News Taping Announcement Ticket Giveaway

Giveaway: Brandi Carlile 7/13

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Brandi Carlile on Wednesday, July 13th at 8 pm at ACL Live at The Moody Theater (310 W. 2nd Street, Willie Nelson Blvd). We will be giving away a limited number of space available passes to this taping. Enter your name and email address on the below form by Friday, July 8 at 2:00 p.m.

Winners will be chosen at random and a photo ID will be required to pick up tickets. Winners will be notified by email. Passes are not transferable and cannot be sold. Standing may be required. No photography, recording or cell phone use in the studio. No cameras computers or recording devices allowed in venue.

For entry to Austin City Limits tapings, you agree to abide by the Taping Health & Safety Protocols based on the current COVID-19 Community Risk Stage in effect at the time of the event. By attending the ACL tapings, you agree to the Terms & Conditions.

Featured News Taping Recap

Taping recap: The Weather Station

We’ve always celebrated songs and songwriting here at Austin City Limits. So we’re always happy to host a songsmith as special as Tamara Lindeman, AKA The Weather Station. The Toronto musician has long impressed critics and audiences not only with her thoughtful, soulful songcraft, but also with her willingness to push her artistry beyond anyone’s expectations, including her own. Her latest album How Is It I Should Look At the Stars denotes a musical shift from last year’s much-acclaimed Ignorance, which itself changed course from 2017’s self-titled breakthrough. She and her five-piece band brought that breadth and depth to the Moody Theater stage for her debut ACL performance. 

With a percolating drum groove, a kneeling Lindeman and the band began the set with “Wear,” a silky midtempo soul-pop tune from Ignorance. The tempo and urgency increased with “Loss,” an emotionally charged rock song that perfectly showcased the band’s distinctive sound: guitar, keys, bass and drums, enhanced by contributions from Karen Ng on clarinet and alto sax. “It’s such an honor,” Lindeman noted. “I’m overwhelmed.” Then “Separated,” a song about the futility of internet arguments, added some carefully doled drama to the performance, with a false ending and some well-placed clave clicks. Lindeman then picked up her guitar to revisit the self-titled record for the gorgeous and rocking “You and I (On the Other Side of the World),” before the band reached even further back for the soulful folk rock of “Way It Is, Way It Could,” from 2015’s Loyalty. She dipped into the latest record for “Stars,” a sparse, heartfelt ballad that sounded as if it could just as easily have come from the Great American Songbook as from the world of Canadian indie rock. 

The final notes had barely finished fading out when guitarist Will Kidman started chunking away to lead into “Look,” a song “about trying to talk to politicians” from Ignorance, followed by the same LP’s driving pop rocker “Tried to Tell You.” Next tune “Better Now” began as an ethereal ballad, but drummer Kieran Adams brought the rest of the band crashing in on the chorus for another slice of well-crafted rock. Adams’ rumbling drums, Johnny Spence’s stately piano and Ben Whiteley’s nimble bass jumpstarted the soaring “Heart,” joined by Ng’s clarinet and Kidman and Lindeman’s guitars. The band essayed an atmospheric, improvised intro that led into “Robber,” the attention-grabbing first single from Ignorance, the unique, jazzy dynamics (especially with Ng’s stratospheric free jazz sax) of which made it a standout even in a setlist of standouts. “Atlantic” went for a smoother melody and groove, allowing Lindeman to really concentrate on her singing, before upping the pop quotient even further for the euphonic “Parking Lot.” 

After Lindeman introduced the players, The Weather Station ended the set with the elegant ballad “Subdivisions” – a lovely original, and not a cover of the eponymous  anthem by Lindeman’s fellow Toronto residents Rush, that showed off what a fine singer she is. Though the band left the stage, they returned to play the masterful “Thirty,” a brisk folk rocker Lindeman described as joyful, as attested by the dust kicked up and Kidman’s spiraling guitar solo. A killer bonus, capping off an excellent evening that we can’t wait for you to see when it airs this fall on your local PBS station. 

