New taping: James Taylor

photo by Timothy White

For the first time in our 40+year history, Grammy-Award winner James Taylor is set to take the ACL stage, making his Austin City Limits debut on October 1st, 2015.  (The show airs on PBS on Nov. 14.) The American icon will perform songs from his acclaimed new release Before This World, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and is his first collection of original music in 13 years, as well as fan favorites from throughout his storied career.

James Taylor is the quintessential singer/songwriter. His warm baritone is among the most recognized voices in popular music, and his distinctive style of guitar playing has been enormously influential. Taylor is a master at describing specific, even autobiographical situations in a way that resonates with people everywhere.

Taylor has sold over 100 million albums and earned 40 gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards and five Grammy Awards for a catalog running from 1970’s Sweet Baby James to his Grammy Award-winning efforts Hourglass (1997) and October Road (2002). He has received numerous honors, including the 1998 Century Award, Billboard magazine’s highest accolade, and inductions into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the prestigious Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2000.  In 2012, Taylor was awarded the distinguished Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government and in 2011, was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House. Both medals are their nation’s highest honors for artistic excellence recognizing “outstanding achievements and support of the arts.”

2015 brings the release of Before This World, Taylor’s first new album of original material in over 13 years. Produced by Dave O’Donnell, Before This World features ten songs, nine of which are brand new compositions in which Taylor continues to explore many of the themes that have absorbed him throughout his recording career. “The themes that really engage me keep pulling me back again and again,” says Taylor. “For instance, on the new album there’s a recovery song called “Watchin’ Over Me.” I’ve written many recovery songs that are almost spiritual and based on personal experience.  There’s a love song on this album (“You And I Again”) – a couple actually – a traveling song (“Stretch of the Highway”), there’s a song about working (“Today Today Today”) and another of my hymns for agnostics I tend to write (“Before This World”).  My sort of self-expression and the autobiographical aspect of my work is a thru-line that links all my albums together. I think I have grown musically, and I think people can hear it in what I played in ‘68, and you can hear it in what I’m singing about now. It is ongoing, it’s still me, but it’s still evolving.”

Witness the evolution for yourself when James Taylor makes his ACL debut on October 1st.

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.

Gary Clark Jr.’s stellar performance leaves crowd satiated

photo by Scott Newton

Back on the ACL stage in support of is terrific new record The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, singer, songwriter and guitarist Gary Clark Jr. kicked things off with his signature tune “Bright Lights.” Joined not only by his longtime band guitarist King Zapata, bassist Johnny Bradley and drummer Johnny Radelat, but also singers Stevvi Alexander and Sophia Stephens and a horn section borrowed from Austin Afrobeat act Hard Proof, the Austin native blazed right into rocking soul tune “Ain’t Messin’ Round” and rumbling blues anthem “When My Train Pulls In,” both from breakthrough LP Blak and Blu. Clark employed clean tones, rather than the fuzz in which he often indulges, resulting in a looser, more open sound. That new sonic aesthetic especially suited the songs from the new record, which is a more vocal- and groove-oriented affair than his past guitar-slinging work. The sparse, funky “Hold On” and the slow ‘n’ soulful “Our Love” allowed Clark to break into an alluring falsetto, a tactic that worked even more effectively on the biting, 70s-style soul attack of “Cold Blooded.”

Clark returned to Blak and Blu for “You Saved Me,” a quiet storm ballad that’s not quiet at all, thanks to his power chords. The pull of new tunes proved strong, though, as Clark jumped back into Slim with both feet. He sat at the electric piano for the seductive “Wings” – “I’ve never done that before, it was kinda scary,” he remarked. He was back on the six-string for “Grinder,” a well-titled blues rocker highlighting what the Austin Chronicle notes as his “raw, visceral fearlessness as a soloist,” really pumping the crowd up. He brought the mood back to a quieter place with the stripped-down gospel plea “Church,” before ending the main set with “The Healing,” a funky blues tribute to his muse that asserted “This music is my healing!” The rapt audience agreed.

Following chants of “Gary! Gary!,” Clark encored with Slim’s “Shake,” a dirty boogie that featured Zapata on a rollicking slide solo. The high energy romp left the crowd satiated at last. It was a stellar performance by a young artist developing by leaps and bounds, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.

 

Gary Clark Jr. taping livestreams on 8/24

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Austin City Limits will livestream the highly-anticipated taping with Grammy-winning songwriter, vocalist and virtuoso guitarist Gary Clark Jr. on Monday, August 24, 8pm CT/9pm ET. The taping will webcast in its entirety directly from ACL’s stage via the program’s YouTube Channel and the broadcast episode will air during ACL’s upcoming Season 41, which premieres in October on PBS stations.

Austin’s shining star Gary Clark Jr. arrives on ACL’s stage for his second headline performance at the top of his game and in advance of his homegrown new record The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, set for release on Sept. 11.  Self-produced at Austin’s Arlyn Studios, Clark’s latest LP reflects his singular visionary landscape as an ever-evolving artist. Relying on the simple tools of his trade – voice, guitar, rhythm and song – Clark firmly establishes himself as a sonic expressionist who has absorbed classic forms of the past while forging his own path.

