Encore: Norah Jones and Kat Edmonson

photo by Scott Newton

There are so many genres of music in the world, and so many artists who embody them. But it’s nice to hear singers and songwriters who defy categorization, mixing parts from different traditions into their own distinctive blend. We’re proud to feature two of those performers: Norah Jones and Kat Edmonson.

ACL fans certainly aren’t strangers to Norah Jones, who’s been on the show twice before. She’s back to demonstrate her continued evolution as a vocalist, writer and musician. Showcasing Little Broken Hearts, her latest album produced by Danger Mouse, Jones and her new band take her previous mix of jazz, pop and torch songs and put it through a funky psychedelic filter, giving the sprightly kiss-off “Say Goodbye” and the nonchalant murder confession “Miriam” a rich, spacey allure. Jones also visits her acclaimed record The Fall, closing the show with the luminous “Stuck” (co-written by Will Sheff, of fellow ACL alumni Okkervil River). Watch and listen as Jones takes the next step in her evolution.

Kat Edmonson makes her ACL debut on the strength of her second album Way Down Low, a record that lifts her away from the jazz traditionalism of her debut. Though still rooted in jazz, Edmonson and her band don’t stick to formalities, letting as much pop melody and singer/songwriter intimacy into her music as improvisation and harmonic complexity. The catchy pop of “I Don’t Know,” the sly jazz of “Lucky” and the beautiful torch balladry of “Nobody Knows That” showcase a stunning young talent that commands the stage with understated grace. Edmonson may have been an unfamiliar face to many ACL fans, but they’ve been searching their local record stores and streaming sites for her music since they’ve seen this episode.

photo by Scott Newton

You can find more information on this episode here, but the best way to experience these singers is to tune in to your local PBS station and watch for yourself. Don’t forget that you can find more info on the comings and goings of ACL on our Facebook page, Twitter feed and news page. Next week: fun. and Dawes.

 

Encore: Gary Clark Jr. and Alabama Shakes

photo by Scott Newton

This weekend, ACL presents two game-changers bringing modern blues and soul to a new generation: Gary Clark Jr. and Alabama Shakes. The power of live performance is front and center as Austin’s own rock ‘n’ soul phenomenon Clark and soulful rockers Alabama Shakes take the ACL stage in separate showcases.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for sixteen years” says a stoked Gary Clark Jr. from the stage. “It feels so good to be here right now.” Long Austin’s favorite son, the twenty-eight year old bluesman exploded onto the international music scene when he delivered an incredible performance at Eric Clapton’s 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival. Born and raised in Austin, Clark began playing guitar at age 12, tearing up hometown stages since he was a teenager. He made a name for himself across the globe with the release of his critically-acclaimed 2012 major label debut Blak and Blu, and kicked off 2013 with a performance for President and Mrs. Obama at The White House. Clark has earned across-the-board raves for his singular talent, with The New York Times hailing Clark as “a guitarist of deep magnetism and tremendous feel.” The guitar virtuoso flaunts his six-string chops in his ACL appearance, thrilling the audience with a bold mix of blues, rock, soul and funk. Clark made his auspicious ACL debut back in Season 33 as part of the Tribute to Bluesman Jimmy Reed, with Jimmie Vaughan and Omar Dykes, and with his own set Clark proves he’s the one to watch.

“He’s already shared the stage with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton, but Gary is the essence of what his hometown Austin’s music is all about,” says executive producer Terry Lickona. “He learned from the best in every genre from the age of 12, and remains true to his heart and his roots. He’s our pride and joy.”

photo by Scott Newton

Raucous newcomers Alabama Shakes combine the old and the new to create gritty, joyous and soulfully raw music. Muscle Shoals-inspired and hailing from Athens, Alabama, the foursome enthusiastically blend rock with soul, country, blues and roots. The rock quartet has attracted widespread praise, including their recent Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.  Alabama Shakes’ style is marked by lead singer Brittany Howard’s powerful vocals—which have been compared to those of Janis Joplin and Otis Redding—and the group’s irresistible energy. Performing tracks from their breakthrough release Boys & Girls, the band open their ACL debut with the breakout hit “Hold On,” and launch into an ecstatic, transcendent, rafter-shaking set.

“There’s a reason Grammy voters nominated them for Best New Artist of the Year, the same reason we taped this show before they had even released their first record,” declares Lickona.  “Raw talent is hard to miss, and a vocal talent like Brittany Howard comes along once in a decade – if that.”

Check out the episode page for more info on this great show. You can keep up with ACL events via our Facebook and Twitter pages and our newsletter. Next week: Norah Jones and Kat Edmonson.

