Featured News Taping Recap

Taping recap: Ray Wylie Hubbard

Forty-six years in the making, the long-awaited taping of the great Texas songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard was worth the wait. One of the original Texas outlaws, Hubbard is arguably best known for his early ‘70s composition, the much-recorded anthem “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother.” The Oklahoma native/longtime Lone Star resident relaunched his career in the nineties, and in one of music’s most remarkable second acts, has been prolifically recording critically-lauded work ever since. So we were thrilled to finally have the revered Texas troubadour on our stage for his first-ever headline appearance in a rousing performance that was livestreamed around the world. 

Hubbard and his ace four-piece band, which includes his son Lucas on guitar, drummer Kyle Schneider, Bukka Allen on keyboards and Gurf Morlix on bass, kicked things off with the bluesy “Rabbit,” on which he declares that, while he doesn’t know what “between the devil and the deep blue sea” mean, “maybe it means I’m funky and cool – maybe it means I’m on Austin City Limits!” “So that’s what a smattering of applause sounds like,” said the jovial raconteur, noting the lack of a live audience due to the pandemic. The songwriter drove his band even deeper into the swamp with “Snake Farm,” the title track to his 2006 album. After band intros, Hubbard launched into “Drunken Poet’s Dream,” a co-write with Hayes Carll the pair performed together during Carll’s ACL appearance in Season 36. Hubbard then turned his attention to Co-Starring, his acclaimed recent major label debut, featuring guest appearances from titans Joe Walsh, Ringo Starr, Chris Robinson and more. He showcased a trio of tracks from the record in a row, including the bluesy grind of “Bad Trick,” a song penned with his wife Judy. He donned a 12-string for “Rock Gods,” a heartfelt tribute to Tom Petty and his peers who’ve entered the Pearly Gates, and a meditation on how death comes to us all. After those sobering thoughts, Hubbard led the band into the funky rocker “Fast Left Hand,” highlighted by earthy solos from Allen’s Hammond organ and the younger Hubbard’s guitar.

“If this is the first time you’ve seen me on Austin City Limits, you might get the idea that I’m an acquired taste,” Hubbard remarked. “So this song should weed you out.” That bon mot dropped, the singer/songwriter pulled out the outlaw swamp rocker “Mother Blues” from 2012’s The Grifter’s Hymnal – the story of a stolen Les Paul Goldtop, two romances rooted in an afterhours gig, and the wisdom of keeping your gratitude higher than your expectations. He and the band launched into his 2017 classic “Tell the Devil I’m Gettin’ There As Fast I Can,” a “kind of rock & roll fable” that, as Hubbard explained with a wink in the intro “hopes God grades on a curve.” Longtime drummer Schneider then thumped out the rumbling groove of an anthem, “Wanna Rock and Roll,” the album closer from 1992’s Lost Train of Thought, a tune later recorded by the red dirt rockers Cross Canadian Ragweed that earned Hubbard enough royalties “to buy a fence. That’s very important where I live.” 

Hubbard ended the show with “Desperate Man,” a song he co-wrote with country superstar Eric Church (and the title track of Church’s 2018 LP) – a bluesy rocker that encapsulates as well as any his characters’ outlaw ethos. It was a great way to end a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 46 on your local PBS station. 

Featured News Taping Recap

Jackie Venson’s stunning ACL debut

Austin City Limits began as a showcase in 1973 to highlight the fertile Austin, Texas regional music scene, and we returned to our origins last night, showcasing the debut of Austin standout Jackie Venson. The next-generation singer-songwriter-guitar ace has made major waves in her hometown and across the globe over the past few years and we were proud to host her first taping, live streamed around the world. 