Featured Hall of Fame News

ACL announces Hall of Fame 2022 inductees Sheryl Crow and Joe Ely

Austin City Limits is proud to announce the newest class of Austin City Limits Hall of Fame inductees, recognizing a pair of American originals: Nine-time Grammy winner Sheryl Crow and Texas legend Joe Ely. The ACL Hall of Fame celebrates this stellar new class of trailblazing artists with longtime ties to ACL. The 2022 ACL Hall of Fame inductees will be saluted at a star-studded ceremony to be held October 27th, 2022 at ACL’s studio home, ACL Live at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. More information about guest performers, presenters and additional guest stars will be announced prior to the event.  Musical highlights and inductions from the ceremony will air on PBS later this year.

The event will be open to the public and tickets will be on sale June 24th at 10am CT at  Sponsor packages are available now at All proceeds benefit Austin PBS. 

The eighth class of inductees features two iconic acts: Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow has made two classic hourlong appearances on ACL in her remarkable three-decade career, starting with her debut on Season 22 in 1997 and returning in 2004. She also co-hosted ACL’s 40th anniversary special in 2014. An icon of Texas music, Joe Ely has made 11 appearances on ACL: including as a headliner five times beginning with his 1980 ACL debut in Season 5; also joining Los Super 7 in 1999, Texas supergroup the Flatlanders in 2002, and a Songwriters Special with Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt and Guy Clark in 2008. The influential artist has made guest appearances with multiple acts, including Kevin Welch in 1992, Ryan Bingham in 2009 and joined Steve Earle and the Dukes in 2019 for a tribute to Guy Clark.

Honorees shared their reactions to joining the ranks of outstanding artists who have been inducted into the Austin City Limits  Hall of Fame:

Sheryl Crow: “I have always loved Austin City Limits. Some of my favorite performances have been on that show. I am so humbled to be honored by such an iconic and prestigious program. It is a dream come true for me to be inducted into the ACL Hall of Fame.”

Joe Ely: “I first played Austin City Limits back in 1980. It was more a local show then, but it kept getting a wider and wider audience,” Ely remembers.“It’s since become one of the most important live performance shows on television simply because they’ve always maintained the highest quality production and brought in great talent. I’m really honored to be part of that history, and I’m humbled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

Established in 2014, the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame celebrates the legacy of legendary artists and key individuals who have played a vital part in the pioneering music series remarkable nearly half-century as a music institution. The inaugural induction ceremony in 2014 honored Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Lloyd Maines, program creator Bill Arhos and Darrell Royal. 2015’s second annual ACL Hall of Fame ceremony honored Asleep at the Wheel, Loretta Lynn, Guy Clark, Flaco Jiménez and Townes Van Zandt, along with the original crew of the show’s first season in 1974-75. The 2016 Hall of Fame honored Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King, alongside former ACL executive producer Dick Peterson.  2017’s Hall of Fame honored Roy Orbison, Rosanne Cash and The Neville Brothers, and the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act.  2018’s fifth anniversary class featured the inductions of Ray Charles, Marcia Ball and Los Lobos. The 2019 Hall of Fame welcomed Lyle Lovett, Buddy Guy and Shawn Colvin to its ranks. The seventh annual Hall of Fame in 2021 welcomed Lucinda Williams, Wilco and Alejandro Escovedo.

About the 2022 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Honorees:

Sheryl Crow:

Songwriter. Activist. Rock star. Woman. Champion. Mother. Nine-time Grammy winner Sheryl Crow is many things, but at the core, she remains a creative spirit channeling her talents into music that lifts people up, brings them together, and speaks to the truths on the horizon. Twenty-five years after winning her first Grammy, as well as Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “All I Wanna Do,” the Kennett, Missouri-born guitarist/vocalist/creative thought about all she’d done, the places she’d been, the lives that’d touched hers – and saw the rich tapestry her journey had become. Crow’s is a career beyond dreams, with songs that defined the third wave of feminism, a rockist’s ability to sweep the pop charts without losing any edge and enough wide-open Midwestern joy to captivate the world. In 2019, Crow released her critically acclaimed album THREADS via The Valory Music Co., a collection of collaborations made with and in tribute to artists with whom Crow has musical connections. And in turn, she seeks to inspire people through her music and songs, especially the younger generation. “The passion and ability of our young people to dig deep and express themselves energizes and encourages me endlessly,” Crow says. “It thrills me to see their passion and will to change the world.” The subject of the new critically-acclaimed documentary Sheryl, we are thrilled to welcome Sheryl Crow into the ACL Hall of Fame.

