Sam Smith and Anderson East sing blue-eyed soul on ACL’s 44th season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits has all the feels in a soulful new installment showcasing two gifted vocalists: worldwide superstar Sam Smith and emerging singer-songwriter Anderson East.  

The multi-platinum, four-time GRAMMY ® award-winning Sam Smith wowed ACL audiences with his 2014 debut during the program’s milestone Season 40, and the British native returns with songs from his chart-topping, acclaimed sophomore album The Thrill Of It All.  Smith turns his songs about heartbreak into anthems of strength in a sparkling performance, backed by gospel-style vocalists. Smith proudly tells the Austin crowd he wrote “HIM,” the powerful same-sex anthem, “as a message that love is love,” inspiring the crowd to join on the soaring chorus. He performs a thrilling version of his smash “Pray” and delivers the stirring “Palace” as a passionate duet joined by his backing singer, displaying the full range of his vocal prowess.  The magnetic star closes out the set with the mega-hit “Too Good At Goodbyes,” with Smith gamely instructing the Austin crowd to “sing this to your ex.”

Alabama rock-and-soul singer Anderson East dazzles with his staggering vocal power and a firestorm of songs blending rock, blues, country and soul for a mighty ACL debut.  The singer-songwriter performs songs from his acclaimed Encore, produced by longtime collaborator, Nashville it-producer Dave Cobb.  The album’s title is derived from East’s steadfast belief that every song on his new album must be worthy of closing out one of his notoriously epic live shows.  East brings the fireworks for set-opener “Surrender” with his hard-charging eight-piece band, complete with joyous horns and backup singers, laying down the driving beat.  He introduces the tender charmer “King For A Day” saying “here’s a song about how I’m feeling.” The swaggering “Girlfriend” segues directly into the sultry declaration of desire “All On My Mind” for a one-two gut-punch.  Vintage Southern soul-burner “Satisfy Me,” a Stax-worthy R&B gem from his 2015 debut Delilah, has the crowd on their feet and East saves the finest moment for last—bringing the house down with the powerhouse vocal climax of rousing set-closer “House Is A Building.”

photo by Scott Newton

“Sam Smith and Anderson East bare their souls in totally different ways,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “Sam starts with a whisper, then soars; Anderson starts with fireworks. What they have in common is their unabashed honesty and ability to make a powerful emotional connection with their audience.”

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. Join us next week for a brand new episode featuring rocking singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile.

John Prine’s songwriting mastery enlightens ACL’s 44th season

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits proudly presents a Season 44 highlight: a golden hour with celebrated singer-songwriter John Prine. The American original shines in his first ACL appearance since 2005, showcasing beloved classics alongside selections from The Tree of Forgiveness, his first collection of new material in 13 years, and the highest-charting release of his storied five-decade career.

Prine made his ACL debut on Season 3 in 1978 and returns for his eighth appearance during a banner year; he is a first-time nominee for the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and was named Artist of the Year for the second consecutive year at the 2018 Americana Honors & Awards. The 72-year old folk hero captivates with his astute songwriting in this career-spanning hour, introducing many of the songs with his unique humor and wit. Prine dazzles with his singular knack for storytelling on subjects as varied as sticking up for the dwarf planet Pluto, and the rituals of egg farmers in Lincoln, Nebraska.

He opens the show climbing The Tree of Forgiveness with his four-piece band, performing seven selections from the acclaimed release, before taking the stage solo for a singalong of his early career highlight “Illegal Smile,” the opening track on his self-titled 1971 debut. Prine is joined by Kentucky native and rising songwriter Tyler Childers, who duets with his mentor on the musical last will and testament “Please Don’t Bury Me” from 1973’s Sweet Revenge. The fan favorite “Lake Marie” showcases Prine’s masterful way with words before he caps the heartfelt set with a pair of gems: new album closer “When I Get to Heaven,” and his classic “Paradise,” the final track on his ‘71 debut. Bouncing back and forth between spoken recitation and joyful singing on “When I Get to Heaven,” the songwriter offers a good-time singalong about leaving this world on a high note. When Prine gets to heaven, he tells the Austin crowd, “I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock ’n’ roll band/check into a swell hotel/ain’t the afterlife grand?”

photo by Scott Newton

“John Prine is a unicorn,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “a true original among American songwriters, unlike any other. What better way to celebrate his birthday week and his nomination to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame than to show what he does best – sing the songs he wrote, old and new, to an adoring audience and with his devilish sense of humor very much intact.”