Wearing a black dress designed by her sister bearing a multitude of names of Black victims of police violence, with the words “Say their names” written down her arm, Venson made a statement even before launching her magnetic set. Performing a number of songs from her upcoming new album Vintage Machine, Venson and her five-piece band opened with “Awake,” a slow-grooving thumper frosted with her delay-soaked Epiphone Les Paul. The staccato beats of “Home” paid tribute to her hometown, before bassist Nick Clark led the musicians into cranking up the groove for the title track “Vintage Machine,” which appropriately felt like a Princely throwback. Comments lit up on the livestream with one viewer raving, “​Never heard Jackie before, tuned in because I follow Austin City Limits, this is fantastic.” The perpetually grinning Venson turned to the subject of l’amour for “Keep On,” a reggae tune that still left plenty of room for her frisky axe work. That song crashed directly into the next, a grungy rocker called “Witchcraft,” which immediately blazed into the funky rocker “Next Life.” After shouting out ACL, Venson and the band went into her current single “Make Me Feel,” a slow burn ballad that accented its desire with its composer’s burning licks. 

As backup singers Akina Adderley and Kate Priestley left the stage, Venson donned an acoustic guitar and delivered a moving speech in support of Black Lives Matter – “Not the hashtag, not the slogan, not the organization – the people.” Then she played “Back to Earth,” a sophisticated pop song that kept to her words’ spirit, if not the details. Venson then put on a Stratocaster with the comment, “We’re gonna do you Texas style.” She welcomed “Austin’s empress of soul” Tameca Jones to the stage, and the pair dazzled on the blues classic “Texas Flood,” made famous by another Austinite, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, who also performed the song on his own ACL debut back in 1984. “I think I would’ve been smited if I’d played that song on anything but a Strat,” she remarked. After replacing that guitar with her Les Paul, Venson cranked the funk back up for “Fight,” a socially conscious song featuring a jazzy solo from keyboardist Eddy Hozibal. Rock came back in a big way for “Transcends,” leading Venson to introduce her close-knit band. 

The band went back to its tasty blend of funk and rock for the bristling (and inaccurately titled) “LoFi,” before revisiting Venson’s pop side for “Surrender.” The guitar slinger headed into the home stretch with “Go My Way,” a positivity-infused tune that deftly blended R&B of the past and the present. Drummer Rodney Hyder then jumped into the funky backbeat of “Joy,” the show-closer that put all of Venson’s eggs – soulful grooves, pop melodies and powerhouse guitar – into one basket to bring it all home. It was a great debut, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs November 14 as part of our Season 46 on your local PBS station.  

Featured News Taping Recap

The Mavericks rock ACL En Espanol

Somehow, it’s been twenty years since country rock eclecticians the Mavericks last appeared on Austin City Limits. Fortunately, that’s changed with the band’s third taping, an audience-free taping due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This was a special show not only due to the combo’s long-overdue return, but also because the group showcased its daring, critically-acclaimed first-ever Spanish-language album En Español. There’s always been a Latin side to the Mavericks’ freewheeling musical personality, and this show allowed them to indulge in it more overtly, much to everyone’s delight. 

Taking the stage in a semi-circle, the expanded band (horns, accordion, percussion, plus backing vocalist Lisset Diaz from Cuban rock band Sweet Lizzy Project) began the show with “La Sitiera,” a ballad perfect for lead singer Raul Malo’s powerful, Roy Orbison-esque vocals. Malo switched from his Jazzmaster to a nylon-string guitar for the Latin-folk rocking “Recuerdos.” The band then went back to electric guitars and English vocals for “Back in Your Arms Again” and “Easy As It Seems,” danceable songs that clearly take some inspiration from the Tex-Mex rock & roll in the Lone Star State in the sixties. Malo’s big smile after concluding the latter helped make up for the lack of audience feedback. The group then went back to En Español for “Mujer,” a delightful Latin pop tune, before covering Mexican star Juan Gabriel’s frisky “No Vale La Pena,” highlighted by Michael Guerra’s rippling accordion. Malo switched back to English for the slinky fan favorite “Every Little Thing About You,” which was spiced by lead guitarist Eddie Perez’s fiery fretwork. 