 

ACL Hall of Fame Special features Willie Nelson, Double Trouble and more

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits celebrates 40 years on television with a grand finale featuring musical highlights and inductions from the first-ever Austin City Limits Hall of Fame presentation. Hosted by Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, this never-before-broadcast special showcases outstanding performances and collaborations from the ACL Hall of Fame ceremony held April 26, 2014, including Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph and more. The program also honors the inaugural class of Hall of Fame inductees, featuring legendary music acts Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and a pair of individuals who played an invaluable role in the genesis of the series: show creator Bill Arhos and Texas Longhorns football head coach and ACL supporter Darrell Royal.

For this extraordinary occasion ACL returns to its original Studio 6A, where the series taped its first episode in 1974—featuring Willie Nelson—to honor the artists and individuals who have inspired the iconic television series throughout its four decade run. The intimate performances include inductee Willie Nelson, joined by Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris for stunning readings of Nelson-penned classics including “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Crazy” and “On the Road Again.” Matthew McConaughey inducts his friend and fellow Texan, saying “There would be no Austin City Limits without Willie Nelson.”

photo by Scott Newton

Austin blues-rock giants Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble are honored with a stirring tribute and their signature songs are performed by special guests backed by Double Trouble’s Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon and Reese Wynans. Guitar ace Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Grammy-winning singer Mike Farris perform a scorching rendition of “The House Is Rockin’,” a song Vaughan made iconic. Blues titan and ACL veteran Buddy Guy says, “I wasn’t here when Willie started, but I came soon after,” then demonstrates his incredible guitar prowess with an electrifying take on “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” Steel guitar dynamo Robert Randolph performs a fiery version of “Give Me Back My Wig” joined by Doyle Bramhall II. The special comes to an epic close with an all-star reading of a Lone Star classic as a stellar lineup of guitar slingers blaze through the Stevie Ray Vaughan standard “Texas Flood.”

photo by Scott Newton

Tune in this weekend for this stellar special, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Next week: Gary Clark Jr. and Alabama Shakes.

ACL Season 40 crashes to a close with Foo Fighters

photo by Scott Newton

Get your lighters out for one of the most riotous, epic, joyous episodes in the four-decade history of Austin City Limits as the Foo Fighters return for the head-banging blowout of ACL’s milestone anniversary season. In an installment destined to be a future classic, this superstar-caliber performance serves as a colossal closeout to the program’s celebratory Season 40. Dave Grohl & company bring the rock in a non-stop, incredible hour of music that will have viewers on their feet and pledging allegiance to the Foo.

2015 marks the Foo Fighters’ 20th Anniversary, and while the 25-million-record-selling, eleven-time GRAMMY-winning band play sold-out arenas and stadiums across the globe, the modern rock superstars return to ACL’s humble stage on this special occasion. The Foos first appeared during Season 34 in 2008 and recently immortalized Austin and ACL’s executive producer Terry Lickona in an installment of their HBO series Sonic Highways, even recording a song in ACL’s historic, original Studio 6A for the companion audio release.

“Here’s what I think we should do,” says Foo leader Dave Grohl at the outset. “We should play some old songs, we should play some new songs, we should have some guests.” The band stays true to their word, launching into a blistering nine-song attack, performing fan favorites and standout tracks from their acclaimed new release Sonic Highways. The crowd goes wild when Austin guitar great Gary Clark Jr. joins the band for “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness,” the song originally recorded in the Austin episode of the HBO series. Hometown hero and blues guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan joins Clark Jr. and the band onstage for “Tuff Enuff,” the signature song of Vaughan’s Fabulous Thunderbirds, with Grohl on vocals and Vaughan adding his distinctive guitar riffs. The audience is on their feet for the entire hour, pumping their fists in the air and singing along as Foo Fighters make a believer out of everyone, in one of the most entertaining hours of music in ACL history. On the closing anthem “Best of You” Grohl sings, “I’ve got another confession to make/I’m your fool.” So is the Austin audience in a performance that is the ultimate highlight of ACL’s 40th season.

photo by Scott Newton

ACL executive producer Terry Lickona says, “We love us some Foo Fighters!! They are one of the biggest rock bands on the planet right now, and Dave Grohl is a renaissance rock and roll man. He showed us their love on the HBO Sonic Highways series, and this ACL episode is the first major TV showcase for their new music. Ours is a unique relationship, to say the least!”

 

The Black Keys and J. Roddy Walston & the Business get loud on ACL’s 40th season

photo by Scott Newton

It might get loud when two of contemporary rock’s best live bands hit the Austin City Limits stage with the return of six-time GRAMMY winners The Black Keys and the debut of rowdy southern rockers J. Roddy Walston & The Business.