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. Join us next week for a brand new episode featuring blue-eyes soul singers Sam Smith and Anderson East.

St. Vincent kicks off ACL Season 44 with compelling originality

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits launches a new season of must-see performances with an epic hour showcasing one of the most compelling figures in contemporary music: innovative art-rock performer St. Vincent.

First appearing on ACL in 2009, the groundbreaking Texas native—born Annie Clark—delivers a thrilling, 13-song career-spanning set in a visually and sonically stunning hour. Dressed in a red vinyl bodysuit and matching thigh-high stiletto boots and set amidst the backdrop of a futuristic production, the singer-songwriter-guitarist is backed by a three-piece ensemble, including two male musicians rendered as faceless mannequins on electronics and drums. St. Vincent’s mesmerizing set draws heavily from her critically-acclaimed fifth album MASSEDUCTION, with highlights including a segue from the guitar-shredding coda of “Pills,” into the vulnerable musical eulogy of “New York.” The album’s hypnotic title track opens with bassist/keyboardist Toko Yasuda chanting “power corrupts” in Japanese, while Clark unleashes furious guitar licks amidst a flurry of strobes. The setlist also reaches back to 2009’s Actor and 2011’s Strange Mercy for back-to-back gems “Marrow” and “Cruel.” Robotic voices signal fan-favorite “Digital Witness” from 2014’s Grammy Award-winning St. Vincent. As she rounds out the hour, Clark offers a pair of highlights from MASSEDUCTION: the defiant anthem “Fear the Future” and the set-closing ballad “Slow Disco,” as the Austin crowd joins in on the soaring chorus, “Don’t it beat a slow dance to death?”

“Originality is one of the most important criteria for choosing artists for ACL,” said executive producer Terry Lickona, “and St. Vincent is one of the most original artists I’ve ever come across. She pushes the envelope musically, so we decided to push the envelope ourselves with one of the most unique Austin City Limits episodes you’ll ever see.”

photo by Scott Newton

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for another brand new episode featuring songwriting legend John Prine.

A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story makes its broadcast debut on KLRU-TV

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits is thrilled to announce that A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story will make its broadcast debut on KLRU-TV in Austin on Sept. 29 at 8:00 p.m.

Featuring a bevy of pivotal performances by everyone from Willie Nelson and Beck to Ray Charles and Radiohead, A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story is the ultimate backstage pass to the longest-running music show in television history, recounting ACL’s 40-year evolution from local outlaw country Texas showcase to a required stopping point for superstars, cult bands, and up-and-comers from just about every corner of popular music. The film gives an inside look at the people who built the series into the institution it is today and features interviews with many of the music innovators and legends who have made history on the ACL stage. Set against the colorful backdrop of Austin, Texas, A Song For You provides a candid look at central moments in the program’s four decades, including the challenges and highlights in the evolution of the Peabody Award-winning series. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Keith Maitland, named one of Variety‘s “10 Documakers to Watch,” the documentary premiered at SXSW to critical acclaim, with Variety hailing, There is, quite simply, nothing else like Austin City Limits on American broadcast television right now. Paste magazine raves, There’s no question the show has a place in history, with Rolling Stone citing the film’s …concert footage guaranteed to make you salivate. Decider calls A Song For You a lovingly made tribute to one of the nation’s most important cultural institutions.

A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story is also available to fans outside the KLRU viewing area through VOD. Watch the trailer below.   

Encore: Chris Stapleton and Turnpike Troubadours

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a scorcher of an encore: country superstar Chris Stapleton, riding country’s hottest hand with a trio of acclaimed, chart-topping albums and a trio of 2018 Grammy Awards, sharing an episode with one of roots music’s most revered acts, red-dirt country-rockers Turnpike Troubadours.