The band then left the stage, leaving Malo alone to sing a song “so connected to this place” – the Willie Nelson classic “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” – a song tailor-made for Malo’s smooth croon. As was “Me Olvidé De Vivir,” an early Julio Iglesias tune (and favorite of Malo’s grandfather) made the Mavericks’ own in a folky arrangement. Diaz featured on heavenly harmony vocals for “Cuando Me Enamoro,” a lush number she co-wrote with Malo, and the hip-swaying “Come Unto Me,” a live favorite with dueling guitar and accordion solos from Perez, Malo and Guerra. The Mavericks closed the set with  the rollicking “As Long As There’s Loving Tonight,” frosted with rockabilly rhythms, Jerry Dale McFadden’s pumping piano, back-to-back-to-back horn solos, Guerra’s spicy squeezebox and Malo’s ever-boisterous singing. That high-energy closer earned a round of applause from our crew, as well as some off-camera wag’s cheeky comment, “OK, good rehearsal, guys!” It was a hell of a closer, and we can’t wait for you to see the hourlong broadcast airing November 21 as part of our upcoming Season 46 on your local PBS station. 

Featured News Taping Recap Uncategorized

Rufus Wainwright makes his long-awaited ACL debut

Sometimes you just have to say: it’s about damn time. It took a while, but singer, songwriter, and opera composer Rufus Wainwright finally made his long-awaited debut on Austin City Limits. Performing songs from his highly acclaimed tenth studio album Unfollow the Rules, and backed for this occasion by Denton, TX psych rock outfit Midlake (and their alter-ego the Texas Gentlemen), Wainwright delivered an incredible performance – a history-making, first-ever no-audience ACL taping in accordance with Covid-19 protocols. 

Son of fellow bards Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, Wainwright remarked “My dad did this show twice,” after nailing set opener “Trouble in Paradise,” the sparkling, witty pop tune that opens Unfollow the Rules. “I am now officially an adult.” The newly minted (47-year-old) grown-up leaned into the new record’s Laurel Canyon influence with “Damsel in Distress,” a wonderfully melodic song inspired by his friend and neighbor Joni Mitchell. Then it was time for the self-described “deep end” of the album, in particular the title track, a dramatic ballad inspired by his young daughter Viva. That amazing performance was followed by the country funk of “You Ain’t Big,” a lively poke at Middle America. Wainwright then moved to the piano for an older tune – the pretty title track of his second album Poses.  

Strapping on a guitar  (“I’m gay, so guitars kind of scare me”), Wainwright performed a pair of folky tunes: “Peaceful Afternoon” (written for his husband) and “Only the People That Love.” He pulled out the stops while getting overtly political for “Sword of Damocles,” a lush ballad aimed at promoting responsible presidential leadership, before shifting gears completely with “My Little You,” a solo piano “little ditty” dedicated to his daughter. He stayed at the keyboard for the powerful “Early Morning Madness,” an anthemic tune that really showed off his vocal and piano skills. He followed with the Nilsson-esque rocker “Devils and Angels (Hatred)” which included a backing track featuring strings and vocals by his sister Martha Wainwright. 

“This one I really didn’t practice for,” Wainwright said at the piano, but you’d never know it from his beautiful take on Unfollow the Rules closer “Alone Time.” The band ended their portion of the show with “another uptempo number about how everything is so terrible,” the acerbic “Going To a Town,” from Wainwright’s 2007 album Release the Stars. The troubadour closed the performance alone at the piano with a gorgeous pair of tunes: the jaunty mash note “The Art Teacher” and a stunning rendition of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah.” It was a simply spectacular performance, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall as part of our upcoming Season 46 on your local PBS station. 

Featured News Taping Recap

Yola opens ACL 46 taping season with buckets of soul

You’d be forgiven for thinking Yola is from the American South.  But singer, songwriter and multiple Grammy nominee (including four nods in the Americana category) actually hails from Bristol, England. She recorded her debut Walk Through Fire with Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach for his Easy Eye Sound label, garnering much love and acclaim, as well as those Grammy noms. Now her path leads her to her debut taping for Austin City Limits, which doubles as our first taping for Season 46, live streamed around the world.

