott Newton

When we wrap production of a season of Austin City Limits, it’s always nice to do it with an old friend – in this case, singer/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo, a beloved staple of the Austin music scene since the early 80s and four-time ACL champ.  Joining fans around the world via our livestream, Escovedo hit our stage for a rockin’ show in support of his highly acclaimed new album Burn Something Beautiful.

He was joined for the occasion by the album’s stellar band: guitarist Peter Buck (R.E.M., season 34), bassist Scott McCaughey (R.E.M., The Minus 5), lead guitarist Kurt Bloch (the Fastbacks), drummer John Moen (the Decemberists, seasons 33 and 37) and singer Kelly Hogan (Neko Case, seasons 29 and 39), as well as his stalwart harmony singer Karla Manzur.  Performing nearly the entire album, Escovedo and company brought a perfect end to Season 42.

The three-guitar army blazing at full force, the band hit the stage with “Heartbeat Smile,” the kind of neo-classic rocker Escovedo is so good at. He followed with the more wistful “Sunday Morning Feeling,” which still encouraged waving lighters. Escovedo slowed things down literally and figuratively with “I Don’t Want to Play Guitar Anymore,” a contemplation of mortality and retirement that never felt sad. The blood pumped again via the brash “Beauty of Your Smile,” Bloch and McCaughey pogoing during the verses, before the band roared into the thumping Escovedo hit “Castanets,” highlighted by a fiery Bloch solo.

After band introductions, Escovedo donned his acoustic guitar for a pair of ballads, beginning with the lovely “Suit of Lights,” featuring Hogan’s dulcet tones on one verse. “Sensitive Boys,” Escovedo’s tribute to the folks who make rock & roll their world, kept the mellow but soulful vibe going, as did the midtempo “Farewell to the Good Times,” another look at the aging rock star life. Dedicated to the late U.K.-to-Austin expatriates Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagen, “Beauty and the Buzz” scanned wistful, reflective and beautiful.

Switching out his acoustic for his electric, Escovedo and band brought a party vibe to the rock with “Shave the Cat,” keeping the volume up for the rolling, dreamy “Johnny Volume” and its gnarly Bloch leads. The main set ended with a one-two punch: the thumping “Luna De Miel” and the anthemic “Horizontal,” which brought the proceedings to a close with a howl of feedback. Unsurprisingly, the crowd went wild.

Escovedo and the band returned, welcoming the Burn Something Beautiful Girls Choir to the stage. McCaughey took to the piano and Buck the ebow for the shimmering ballad “Thought I’d Let You Know,” featuring a free jazz piano solo. Then the musicians blasted into “Always a Friend,” the singalong rocker that’s become Escovedo’s signature tune. One re-do of “Beauty and the Buzz” later, Escovedo and his band of merry men and women sent the satiated audience out into the night. “I’ll always come back to Austin,” the local music scene vet enthused at the end. It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.