Joe Ely:

From the moment he made his debut in the 1970s, Joe Ely has blended rock-and-roll sensibilities to hardcore honkytonk and become one of the most recognizable and respected artists to hail from the Lonestar state. Growing up on the vast and empty plains of West Texas, his legend was forged onstage with relentlessly riveting live performances, hammered out over thousands of shows and countless touring miles from Lubbock to London and back again the long way around. He is embraced as a kindred spirit by artists as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and The Clash. Over his career, he’s been at the forefront of Outlaw Country, Alt-Country, Texas Country and Americana, and has been recognized as one of the best songwriters of his generation. Ely is a member of the prestigious Texas Institute of Letters (with active members Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry) as the first musician ever honored by the group. The invitation was the result of Ely’s second book, Reverb: An Odyssey. Also, Ely was recognized by the Texas Legislature as the Official 2016 Texas State Musician, a coveted honor given to only a few (past recipients include Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Dale Watson & Billy Joe Shaver). Additionally the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame recently announced Ely has been inducted into the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame, alongside such legends as Roy Orbison and J.D. Souther. “There’s no mistaking a Joe Ely album,” wrote noted Dallas Morning News critic Mario Tarradell. “His stinging, road-hued voice commands lyrics about life, love and the wandering spirit. When you listen to any Joe Ely music, you’re enjoying the essence of Joe Ely. That’s the essence of Texas Music.”

Austin City Limits and the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame are produced by Austin PBS. Austin PBS is a non-profit organization providing public television and educational resources to Central Texas as well as producing quality national programming. 

Austin City Limits

Austin City Limits (ACL) offers viewers unparalleled access to featured acts in an intimate setting that provides a platform for artists to deliver inspired, memorable, full-length performances. Now in its 47th Season, the program is taped live before a concert audience from The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. Austin City Limits is the longest-running music series in television history and remains the only TV series to ever be awarded the National Medal of Arts. Since its inception, the groundbreaking music series has become an institution that’s helped secure Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World. The historic Austin PBS Studio 6A, home to 36 years of ACL concerts, has been designated an official Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Landmark. In 2011, ACL moved to the new venue ACL Live at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. ACL received a rare institutional Peabody Award for excellence and outstanding achievement in 2012.  

Austin City Limits is produced by Austin PBS and funding is provided in part by Dell Technologies, Workrise, the Austin Convention Center Department and Cirrus Logic. Additional funding is provided by the Friends of Austin City Limits. Learn more about Austin City Limits, programming and history at

Featured Live Stream News

ACL to live stream The Weather Station on 6/21

Austin City Limits is thrilled to announce we will live stream the debut taping of acclaimed indie rock band The Weather Station on June 21 at 8 p.m. CT. ACL offers fans worldwide the unique opportunity to watch the taping live in its entirety on our ACLTV YouTube Channel. The broadcast episode will air this fall on PBS as part of our upcoming Season 48.  