The singer and her band took the stage and immediately began “Lonely the Night,” a midtempo bit of melancholy that near-perfectly inhabits the midpoint between soul and country – a sweet spot Yola owns. Donning her acoustic guitar, Yola’s vision further crystallized in follow-up “Ride Out in the Country,” one of the tunes that brought her to the public’s attention (as evidenced by the crowd’s enthusiasm), and given a tight, simmering reading here. “Shady Grove” took a more relaxed route, alluding to the folk music from which the title is adapted. Her album’s title track came next, with Yola sharing the story of its surprising inspiration: a house fire in which she was caught, which she remarkably translated into a smoldering love song with the help of Auerbach and legendary songwriter Dan Penn. She went back to folk rock for “Love All Night (Work All Day),” a tribute to doing what’s necessary to sustain one’s passion. Acknowledging the inspiration of Graham Nash and the Hollies, she then injected a dollop of soul into the Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe,” ironically a song on which Nash himself did not perform. The audience loved it anyway. “That was fun, wasn’t it?” she teased. 

Yola put down her guitar for “Faraway Look,” perhaps her most well-known hit (so far), giving the ballad the full force of her magnificent voice. After introducing the band, she sang the upbeat, uplifting “Love is Light” and the sadder (but still upbeat) “Still Gone.” Yola then flipped her back pages for the rocking “What You Do,” a track from her 2016 debut EP Orphan Offering. “It Ain’t Easier” followed, a powerhouse ballad that once again unleashed her full vocal power. Yola and her group closed the main set with a song by “my all-time hero,” Elton John – namely the grand ballad “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” which was unsurprisingly right up her alley. The crowd sent her off with a huge roar of applause. 

Needless to say, Yola wasn’t done quite yet. She and the band came back onstage with “I Don’t Wanna Lie,” an old-fashioned soul groover that became an audience singalong. She brought the show home with Aretha Franklin’s explosive take on the classic Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell tune “You’re All I Need to Get By.” The audience went wild once again, as Yola walked off in triumph. It was a great show and a great season debut, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.  

Taping Recap

Tank and The Bangas close out S45 tapings with a soulful blast

There’s no one in music quite like Tank and The Bangas. The New Orleans R&B, funk and hip-hop ensemble impressed ACL with a stunning show at the Austin City Limits Music Festival a couple of years ago, so it was inevitable they would appear on the show. The band made their debut on the ACL stage in support of this year’s acclaimed major label  LP Green Balloon, and their presence couldn’t have been any more appropriate – Tank and The Bangas’ joyful performance capped off our 45th taping season on a high note.

The Bangas took the stage to the delight of an already pumped audience –  a perfect welcome for a band from the Big Easy. After a rumbling synth intro, singer/rapper/poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball arrived in a fur cape for “Spaceships,” displaying a variety of voices as she parodied hip-hoppers – or anyone, really – obsessed with the green. A classically-inclined piano intro from Norman Spence II brought on “Quick,” a roaring tune that featured two saxophones doubling power chords and ambiguous lyrics that also incorporated work from hip-hop producer extraordinaire 9th Wonder. After Tank enjoined the audience to “make some noise,” the band immediately launched into “Nice Things,” a slinky feast of soul. The ballad “Hot Air Balloon” followed, building to a fiery sax solo from Albert Allenback, before “Smoke.Netflix.Chill,” a sweet come-on if there ever was one.  

A funky groove signaled the sardonic “Do Something,” a song that starts out as a riposte to empty platitudes, before becoming an anthem of personal empowerment. The party hit another level with “Boxes and Squares,” a beautifully volatile mix of funk, hip-hop and doubled jazz sax solos. The hard funk continued on “Nile, Den and Latah,” the band bringing their entire bag of tricks to bear on a tune that got the audience hopping. The crowd was able to catch their breath (barely) with “Ants,” which found Tank rapping over a smooth seventies R&B groove. The Bangas kept the music roiling and solos flying as Tank unleashed her powerful vocal chords on “Ripperton,” in tribute to the eponymous R&B favorite, first name Minnie. To say the audience went wild is an understatement. 

All that energy had to go somewhere, and that was final song “Brady’s,” in which the band took the audience on a handclapping, swaying, hopping ride through its world: sweet harmonies, crashing drums, rock guitar, relentless groove, singalong “na-na’s” and Tank’s versatile, everywhere-at-once vocal stylings. “Bye!” said Tank, and the show was over, though from the crowd’s reaction they wanted more. It was a titanic way to end our milestone forty-fifth season of Austin  City Limits, and we can’t wait for you to see it when this episode when it airs early next year on your local PBS station.