Clark Jr. has a long history with ACL, going back to his debut in Season 33 as part of the Tribute to Bluesman Jimmy Reed, through his Season 38 solo episode, a 2014 show-stopping appearance as part of ACL’s 40th anniversary celebration and a cameo with the Foo Fighters that same year.

Join us for this live webcast of the return of Gary Clark Jr.  ACL’s 41st Season premieres in October.  The new season line-up will be announced shortly, stay tuned to acltv for episode updates.  

New taping: Don Henley

photo by Danny Clinch

Austin City Limits is happy to announce a new taping with music legend Don Henley for our upcoming Season 41.

Don Henley’s career, both solo and with the Eagles, has been critically and commercially acclaimed, and we’re thrilled the American icon will soon be making his highly-anticipated ACL debut.  The Texas native arrives with Cass County, his first solo album in 15 years.  Produced by Don Henley and Stan Lynch, who also co-wrote 11 of the songs on the album, the LP  Cass County represents both Henley’s roots and the next stop on his creative journey. “I was born and raised in Texas. I’m a Southerner and a Texan,” says Henley. “So this is a natural progression for me. It’s who I am and where I come from.” Recorded primarily in Nashville, Tennessee, and Dallas, Texas, the album includes all-star guest appearances from Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert, Mick Jagger, Martina McBride, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Dolly Parton. When asked about making the album, Henley reveals, “I can truthfully say, I enjoyed making this record more than any record I’ve made in my career.”

Find out why when Henley takes our stage on Sept. 1.

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: Alabama Shakes

photo by Brantley Gutierrez

Austin City Limits is pleased to announce a new taping with Alabama Shakes on Oct. 2.

We are thrilled to welcome back Alabama Shakes for their third appearance on the ACL stage. The Athens, AL quartet has been tearing up festival stages this year including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury and Lollapalooza in support of Sound & Color, the chart-topping  follow-up to their Grammy-nominated debut Boys & Girls. The album’s twelve songs reveal a band honed by years on the road, and drawing from a wide range of influences, from the bluesy groove of “Shoegaze” and the garage-rock freak-out on “The Greatest” to the psychedelic space jam “Gemini” and the urgent, tightly-coiled funk of “Don’t Wanna Fight.” Long instrumental intros and passages create hazy atmosphere, while the intensity of Howard’s vocals snaps everything back into riveting focus. Expanding on the soulful blues-rock base that made their name, the Shakes defy predictable expectations and map an exciting, surprising, and innovative new direction. We’ll join them on this new journey on Oct. 2.

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: Gary Clark Jr.

photo by Frank Maddocks

Austin City Limits is happy to announce a new taping with Grammy Award-winning songwriter, vocalist & virtuoso guitarist Gary Clark Jr. on Aug. 24.

Austin native Gary Clark Jr. has a long history with ACL, going back to his debut in Season 33 as part of the Tribute to Bluesman Jimmy Reed, through his Season 38 solo episode and his appearance as part of our 40th anniversary celebration and a show-stopping guest spot with the Foo Fighters that same year. He arrives on our stage for his second headline performance at the top of his game and in advance of his homegrown new record The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, set for release on Sept. 11. Self-produced at Austin’s Arlyn Studios, Clark’s latest LP reflects his singular visionary landscape as an ever-evolving artist. Relying on the simple tools of his trade – voice, guitar, rhythm and song – Clark firmly establishes himself as a sonic expressionist who has absorbed classic forms of the past while forging his own path. Baked from a batter of blues, R&B and rock, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim is music aimed for the heart, soul and guts, that defies categorization. Join us on Aug. 24 to experience it for yourself.

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.

 

2015 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame

photo by Scott Newton

Last night we were proud to present the new class of Austin City Limits Hall of Fame inductees. Loretta Lynn, Guy Clark, Flaco Jimenez, Townes Van Zandt, Asleep at the Wheel and the Season 1 crew joined the ranks inaugurated last year. The night was about more than awards. It was and is always about the music, and, anchored by host Dwight Yoakam.

The first award of the evening went to Loretta Lynn. The First Lady of Country Music gave us two memorable shows in Seasons 8 and 23. Accepting her award, Patty Loveless, a four-time ACL vet herself. With a fiery “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’” and a soulful “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (especially appropriate, as Loveless shares the same background as Lynn), Loveless paid perfect tribute to one of her inspirations. She and country superstar Vince Gill paired to sing a rendition of Lynn’s song “After the Fire is Gone,”  originally performed with Conway Twitty.

photo by Scott Newton

The night continued with Lyle Lovett coming to the stage to honor friend and Texan singer/songwriter Guy Clark. Lovett accepted the award on Clark’s behalf with wit and grace. Singing “Step Inside This House,” Lovett performed the first song Clark ever wrote, following that with “Anyhow I Love You,” a lovely waltz from Clark’s second album.