“We’re The Black Keys from Akron, Ohio,” says frontman Dan Auerbach, but no introduction is needed. The powerhouse duo of singer/guitarist Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have spent the better part of a decade building a huge following through relentless touring and word of mouth to become one of music’s biggest live acts, headlining festivals and arenas and earning worldwide acclaim for their irresistible rock and roll. They first appeared on ACL in Season 36 playing one of the last shows in ACL’s original, historic Studio 6A in support of their 2010 breakout album Brothers. The steel-belt rockers return for their second appearance with songs from the triple Grammy-nominated Turn Blue, which debuted at #1 on Billboard‘s album chart, was widely acclaimed as one of 2014′s best records and is a 2015 GRAMMY contender for Best Rock Album. The band reach back to their roots to kick things off in their blistering six-song ACL set, and proceed to tear through soulful tracks from Turn Blue including “Fever,” one of this year’s GRAMMY nominees for both Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. With their charged rock and unapologetic guitar riffs, The Black Keys command the ACL stage in a knockout performance.

“I remember seeing The Black Keys for the first time at ACL Fest and wondering, ‘how could just two guys make such great music?’” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “They pour their heart and soul into it, that’s how, and they can excite a crowd more than most bands five times bigger.”

With a scrappy yet sublime sound that honors both their Southern roots and punk spirit, J. Roddy Walston & The Business deliver a must-see ACL debut, performing songs from their acclaimed LP Essential Tremors.  The Baltimore-based quartet’s high-intensity five-song set features singer/pianist/guitarist Walston tossing his long mane while headbanging out songs celebrating that great and terrible burden of being human.  Their anthems “Heavy Bells”, “Brave Man’s Death” and “Don’t Break the Needle” are some of the sweatiest, ballsiest rock ‘n’ roll ever featured on the ACL stage.  It’s all a warm-up, though, for the colossal closer “Used to Did,” on which the band pulls out all the stops for a piano-pounding, guitar-wailing, hair-whipping photo finish.

photo by Scott Newton

“J. Roddy Walston is the perfect warm up for the Keys,” Lickona added. “They are very old-school but also in-the-moment at the same time. Sometimes you just got to let it all hang out!”

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 a brand new episode with the return of Foo Fighters.

 

Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis continue ACL Season 40

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits continues its milestone Season 40 with an exceptional double bill: Ryan Adams paired with Jenny Lewis in a new installment showcasing the acclaimed singer-songwriters, both returning to the ACL stage for the first time in a decade for our 40th anniversary season.  Frequent collaborators and recent tour mates, the LA-based artists perform separate sets and deliver knockout performances.

A prolific songwriter with a 25-year body of work, Ryan Adams makes a memorable ACL return performing songs from his 2014 self-titled solo release.  The album has generated critical accolades across the board and earned three 2015 Grammy Award nominations, including Best Rock Album. Hailed “one of the few truly great roots-rock troubadours left” by Entertainment Weekly, the North Carolina native tells the Austin crowd, ”We came here to play you really depressing music, but really loud.” Adams and his band the Shining launch into a career-spanning six-song ACL set with the bluesy rocker “Stay With Me,” on a stage outfitted with a vintage arcade video game, a stuffed tiger, an oversized fake amp and an American Flag customized with a peace sign. Adams moves seamlessly back and forth between new songs and long-time favorites in a must-see appearance, representing the impressive range of his storied career.

Indie-pop treasure Jenny Lewis returns for her solo ACL debut, nearly ten years since her debut on the program as frontwoman for the band Rilo Kiley. Lewis performs songs from her new album The Voyager, largely produced by Ryan Adams and widely regarded as one of 2014′s best releases by Spin, Rolling Stone, TIME and many more. Rolling Stone raves, “Blending Laurel Canyon sensibilities with modern wit, The Voyager shows she’s stronger and wiser – and can still draw blood.”  Decked out head-to-toe in her distinctive rainbow and stars suit (complete with matching guitar), she opens with the Rilo Kiley classic “Silver Lining” and continues with pop gems from her solo career including the recent singles “Just One of the Guys” and “She’s Not Me.” Lewis closes out a sparkling set with her bandmates surrounding a single mic for the beautiful, hymn-like “Acid Tongue,” “going full Joni Mitchell as she [sings] plaintively of liars, cobblers and sweethearts with the softest of hands” (Austin American-Statesman). After blowing a kiss to the audience, Lewis exits to wild applause, having captured the hearts of the Austin audience.

photo by Scott Newton

“The best songs are best sung by those who wrote them,” notes ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “There aren’t many contemporary songwriters who are better than Ryan and Jenny, or singers who can bring their songs to life as well as they can. Theirs are the kinds of songs that will stay with you long after you hear them for the first time.”