Tamara Lindeman is a Toronto-based songwriter and singer who performs under the name The Weather Station.  As The Weather Station, she has released six albums, most recently 2021’s breakthrough Ignorance and its companion album, How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars, released this March, which deal with themes of climate grief, disconnection and conflict, love and birds. Ignorance was regarded as one of the most praised albums of 2021, landing in the best albums of the year lists by the New Yorker, New York Times, Pitchfork and way beyond. The Weather Station has been nominated for two Junos, a Socan Award, and has been shortlisted for the Polaris Prize. Recorded live in just three days, How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars is achingly intimate; full of breath, silence, and detail. “I had no idea if I wanted anyone to ever hear these songs,” Lindeman says, “but I also felt like they were the best songs I’d ever written, and I wanted to document them in some way.” Not long after completing Ignorance, Lindeman decided to make this album on her own terms, fronting the money herself and not notifying the labels. She assembled a new band, and communicated a new ethos: the music should feel ungrounded, with space, silence, and sensitivity above all else. On this record, there are no drums, no percussion; in the absence of rhythm, time stretches and becomes elastic. Lyrically, many of the songs return to what has often been a hallmark of Lindeman’s writing, a description of a single moment and all the meaning it might encompass. Influenced by records like Chet Baker Sings or Bob Dylan’s Shadows In The Night, the record was recorded live off the floor at Toronto’s Canterbury Music Studios, with Jean Martin co-producing. Lindeman sang and played piano live while the band improvised their accompaniment. Whereas the recordings on Ignorance leaned towards ambition and grandeur, here the band reaches towards a different goal: grace, perhaps. In her telling, Lindeman has always reached towards classic songwriting, and on this record, she overtly pursued this influence, allowing some of the songs to be “naive in the way that American songbook songs often are; naive in the way of reaching towards something with that sort of crushing longing, naive in terms of melody and simplicity.”
Join us here on June 21 at 8 p.m. CT for The Weather Station, and this fall on PBS for the broadcast premiere of Austin City Limits’ upcoming Season 48.

Featured News

Circle Network debuts Austin City Limits Country June 8

Circle Network announced it has licensed previously recorded performances from Austin City Limits, the longest-running music program in television history, and has combined them with never-before-seen interviews for a new series called Austin City Limits: Country. Hosted by legendary country singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell, the weekly series will give fans a glimpse into what was going on in the artists’ careers at the time these shows were recorded, with episodes featuring Clint Black, the late Johnny Cash and June Carter, Reba McEntire, Kris Kristofferson, and others. Viewers will be able to still enjoy these original iconic performances, broadcast for the first time since their initial run, while Crowell will provide new commentary, history, and information for each act. Circle Network will air their remastered series starting Wednesday, June 8 at 10/9c pm. Check here for local carriage information.

Austin City Limits Country is coming to Circle Network and I’m happy to say, I’ll be your host. Classic performances by iconic artists are in store, including one with Emmylou. Anyone who’s a fan of the music won’t want to miss it,” said host Rodney Crowell.

Over the course of 48 seasons, ACL continues to air weekly on PBS, and now the licensing of these iconic ACL country performances cements Circle Network’s ongoing commitment to bringing country music programming to its viewers. “We have long admired the impact that this landmark series has had on the music industry and on Austin as a live music destination,” said Opry Entertainment Group President, Scott Bailey. “We are pleased to have formed a closer connection with the ACL team through our recent purchase of ACL Live at The Moody Theater, and we look forward to many opportunities to showcase Austin’s storied live music culture through our Circle TV platform in the future.”

“Airing these episodes of Austin City Limits: Country is a milestone for Circle,” said Circle Network’s General Manager, Drew Reifenberger, “Country music fans across the U.S. know how iconic Austin City Limits is, and we’re so excited to bring these performances right to their living rooms this June.”

Austin City Limits: Country will air Wednesday nights starting on June 8, for a total of 12 episodes. Episode programming includes:

Wednesday, June 8, 2022 10/9c pm – Charlie Daniels Band (originally aired in 1976)

The first Nashville-based act to appear on Austin City Limits, the Charlie Daniels Band rocked the original stage in the first season with their distinctive blend of country, blues, rock and bluegrass in support of their album Nightrider. Songs include “Texas,” “Long Haired Country Boy,” and “Franklin Limestone.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2022 10/9c pm – Hank Williams Jr. & Shake Russell – Dana Cooper Band (originally aired in 1980)