After years penning hits for some of Nashville’s biggest acts, singer, songwriter and guitarist Chris Stapleton took the country world by storm in 2015 with his multi-platinum, double Grammy-winning debut Traveller. Just three years later, Stapleton is the reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, and a five-time Grammy winner, taking a trio of top honors at this year’s ceremony, including Album of the Year for From A Room: Volume 1. The Kentucky native delivers a powerhouse ACL debut with a blistering six-song set fueled by his show-stopping voice, searing guitar and stellar songwriting. Opening with “Hard Livin’,” from his latest, the companion album From A Room: Volume 2, Stapleton follows with an early hit, the crowd-favorite folk-rambler “Traveller.” Joined by wife Morgane on harmony vocals, the couple wrap their voices around each other for the spellbinding gut-punch “Fire Away,” revealing a powerful onstage intimacy, and the pair dazzle on blowtorch stunner “Second One To Know.” Standing solo and acoustic for “Whiskey and You,” the country outlier brings the room to hushed silence pierced only by scattered whoops from the audience between verses. Stapleton closes out the masterful set with the breakout hit from his debut, Southern soul-burner “Tennessee Whiskey,” unleashing the full power of his scorching vocals and earning multiple standing ovations from the can’t-get-enough crowd.

Road-tested country rockers Turnpike Troubadours topped the red-dirt touring circuit this past decade, earning legions of fans the old-fashioned way, through word-of-mouth for their rousing live shows anchored by frontman Evan Felker’s singular songwriting. Their acclaimed new release A Long Way From Your Heart has launched the Oklahoma sextet onto the national stage, and the band opens their ACL debut with the album’s lead song “The Housefire.” The Troubadours perform a six-song, career-spanning set with Felker’s trademark character-driven tunes exploding behind rowdy strings. Throughout their four albums, the band has used a running cast of characters to weave a narrative for their dedicated fans with songs that chronicle the highs, hangovers and heartbreaks of Middle America. “Tell everyone in Austin I love y’all to death” yells Felker during the blazing crowd-pleaser “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead.” Steel guitarist Hank Early switches to a Dobro for an acoustic duet with Felker on “Diamonds and Gasoline.” Felker calls out to bring the band back for set-closer “Something To Hold Onto,” as the ace musicians ignite in a three-way solo blaze of glory with Early, lead guitarist Ryan Engleman and fiddler Kyle Nix.

photo by Scott Newton

“We take pride in bringing the best of the best of every genre to our audience, and Chris Stapleton is at the top of his game right now,” said ACL executive producer, Terry Lickona. “Few bands on the scene, if any, deliver a better live experience than Turnpike Troubadours, and this show makes you feel like you’re right on the front line.”

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. Join us next week for an encore episode featuring rap superstars Run the Jewels.

Encore: Natalia Lafourcade and Grupo Fantasma

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents the contemporary Latin sounds of two of music’s best in show, Natalia Lafourcade and Grupo Fantasma. Mexican superstar Lafourcade performs songs from her Grammy-winning album Hasta la Raíz and powerhouse Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma deliver show-stopping grooves. 

As one of Mexico’s biggest music stars, Natalia Lafourcade’s infectious mix of pop, rock, folk and bossa nova has earned the singer-songwriter multiple international chart-topping albums.  In her Austin City Limits debut, Lafourcade and her backing quintet perform selections from her sixth studio album, the acclaimed Hasta La Raíz, which won universal accolades, culminating in four 2015 Latin Grammys, including top honors of song and record of the year for the title track, and a 2016 Grammy Award (her first) for Best Latin Rock album.  Opening with the title track, an intimate, melodic anthem about holding on to one’s roots, the set showcases her sweet, airy vocals. Lafourcade reaches back to the catchy “En El 2000,” her 2003 breakthrough radio hit and a song she explained that she’d come to hate due to constant requests for it, but now “we’re friends again.”  She closes out the captivating set with the pretty, bossa nova-influenced gem “Para Qué Sufrir,” a clear fan favorite.

“I was hooked as a fan when I saw Natalia Lafourcade perform at the Latin Grammys,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “She may seem an unlikely Latin superstar, but her sweet voice and personal songs have a way of connecting with her fans and the world around her.”