photo by Scott Newton

Jason Isbell killed it with the indelible Clark classic “Desperados Waiting For a Train” before being joined by guitarist extraordinare/Gillian Welch partner David Rawlings for the picker’s rumination “Black Diamond Strings.”

photo by Scott Newton

Next, host Dwight Yoakam inducted influential conjunto accordionist Flaco Jimenez. The eight-time ACLer and 76-year-old San Antonio native has recorded and performed with the honkytonk hero before, and accepted his award from his old compadre with a humble and eloquent speech. Then it was time for some classic Tex-Mex music. San Antonio Grammy winners Los Texmaniacs served as Jimenez’s opener with a swampy, rocking “Down in the Barrio,” joined by Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo on stinging guitar. The man himself took the stage for a honkytonking “He’ll Have to Go,” sung by Hidalgo,  and a irresistibly danceable “Ay Te Dejo San Antonio.”

photo by Scott Newton

Yoakam returned to the stage for “Carmelita,” his and the honoree’s distinctive take on the Warren Zevon ballad. The ensemble closed out with a pair of Yoakam classics: the two-step standard “Streets of Bakersfield” and gorgeous murder ballad “Buenos Noches From a Lonely Room (She Wore Red Dresses).”

photo by Scott Newton

After a brief intermission, Yoakam introduced superfan Gillian Welch, who inducted Townes Van Zandt by telling stories about how the Texas troubadour came to her gigs in her early days in Nashville. The late singer/songwriter appeared on ACL twice, including a Season 1 episode some argue is his best-ever television performance. Van Zandt’s eldest son JT accepted on his father’s behalf. Welch then took the stage with her guitar-slinging partner David Rawlings for faithful takes on TVZ classics “Tecumseh Valley” and “Dollar Bill Blues.”

photo by Scott Newton

British singer/songwriter Laura Marling followed up with a stunning version of “Colorado Girl,” trailed by JT himself, performing a haunted take on “Nothin’,” one of his father’s most cathartic songs.

photo by Scott Newton

Vince Gill then returned to the stage to induct Asleep at the Wheel. With eleven appearances, including the very first episode of Season 1, Asleep at the Wheel has been a mainstay on ACL. Bandleader Ray Benson accepted, dedicating his award to the late Joe Gracey — his former roommate and the person responsible for the band’s first booking on Austin City Limits. The band hit the stage for a pair of standards, “Miles and Miles of Texas” and the boogie-woogieing “Route 66.”

photo by Scott Newton

 

Gill joined his old pals for a hoppin’ version of Bob Wills’ “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” while Lyle Lovett returned for a rousing run through Wills’ “Blues For Dixie.”

photo by Scott Newton

To round out the night, the Season 1 crew, having been honored the night before, was publicly recognized for their contributions in establishing the show as a music institution.  The night ended with an all-star reading of Van Zandt’s classic roadburn “White Freightliner Blues.” It was a special evening, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it appears as part of Season 41 next year.

photo by Gary Miller

Courtney Barnett’s infectious energy

photo by Scott Newton

Courtney Barnett came to her livestreamed debut Austin City Limits taping after a couple of years of relentless hard work. “This is a lady that has paid her dues in the local Melbourne music scene and fully deserves to be where she is right now,” noted Darin Brown in the YouTube comments. “She and the other two guys are only going in one direction and that is up!!!” The Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist broke out of her country on the strength of a pair of EPs, collected as the album A Sea of Split Peas, hitting the States via festival shows, including noteworthy sets at 2014’s Fun Fun Fun Fest and Coachella. This year Barnett not only released the critically-acclaimed, Billboard Top 20 LP Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, but was a ubiquitous presence at SXSW. She arrived at the Moody during a U.S. tour that’s seen sellouts, and with infectious, unpretentious energy.

Opener “Elevator Operator,” from Sometimes, was a good introduction to her basic style: straightforward, unfancy guitar rock, vibrant but not aggressive, with conversational vocals and an observational lyrical style. Aided by her tight band featuring bassist Bones Sloane and drummer Dave Mudie, she stretched out within her framework, adding variety to her performance while remaining consistent in sound. The trio ranged from the garage-rocking “Canned Tomatoes” and  melancholy balladry of “An Illustration of Loneliness” to the lovely folk rocking “Depreston” and the power popping “Dead Fox.” She earned special kudos from the eager audience with “Small Poppies” and “Avant Gardener,” both featuring rambling lyrics that move from mundane observation to philosophical contemplation – a Barnett specialty. She brought the main set to a crashing close with the single “Pedestrian at Best,” to the audience’s delight.

Barnett returned to the stage solo for a ragged but right cover of “Heavy Heart,” from the catalog of Australian rock stars You Am I. Her rhythm section rejoined her for “History Eraser,” a bashing fan favorite that (d)evolved into a perfectly sloppy Big Rawk Ending. “It’s nice catching her at these small venues now,” commented themadbatter, “because she’s blowing up.” We’re happy to help her with that explosion, and we can’t wait for you to see this episode when it airs as part of our 41st season this fall on PBS.