Hank Williams Jr. carries on his family tradition with a hits-packed appearance on Austin City Limits. With his fusion of his father Hank Sr.’s country, R&B, rock, Cajun and other influences, Williams creates a brilliant spectrum refracted through his unique musical soul, represented here with “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” “Move It On Over” and “Family Tradition.” Houston’s Shake Russell/Dana Cooper Band band makes its ACL debut on Austin City Limits with a repertoire of outstanding originals encompassing acoustic folk to electric rock, with intertwining harmonies delivering imaginative lyrics for a legion of loyal Texas fans. Songs include “Rollin’ My Blues,” “You Wouldn’t Know Me” and “Deep in the West.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 10/9c pm – Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell (originally aired in 1981)

Perfectly described as “a good singer singing good songs,” Americana pioneer Emmylou Harris was riding high on the country charts when she made her debut appearance on Austin City Limits in the same season that first featured the now-iconic backdrop. Performing in support of her album Evangeline, she includes her hits “Two More Bottles of Wine,” “If I Needed You” and “Born to Run.” Rodney Crowell first appeared on ACL in Season 2 playing guitar for Guy Clark. By the time he made his debut on the show, the Texas native had become a seasoned composer of hits for other artists, including the Oak Ridge Boys, Waylon Jennings and the Dirt Band. Supporting his self-titled third LP, Crowell performs “Stars On the Water,” “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” and “I Ain’t Living Long Like This.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2022 10/9c pm – Kris Kristofferson (originally aired in 1981)

Singer, songwriter, actor and author Kris Kristofferson made his long-awaited Austin City Limits debut in Season 7 with a crack band and a career-spanning set of classic songs. Following his 1981 tour, Kristofferson hit the stage for the first of three ACL appearances with classics including “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Lovin’ Her Was Easier,” and “Highwayman.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2022 10/9c pm – Glen Campbell & Eddy Raven (originally aired in 1984)

Glen Campbell blends country, folk and even a little jazz into a style that is definitely his own on his sole appearance on Austin City Limits. A television veteran from his own Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, the singer/guitarist presents a battalion of hits, including “Wichita Lineman,” “Gentle On My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights.” One of country music’s most admired songwriters, Eddy Raven was just beginning a run of six #1 singles on the country charts when he made his ACL debut. Supporting the album I Could Use Another You, Raven sings “I Got Mexico,” “She’s Gonna Win Your Heart” and more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 10/9c pm – George Jones & Vern Gosdin (originally aired in 1985)

Over the 30 years leading up to his second Austin City Limits episode, George Jones set the standards against which all other contemporary country singers are ultimately measured. Appearing in support of his album Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes, George sings his hits “The Race is One,” “No Show Jones” and “White Lightnin’.” Vern Gosdin’s smooth, distinctively country voice was the reason he was known by his fans and professional peers as a “singer’s singer.” For his only appearance on ACL, Gosdin surveys his catalog with “I Can Tell By the Way You Dance,” “Way Down Deep” and “If You’re Gonna Do Me Wrong (Do It Right).”

Wednesday, July 20, 2022 10/9c pm – Ronnie Milsap (originally aired in 1986)

One of the most versatile artists in the music industry, with a unique ability to appeal to any audience, Grammy-winning singer/musician Ronnie Milsap opened the twelfth season of Austin City Limits with his unique blend of pop, country, R&B, rock and gospel. Supporting his hit album Lost in the Fifties Tonight, Milsap performs “Any Day Now,” “Stranger in My House” and “Smokey Mountain Rain.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2022 10/9c pm – Johnny Cash with June Carter, Tommy Cash & The Cash Family (originally aired in 1987)

Armed with a catalog of indelible classics, the legendary Johnny Cash had already been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame by the time he made his first and only appearance on Austin City Limits in 1987. Joined by his wife June Carter and the Carter Family, Cash sings “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and more.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022 10/9c – Reba McEntire (originally aired in 1987)

At the time country music’s most awarded and best-selling artist, Reba McEntire brought her powerful, passionate voice and unerring ability to choose just the right material to Austin City Limits in 1988 in support of her platinum album The Last One to Know. Songs include “Love Will Find Its Way,” “Lookin’ For a New Love” and “Whoever’s in New England.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2022 10/9c – Dwight Yoakam & Patty Loveless (originally aired in 1988)