Austin originals Grupo Fantasma deliver a white-hot, delirious blend of big-band samba, merengue and Latin jams in a powerhouse five-song set.  Formed in 2000, the 9-piece funk outfit first-appeared on ACL in Season 33. The Grammy-winning funksters continue their decade and a half of magic with danceable, irresistible songs from their new, acclaimed album Problemas, produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin.  Opening with the slow-burning cumbia “Nada,” the crowd is on its feet.  The band is joined by special guests Steve Berlin and renowned saxophonist Karl Denson for “Cayuco,” a sultry mambo torn from the horns and heat of Cuban dance halls.  The group welcomes Los Texmaniacs accordionist Josh Baca and former Grupo founding member Adrian Quesada for the conjunto-flavored “Esa Negra.” Performing the title track of Problemas, Grupo’s charismatic bandleader Jose Galeano gives dance instructions to the front row.  For the final song, a tribute to the band’s late friend and champion Prince, the 9-piece orchestra swells to 17-pieces. Galeano, at a momentary loss for words, simply remarks “There’s not much we can say.  We’re just gonna play.” And so they do, 17-strong across the stage, lighting the room aflame with the Purple One’s disco-fied early hit “Controversy.”

photo by Scott Newton

“Kick-ass Latin funk might not be a music genre, but it defines what Grupo Fantasma does,” says Lickona.  “There were 20 musicians blasting and riffing their way through the night, shaking the stage if not the balcony high above! Austin is not usually known for its Latin grooves, but Grupo could change that!”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Tune in next week for another encore episode featuring raucous Americana from Chris Stapleton and Turnpike Troubadours.

Encore: Angelique Kidjo

photo by Scott Newton

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

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

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

photo by Scott Newton

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

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Tune in next week for another encore episode featuring an hour of Latin music with Natalia Lafourcade and Grupo Fantasma.

Austin City Limits announces lineup for Season 44

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits announces a new season premiering October 6 with an an epic hour featuring innovative art-rock performer St. Vincent. ACL, officially the longest-running music program in television history, has provided viewers with a front-row seat to the best in performance for over 40 years, and continues its legendary run showcasing more stars, innovators and highly-anticipated debuts. The series airs weekly on PBS stations nationwide and full episodes are made available online for a limited time at pbs.org/austincitylimits immediately following the initial broadcast.

Austin City Limits returns to PBS on Saturday, October 6 at 9pm ET/8pm CT (check local listings) beginning Season 44 with the promise of another year of musical trailblazers and vanguards. This season features—among many—the amazing St. Vincent, in a visually and sonically stunning hour, and songwriting legend John Prine—making his eighth ACL appearance —showcasing his acclaimed new release and gems from his catalogue. A number of artists return including singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who delivers a crowd-pleasing performance in a radiant hour; worldwide superstar Sam Smith who brings along mega-hits and some new songs from his sophomore release; and boundary-pushing country artist Kacey Musgraves, who shines while sharing the stories behind her songs. Austin City Limits continues its legacy of spotlighting music’s finest with debut appearances from Grammy-winning R&B star Miguel alongside the 2018 Grammy Awards Best New Artist Alessia Cara, along with standout singer-songwriters: soul/R&B singer Anderson East and roots rocker Lukas Nelson.

“The key to ACL’s marathon success story is our commitment to the best, most original music being created,” says longtime ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “No matter what gender, genre, style or era, we have always delivered a remarkable mix of compelling, heartfelt, and groundbreaking performers. Season 44 delivers on that promise once again.”

Season 44 Fall Broadcast Schedule (additional episodes to be announced):

Oct. 6   St. Vincent

Oct. 13 John Prine

Oct. 20 Sam Smith / Anderson East

Oct. 27 Brandi Carlile

Nov. 3   Miguel / Alessia Cara

Nov. 10 Kacey Musgraves / Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real

The complete line-up for the full 14-week season, including eight new episodes to air beginning December 31, 2018, will be announced at a later date. Austin City Limits continues to offer its popular livestreams of select performances for fans worldwide on ACL’s YouTube Channel. Viewers can visit acltv.com for news regarding livestreams, future tapings and episode schedules.