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Taping recap: Parker McCollum

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that Texas music is synonymous with singer/songwriters. Not only that, but a certain special breed of singers and tunesmiths, whose ears are wide open to different sounds and whose Lone Star roots are deeply embedded within their music. Raised in the East Texas town of Conroe and seasoned at Austin’s own Saxon Pub, Parker McCollum is the fastest rising country star in the new generation, with a major label contract, a best-selling album in Gold Chain Cowboy, a just-announced nomination for  New Artist of the Year at this year’s upcoming Country Music Awards, and, now, his debut on Austin City Limits, which we live streamed around the world.  

“It’s the first time I get to say it,”  said the baseball-capped singer as he took his position at center stage. “What’s goin’ on, Austin City Limits?” He and his ace six-piece band then launched into the heartland rock of “Young Man’s Blues,” a cut from his 2020 Hollywood Gold EP that introduced McCollum to the wider world. The musicians wasted no time, going straight into the rocking but romantic “Wait Outside,” from his breakthrough  Gold Chain Cowboy. “I don’t know how many bands started out at the Saxon and then did a live Austin City Limits taping, but we’re certainly one of ‘em,” remarked McCollum wryly before singing “Stoned,” a new song destined for the next record. Strumming his acoustic with swagger, McCollum led the band into the anthemic, celebratory “To Be Loved By You.” The singer then went back to his debut album The Limestone Kid for “Meet You in the Middle,” a frisky country rocker with spitfire guitar solos from Brady Beal and Alex Weeden. 

“I hope the gratitude is just radiating off of us tonight,” McCollum smiled, acknowledging his family, introducing his band and singing the ballad “Like a Cowboy” with all the heart in his body. Then he introduced a just released single, the catchy “Handle On You,” which felt like an immediate audience favorite. The open-hearted McCollum mentioned how he had to delay the taping twice, first due to a broken finger and then illness, and he waited to be in top form to get this ACL moment right, and the singer aptly introduced the introspective folk rocker “Rest of My Life” to cheers from the crowd. The band launched into the brash rocker “Fallin’ Apart,” which McCollum noted was co-written by his producer Jon Randall and Miranda Lambert (both last seen on our stage in 2021 memorably debuting their The Marfa Tapes collaboration), along with fellow Texas songwriter Randy Rogers. After that blazer, it was only appropriate to go back to the honky-tonk for the brokenhearted boozer’s ballad “Drinkin’.” That tune segued directly into “Love You Like That,” a lighter-waver both uncertain and hopeful. 

McCollum then monologued about the writing of the next song “Hell of a Year,” explaining how he choked up singing it during soundcheck when he remembered writing it in the drive-thru of an Austin Whataburger, finally feeling like he’d written a good song. He balanced the heart-on-sleeve poignancy of the tune by drolly noting that the song was written about 2017, but gained new resonance in 2020 – “It’s every songwriter’s dream, for a song to be relevant twice.” McCollum returned to the heartland for the widescreen rocker “Why Indiana,” and the already fired-up audience showed their love for the penultimate “Pretty Heart,” the double-platinum first single from Gold Chain Cowboy. McCollum once again expressed his gratitude to his family (many of whom were present in the audience) and to ACL before ending the show with the heartfelt power ballad “I Can’t Breathe,” once again to the crowd’s great delight. The band returned to the stage with “Happy New Year,” a tune from The Limestone Kid that represented not only where he came from but where he’s headed. The music ended, but McCollum didn’t leave the stage – he couldn’t, as he was surrounded by legions of fans and autograph seekers, who he was happy to indulge. It was a hell of a debut show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on October 29 as part of our upcoming Season 48. 

Parker McCollum tapes Austin City Limits for the first time, Sept. 7, 2022. Photos by Scott Newton.

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Featured News Taping Recap

Taping recap: Lyle Lovett & His Large Band

Guy Clark once sang, “Old friends – they shine like diamonds.” That feels appropriate as we welcomed back our pal, noted Guy Clark fan, and ACL frequent flyer Lyle Lovett to our stage for a headliner show for the first time in a dozen years. (In fact, the last time Lovett did his own taping was the final show in our original home in Studio 6A in 2010.) So the show felt like a reunion, not only for us, but for the devoted fans that packed ACL Live at the Moody Theater. The Texas hero was here to support his latest album 12th of June, of course, and pulled from it generously. But the show was as much a homecoming as a showcase. 

The lights on stage went down, before pianist Jim Cox and violinist Luke Bulla played the bandleader onstage for the lovely old-school ballad “Are We Dancing.” Lovett then quit the stage and the band swung into “Cookin’ at the Continental,” the classic jazz tune from the pen of piano great Horace Silver that throws a spotlight on every member of the twelve-piece Large Band. Lovett and his four singers (including longtime compatriot Francine Reed) returned for “Pants is Overrated,” a prime slice of the songwriter’s wry humor. After noting how glad he was to return to the ACL stage, Lovett told the story of meeting Francine Reed, who’s sung with him since the mid-eighties. Reed announced her retirement from the road this year, but not before she joined the Large Band for this performance. She and Lovett sang two duets drawn from the repertoire of jazz vocal great Nat King Cole and recorded on 12th of June: “Straighten Up and Fly Right” and “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You,” the latter of which featured Lovett taking Reed for a brief spin on the dance floor. 