Kentucky-born Dwight Yoakam waved the flag for hardcore honky-tonk and hillbilly music at the front of country’s new traditionalist movement in the eighties with a string of hit singles and albums. His second appearance on Austin City Limits features songs from his #1 album Buenas Noches From a Lonely Room, including the title track, “What I Don’t Know” and “Streets of Bakersfield,” with guests Buck Owens and Flaco Jimenez. The new traditionalist movement also sparked the career of singer Patty Loveless, who spent her high school summers singing for the Wilburn Brothers before eventually signing to MCA and beginning a career as a hitmaker. Her first of four appearances on the show, her ACL debut includes the hits “If My Heart Had Windows,” “Blue Side of Town” and “Timber, I’m Falling in Love.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2022 10/9c – Clint Black with special guests Lisa Hartman Black, Eric Johnson and Ray Benson (originally aired in 1999)

Country superstar Clint Black made his debut appearance on Austin City Limits after a string of hit singles, multi-platinum albums and Grammy nominations. Supporting his 1999 album D’lectrified, Black and his special guests, including Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson, Austin guitar slinger Eric Johnson and Black’s wife Lisa Hartman Black, perform songs from across his career, including “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” “When I Said I Do” and “Nothin’ But the Taillights.”

# # #

ABOUT CIRCLE NETWORK: Circle is a media network dedicated to celebrating the country lifestyle and putting fans inside the circle of everything country. Circle offers entertainment news, documentaries, movies, archival, new and licensed programming, Grand Ole Opry performances, and more. Besides a linear feed, the network offers ad-supported streaming distribution with Tubi, NCTC, DISH, Peacock, Roku, Inc., Samsung TV Plus, Redbox, VIZIO SmartCast®, XUMO and Frndly TV, bringing its country lifestyle programming to millions more through TVs, smartphones and tablets. Named Digiday’s 2021 Best Streaming TV Platform and Pollstar’s #1 Livestreamer across all genres for 2020, Circle is a joint venture between Opry Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of Ryman Hospitality Properties, and Gray Television.

ABOUT OPRY ENTERTAINMENT GROUP: Rooted in the unparalleled country music history of the Grand Ole Opry, Opry Entertainment Group produces multi-platform entertainment experiences through its growing portfolio of entertainment venues, including the world-famous Grand Ole Opry, the iconic Ryman Auditorium, WSM Radio, the Blake Shelton-inspired Ole Red brand and Circle TV Network. Through concerts, tours, music inspired restaurants, retail, publishing, digital content, and more, Opry Entertainment Group connects millions of music fans to the artists they love through experiences they’ll never forget. Opry Entertainment Group is a subsidiary of Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc. (NYSE: RHP).

ABOUT AUSTIN CITY LIMITS: Austin City Limits (ACL) offers viewers unparalleled access to featured acts in an intimate setting that provides a platform for artists to deliver inspired, memorable, full-length performances. The program is taped live before a concert audience from The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. Austin City Limits is the longest-running music series in American television history and remains the only TV series to ever be awarded the National Medal of Arts. Since its inception, the groundbreaking music series has become an institution that’s helped secure Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World. The historic KLRU Studio 6A, home to 36 years of ACL concerts, has been designated an official Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Landmark. In 2011, ACL moved to the new venue ACL Live at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. ACL received a rare institutional Peabody Award for excellence and outstanding achievement in 2012.  

Austin City Limits is produced by Austin PBS, KLRU-TV, and funding is provided in part by Dell, the Austin Convention Center Department, Cirrus Logic and Workrise. Additional funding is provided by the Friends of Austin City Limits. Learn more about Austin City Limits at

Featured News Taping Recap

Taping recap: Allison Russell

Montreal native and Nashville resident Allison Russell came to ACL’s attention with her standout performance as part of Our Native Daughters at the Americana Music Festival a couple of years ago. We knew then it was only a matter of time before she came to the ACL stage on her own, and once the Birds of Chicago singer’s Grammy-nominated solo debut Outside Child arrived last year, we knew that time had come – especially since it was our 1000th taping (as officially declared by Austin mayor Steve Adler at the top of the show). Russell’s vision of roots music uses joyful noise to confront subjects like emotional and sexual abuse, systemic racial and gender bias, and the ongoing damage done to and by a culture that refuses to learn from its mistakes (and the connection between those things) – a timely message, as the taping occurred the night after the horrific Uvalde school shootings. Fronting a distinctively structured band, including guitarists Joy Clark and Mandy Fer, cellists Larissa Maestro and Monique Ross, violinist Chauntee Ross, drummer Elizabeth Goodfellow, and her own banjo and clarinet, Russell brought down the house. 