Sam Smith and Future Islands’ soulful sounds in ACL’s 40th season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents an hour of soulful music from breakout sensations Sam Smith and Future Islands.

Chart-topping British soul singer and songwriter Sam Smith topped off a whirlwind 2014 with an astonishing six major Grammy nominations. There is virtually no contemporary vocalist as stylish and elegant as Smith, a throwback to an elite crew of singers from an earlier generation. A beautifully soulful singer, the 22-year old London native makes a stunning ACL debut performing the songs of unrequited love and heartbreak that drive his landmark platinum album In the Lonely Hour. Like soul singers of yore, Smith takes to the ACL stage as his eight-piece band is already a minute into the show-opener “Nirvana,” the title track of his early EP. The vocal stunner pays tribute to one of his idols with an aching piano rendition of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”. Smith demonstrates his considerable range with an inspired mashup of his “Money On My Mind” fused with 90′s club anthem “Finally”. Bringing the gorgeous set to a rapturous close with his signature song, the double-platinum “Stay With Me”, Smith bares his soul with the Austin audience in the palm of his hand.

“Sam told me after the show that it was probably the best performance he’s given in America so far,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “This show deserves to be seen and heard by fans of great music and great singers everywhere!”

Baltimore’s Future Islands share the episode, also making an epic ACL debut. Having steadily built a fan base since their first album in 2006, the synth-pop trio became a breakthrough smash in 2014 with the critically acclaimed Singles, landing on top of many year-end best lists including Pitchfork, Stereogum, Spin, Rolling Stone and NPR. Dynamic live shows featuring charismatic frontman Samuel T. Herring’s hip-swiveling swagger and dramatic chest-beating have inspired their own internet memes. Spin raves “Calling on his Sam Cooke-meets-Tom Jones growl, Herring charges into every song, roaring with impassioned heart and soul.” As the band bound into their six-song set, Herring commands the ACL stage, delivering song after song of glistening pop while creating an emotional narrative of love, loss and inspiration. It’s a transfixing debut, highlighted by a performance of their dazzling hit “Seasons (Waiting On You)”, crowned Song of the Year in the influential year-end Village Voice Pazz + Jop critics poll.

photo by Scott Newton

“I was mesmerized the first time I saw Sam Herring onstage, and booked him on the spot!” ACL executive producer Terry Lickona exclaimed. “In fact, I’ve never seen anybody put so much of himself into a performance. He’s like a man possessed!”

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 a brand new episode with Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis.

 

Spoon and White Denim get local on ACL’s 40th season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents standout alternative music in a double-bill featuring two bands hailing from Austin itself—Spoon and White Denim. ACL has a long-standing legacy of showcasing music from around the globe, but in this installment ACL is thrilled to cast a spotlight exclusively on homegrown talent.

Returning to ACL for the fourth time, Spoon is at the top of their game. Pitchfork hails them “one of the most stand-up bands of their generation” and of their twenty-year streak, Rolling Stone raves, “It’s just been one long stretch of slow-build greatness”. The Austin natives perform songs from their acclaimed eighth album, They Want My Soul, their first album after a four-year hiatus, named one of the 50 Best Albums of 2014 by Spin, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and NPR, and landing on year-end best lists across-the-board. Spoon’s six-song ACL set is a tour de force drawing primarily from the recent release and highlighting fan-favorites. Chugging guitar, tight melodies, killer hooks, and frontman Britt Daniels’ indelible vocals coupled with drummer Jim Eno’s impeccable beats to create a sound all their own—it’s a master-class performance from a band that has made it strictly on its own terms.

White Denim makes their ACL debut performing songs from their fifth album, Corsicana Lemonade, produced by Jeff Tweedy. Recently hailed “one of the city’s best up-and-coming acts” by Rolling Stone, the Austin band has firmly established itself as an international draw on the club and festival circuits.  The Wall Street Journal raves, “White Denim is a band for fans who want their music served with serious playing and a touch of the experimental.”  Known for their exceptional live shows, the shape-shifting quartet mixes psychedelia, punk energy, prog rock and Southern rock-jamming to create a sonic blend that has the Austin crowd on their feet.

photo by Scott Newton

“Both Spoon and White Denim go way beyond being ‘Austin’s Own,’” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “When people ask me, ‘What’s the Austin sound,’ I say ‘it’s 1,000 different sounds.’ That’s what helps to define Austin, and why we’ll always continue to showcase the best of the best from the Austin music scene.”

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 a brand new episode with Sam Smith and Future Islands.