Lovett talked about his time on the show, reminiscing about how he used to come to tapings long before he ever performed himself. He segued into introducing the core members of the Large Band, many of whom he’s played with for thirty-plus years, before playing the country waltz “Her Loving Man.” After bemusedly describing his early years being mislabeled a folk singer, introducing his friends in the audience, Lovett claimed the next song as a commemoration of a successful co-headlining tour with singer/songwriter Chris Isaak – who walked out onstage midway through the wry “Mirrored Man’s Lament” to sing along, to the surprise and delight of the crowd. Of course, you can’t invite the sparkle-jacketed rocker onstage and not sing a Roy Orbison song, and that was “Dream Baby,” the song they performed together every night during the tour. Following one quick (and, sadly, temporary) jacket exchange, Isaak left and Lovett sang the melancholy ballad “The Mocking Ones.” 

Prefaced by a story about his family’s history and traditions, Lovett paid tribute to his wife and children with the beautiful title track to 12th of June. He continued the nods to family with “Pig Meat Man,” a bluesy stroll through his son’s love of bacon that featured some sizzling improvisations from University of North Texas saxophone professor Brad Leeli. The Large Band ended the first set with the barrelhouse piano-led “On a Winter’s Morning,” the same song that concludes 12th of June. Following a short period of rest, Lovett and the band returned for a hearty five-song encore, starting with Lovett and Isaak sharing an impromptu duet on the Delmore Brothers’ “Blues Stay Away From Me” with trombonist Charles Rose. The blues feel continued with “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” with round-robin solos from guitarist James Harrah, steel player Buck Reid, guitarist Dean Parks and drummer Russ Kunkel.   

The fan favorites continued with “I’ve Been to Memphis,” the rollicking opener to Lovett’s classic Joshua Judges Ruth that spotlighted bassist Leland Sklar, fiddler Luke Bulla, pianist Jim Cox, acoustic guitarist Jeff White, singers Reid, Willie Greene, Jr., Lamont Van Hook and Jason Eskridge, the four-piece horn section of Lesli, Rose, trumpeter Steve Hermann and saxophonist Mace Hibbard and stalwart cellist John Hagen, with whom Lovett began playing in 1979. Lovett enthused about his old friend’s history before telling him, “Let’s play one we’ve played many times.” That was “If I Had a Boat” from Lovett’s second album Pontiac, a Lovett standard and a crowd favorite. There was only one way to follow that and end the evening, and that was with “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas),” Lovett’s lively and beloved homage to his home state. The audience went justifiably wild as the Large Band played their leader off with a burst of “Here I Am.” It was a great show and a proper homecoming, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station. 

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Taping recap: Lucius

Lucius leaders Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig graced the ACL stage once before, singing backup for Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy’s family band Tweedy in Season 40. We knew then they would bring their own band to the show, and thus were thrilled to witness it actually happening. The band brought its unique blend of pop, electronica, disco and singer/songwriter folk to us having played a series of shows with our recent guest Brandi Carlile, and the seasoning showed with a sparkling set full of songs from across their decade-plus career. 

Sporting their trademark identical hairstyles, Wolfe and Laessig descended in tandem from the drum riser to lead the band into the funky, hip-swinging “Second Nature,” the title track of their latest album, with synchronized stage moves to match their entwined harmonies. The pair picked up blinged-out keytars for the equally discofied, fuzz guitar-frosted single “Next to Normal,” to enthusiastic applause. Wolfe and Laessig then moved back in time to their 2013 debut LP Wildewoman for the groovy, dramatic “Tempest,” beating floor toms (and encouraging the crowd to clap along) and sharing the vocals with bassist Solomon Dorsey and guitarist Alex Pfender. The band returned to Second Nature for the soaring pop anthem “Promises” and the heartfelt, powerfully-sung ballad “The Man I’ll Never Find,” which made use of the sparkling pony mic that allowed Laessig and Wolfe to sing face to face. Lucius shifted to waltz time for the gorgeous “Dusty Trails,” a shimmering showcase for the band’s distinctive vocal blend. At one point the band dropped out and the frontwoman backed away from the mic for a minute of unamplified, a cappella glory, which the audience loved. 

Lucius then stepped away from their original material for their lush cover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line,” recorded for their “unplugged” record Nudes – interestingly, the second time the song has been sung on our stage, following its appearance in Bonnie Raitt’s Season 38 set. The pony mic went away and the set leapt back to Wildewoman for the guitar-powered audience singalong, “How Loud Your Heart Gets.” Back came Second Nature and the keytars for the synth-heavy “Heartbursts,” which found Pfender and Dorsey joining Wolfe and Laessig at the front of the stage. The heart-wrenching “White Lies” followed, a yearning ballad perfect for waving lighters in the dark. In an unusual move, Lucius ended the main set with “Supernatural Girl,” an unreleased but glorious anthem that saw the band exit the stage and join the thrilled audience in a hail of soaring “ahhhhs” and synthesized and strummed feedback. 