Using incense to bless the proceedings, Russell opened with the percussion-and-vocal driven “Hy-Brasil,” a powerful invocation of the African diaspora and its trials around the world. Chills thus induced, Russell led her band into “The Runner,” a more straightforward but compelling folk rocker that especially soared when the backing vocals and strings wailed in unison. “You can’t steal my joy,” she asserted, which became essentially the theme of the evening. She told a story about how in her hometown of Montreal she ran away from familial abuse, hearing the sounds of freedom from Austin City Limits (beaming in from Vermont), while finding her first love. That led, of course, was “Persephone,” leading to a graceful performance of her popular song about finding solace from suffering in the arms of young love. The strings got louder and the rhythms peppier for “The Hunters,” another struggle with difficult situations to which Russell herself – singing in French as well as English – couldn’t resist dancing. Keeping the beat going, Goodfellow, whose versatility is the band’s secret weapon, laid down a funky groove, during which Russell insisted she “couldn’t wait one more minute to introduce you to this goddess circle,” which she proceeded to do. It was all a set-up for “4th Day Prayer,” a swampy, gospel-infused anthem of defiance against a society that won’t confront the role systemic abuse contributes to its own collapse. “We are not alone,” she noted. “We are more than the sum of our scars,” and the song proved it. 

The strings, Goodfellow’s percussion and Clark’s acoustic guitar then created a spooky atmosphere as their leader retrieved her banjo for the minor keyed “All of the Women,” an attempt to find survivor’s joy in continued cultural deficits and unimaginable tragedy. “We believe that music, shared like this, is…creative communion, an essential service that helps build up our empathy,” Russell asserted. “Because our lack of empathy has a body count, and it has to stop.” It was a powerful, well-received moment, brought home by Fer’s angry guitar skronk, Russell’s keening clarinet coda and the crowd’s enthusiastic response. Russell retained her banjo for “Little Rebirth,” a haunting tune that, despite being an original, sounds like an ancient, recently discovered folk song, given a magnificent vocal by its writer. 

“This is the first anniversary of the release of Outside Child,” Russell noted as she invited her co-author, Birds of Chicago partner and spouse JT Nero to the stage for their ballad “Joyful Motherf*****s,” a song that yearns for a better world and reiterates that, as dark as some of these songs get, Russell never gives up on hope. The jazzy “Poison Arrow” continued with that hopeful vibe, before the group deviated from Outside Child to visit Russell’s work with Our Native Daughters. “I want to send this song out for all the grieving families in Texas tonight,” she said by way of introducing “You’re Not Alone.” The song began with celli and Russell’s banjo, as the rest of the band eased its way in to give the love song – for a child, a significant other, or the whole human race, however anyone chooses to take it – a special charge as everyone made the rounds with their solos. 

Russell continued her family affair, bringing on her daughter Ida Maeve Lindsay for the gorgeous and uplifting “Nightflyer,” her breakthrough hit and an audience favorite. The band went immediately a reprise of the chorus of “4th Day Prayer,” with Russell re-introducing the band and ending the set with a final few “ooh-ooh’s.” But that wasn’t all, as the audience hadn’t had enough. Russell and her chosen family of musicians returned with the intense Native Daughters track “Quasheba, Quasheba,” an exploration of genealogical hardship and how to be a good ancestor. Following that lesson in how scars still hurt, Russell sent us back out into the night with a benediction: a gentle, exquisite cover of Sade’s “By Your Side.” It perfectly ended one hell of a show, a master class in how to make music of consequence. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.