“Are we feeling nice and floaty and spacy now?” Wolfe asked, revealing that they hadn’t been part of the crowd since their first record and noting the continuing importance of Austin City Limits to live music, to exuberant applause. The dynamic duo launched into fan-favorite “Two of Us On the Run,” a tribute to their friendship and collaboration. The pair strutted back onstage as the band immediately kicked into the rocking grooves of “Turn It Around,” a song from the group’s 2012 self-titled debut EP. The song ended but the beat continued, Wolfe and Laessig singing the high harmony that signaled the 1970s Donna Summer electro-disco classic “I Feel Love,” to the absolute delight of the audience. The familiar pulse served as soundtrack for the introduction of the band, before returning to the song, climaxing with Laessig and Wolfe taking a tandem bow. The crowd went wild, as well they should have. It was an excellent show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall as part of our Season 48 on your local PBS station.   

Lucius tapes Austin City Limits, July 18, 2022. Photos by Scott Newton.

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Taping recap: Brandi Carlile

There are few artists in music in the twenty-first century more respected and beloved than Brandi Carlile, and we’re always glad to have her back on Austin City Limits. Having gone from strength to strength and triumph to triumph since she first played our show back in 2010, the award-winning singer, songwriter, producer and activist made her third appearance with a stunning show centered around her much-admired seventh LP In These Silent Days

The set began with a “Twintro,” as Carlile’s longtime musical, harmony and songwriting partners Tim and Phil Hanseroth came onstage from opposite sides for some six-string crosstalk. The rest of the band came up to fill up the sound, then Carlile herself arrived, picked up her guitar, and launched the hard rocking “Broken Horses.” The band followed up with the twins manned stompboards as well as their axes for the breathless folk rock of “The Thing I Regret,” a Firewatcher’s Daughter tune and a showcase for their harmony blend with their bandleader. Singers/string players Monique and Chaunte Ross (last seen on our stage in May with Allison Russell) and Kyleen King came onstage for the homespun family devotional of “You and Me On the Rock,” leading Carlile to exclaim, “All these joyful noises!” Joined by cellist Sara Nelson for the full four-piece string section, Carlile took to the piano with the twins around her for lush three-part harmonies on the beautiful love song  “This Time Tomorrow.” Carlile picked her acoustic back up for “The Mother,” a sweet and witty fan favorite from her prior LP By the Way, I Forgive You, enhanced by the string quartet. The tributes to motherly devotion continued with “Mama Werewolf,” a frisky country rocker that “told the truth about what kind of mother I really am.” 

“I think we should get trippy,” Carlisle noted as she brought singer/songwriter/guitarist Celisse to the stage (thereby explaining the pink sparkly guitar rig with “Celisse loves you” written on it) for a gorgeous, psychedelic take on the David Bowie classic “Space Oddity,” with harmony guitars from Celisse and Tim Hanseroth and a sleek segue into a powerhouse version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” capped off by the guest’s crowd-approved guitar solo. The only way to follow that one-two punch was a complete change of pace, thus the acoustic-wielding Carlile and the twins gathered around an old-fashioned microphone for “Cannonball,” a harmony-driven folk delight from her breakthrough The Story. The singer then went back up to the piano for “Right On Time,” her hit from In These Silent Days, replaced by pianist Shooter Jennings as she came back to her guitar to send the song into spectacular flight. The band kept the lighter-waving vibe alive with “Sinners Saints and Fools,” another powerful, defiant anthem from Days that the musicians – especially the strings, percussionist Jeff Haynes and guitarist Tim Hanseroth – sent into orbit. There was only one way to end the set after that: with musician intros and “The Joke,” the incredible song of love and empowerment that’s become Carlile’s signature tune, and one earning her rapturous applause. 

There was no way anyone was ready to let her go after that, however. The band kicked off the encore with Celisse on a bluesy version of Joni Mitchell’s classic “Woodstock,” to loud applause. Afterward, the string section came forward and gathered around the old-fashioned mic and the band ripped through Carlile’s Woody Guthrie-esque folk rocker “Hold Out Your Hand,” a great opportunity for audience sing- and clapalongs. Accompanied only by strings, piano, Hanseroth harmonies and her own acoustic guitar, Carlile ended the show with the benediction “Stay Gentle,” seguing smoothly into a solo version of the classic standard “Over the Rainbow.” Blessings thus bestowed, Carlile beckoned the band back onstage for a final bow to passionate applause. It’s clearly the foundation of a classic episode, and we can’t wait for you to see this season highlight when it airs this fall as part of our Season 48 on your local PBS station. 

Brandi Carlile, the Hanseroth twins and band tape Austin City Limits for the third time, July 13, 2022. Photos by Scott Newton.

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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. 

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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.