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Featured News

Congratulations to the 2021 Grammy nominees

The nominations for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards have been announced, and while we’re happy for all the nominees this year, we’re chuffed for our Austin City Limits alumni who made the list. The Grammy Awards telecast, co-produced by ACL’s own Terry Lickona, will broadcast on January 31, 2021, hosted for the first time by The Daily Show host, Emmy-winner and Grammy-nominated Trevor Noah. 

We’re especially excited for our hometown heroes Black Pumas, who’ve scored nominations for Record of the Year and Best American Roots Performance for their hit “Colors,” as well as a nom for Album of the Year for the deluxe edition of their self-titled debut. We’re also thrilled that our own Ruthie Foster, whose episode airs on January 17, gained a Best Contemporary Blues Album nom, and Rufus Wainwright, whose sensational ACL debut aired back in October, earned a Best Traditional Pop Album nod. Mavis Staples, whose classic Season 38 performance encored two weeks ago, earned a Best American Roots Song nod for her duet with Norah Jones, while John Legend, whose magnificent Season 36 episode with the Roots encored in November, was nominated for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance. The late John Prine, whose memorable hour kicked off our 46th season, got two nods for Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song.  

Brittany Howard, ACL two-timer with her band Alabama Shakes, cleaned up with half a dozen nominations. Pop princess Billie Eilish received four, while country queen Miranda Lambert took three. Beck, Sarah Jarosz, Lucinda Williams and Brandi Carlile each got two nods. Dolly Parton, the late Leonard Cohen, Coldplay, Sturgill Simpson, H.E.R., Eric Church, David Byrne, Wilco, James Taylor, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Vince Gill, Natalia Lafourcade, Bettye LaVette, the Robert Cray Band, Bela Fleck, Michael Kiwanuka and the Steep Canyon Rangers scored one apiece. 

We’d also like to give special shout-outs in the coveted Producer of the Year category: to nominee and ACL three-timer Dan Auerbach and Dave Cobb, who hasn’t performed on ACL but has produced a ridiculous number of artists who have. It’s also a wonderful day in the PBS neighborhood as public television legend Fred Rogers is celebrated for Best Historical Album for It’s Such a Good Feeling: The Best of Mr. Rogers. Congratulations to all. 

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Episode Recap Featured New Broadcast News

Jackie Venson and Mavis Staples bring the soul to ACL this weekend

Austin City Limits is proud to spotlight a rising star, Austin singer-songwriter/guitar ace Jackie Venson, in her national television debut as a headliner. The hour also features a vintage performance by soul/gospel legend Mavis Staples from her 2012 showcase, joined by special guest Bonnie Raitt. The installment premieres November 14 at 8pm CT/9pm ET on PBS as part of the iconic series’ Season 46. With live music still on pause, ACL continues to provide viewers a front-row seat to the best in live performance. The series airs weekly on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings) and full episodes are made available online for a limited time at pbs.org/austincitylimits immediately following the initial broadcast.  

With the cancellation of 2020’s SXSW earlier this year at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity for the audiences to witness many of music’s best and brightest was lost. One of the featured artists poised to perform on multiple stages at this year’s edition was Austin standout Jackie Venson. The breakout blues, rock, R&B & soul singer/guitar virtuoso has earned acclaim in her hometown and beyond for her singular skills.  Venson was introduced to national audiences as a handpicked opener for guitar star Gary Clark Jr. in 2019, and has established a rapidly growing fan base as one to watch, recently landing in the Top 10 of Pollstar’s Top 50 Livestreamers, alongside established acts including Luke Combs and Norah Jones. Venson was also the subject of the fourth episode of Pause/Play, a new podcast from Austin public radio station KUTX about musicians during the pandemic. The podcast, which focuses on her ACL taping and also includes executive producer Terry Lickona, can be heard here, and a video preview can be watched here

An innovative artist who brings passion, emotion and truth to her music, Venson performs highlights from her acclaimed 2020 album Vintage Machine and 2019’s Joy in her ACL debut. Wearing a black leather dress inscribed with 73 names of Black Americans who have died at the hands of police, Venson has become an important voice in raising awareness about racial inequality. She meets the moment with a powerful address: “Black lives matter. Not the hashtag, not the slogan, not the organization, but actual lives. Me, my family, my band. We matter.” She then launches into “Back to Earth,” showcasing her guitar bona fides with blazing fretwork and stunning solos. Venson welcomes “Austin’s Empress of Soul,” vocalist Tameca Jones, to the stage for a scorching slowburn rendition of the blues classic “Texas Flood” putting her own signature sound on her Stratocaster on the Lone Star anthem. With a smile as wide as Texas, Venson closes out the radiant debut with the buoyant rocker “Transcends.” 

“Every so often a new ‘sensation’ arises from the fervid Austin music scene, and the moment right now belongs to Jackie Venson,” said Lickona. “There are many words to describe her music, but the one that rings loudest for me is ‘TRUTH.’”

photo by Scott Newton

The inspiring hour also features a timely encore performance from living legend Mavis Staples who delivers a clutch of powerful protest songs, including “Freedom Highway,” The Staple Singers’ 1965 classic, about the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till. Staples has been a part of history for more than half a century, at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement to presidential inaugurations. The 2012 appearance marked the iconic singer’s debut on the series, and she captivates with her famous low register vocals and magnetic energy, delivering soulful renditions of contemporary songs, as well as socially conscious anthems from her family band The Staples Singers-era. She is joined by longtime friend and collaborator Bonnie Raitt for a pair of classics, the emotional duet “Losing You” and the gospel standard “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” for a soaring close. 

Jackie Venson setlist:

Make Me Feel

Back to Earth 

Texas Flood (with Tameca Jones)

Transcends

Mavis Staples setlist:

Creep Along Moses

Wrote A Song For Everyone

You Are Not Alone

Freedom Highway

Losing You (with Bonnie Raitt)

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (with Bonnie Raitt)

Season 46 Broadcast Line-up (six new episodes to be announced):

October 3 The Best of John Prine 

October 10 Yola

October 17 Stevie Ray Vaughan 30 Years On

October 24 Rufus Wainwright

October 31                ACL Presents: 50 Years of Asleep at the Wheel

November 7             John Legend & The Roots: Wake Up!

November 14 Jackie Venson | Mavis Staples w/Bonnie Raitt

November 21            The Mavericks

Tune-in, log on, and let ACL be a trusted sidekick for entertainment during these challenging days. The complete line-up for the full 13-week season will be announced at a later date.  Viewers can visit acltv.com for news regarding live streams, future tapings and episode schedules or by following ACL on Facebook, Twitter, IG and TikTok. Fans can also browse the ACL YouTube channel for exclusive songs, behind-the-scenes videos and full-length artist interviews.

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. Now in its 46th 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 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 Technologies, RigUp, 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 acltv.com. 

Categories
News Taping Recap

Bonnie Raitt & Mavis Staples: a soul sisters extravaganza

“Thanks for comin’ out to see our soul sisters extravaganza tonight!” exclaimed Bonnie Raitt as she took the ACL stage. Tonight’s taping was a double-header, with not only the bottleneck guitar-slinging Raitt, but also soul/gospel legend Mavis Staples putting her formidable pipes through their paces. For fans of powerful, R&B-derived singing, this show was a little slice of heaven.

It’s been ten years since Bonnie Raitt has appeared on the show, so anticipation ran high. Raitt and her veteran band easily met all expectations, however. She opened with “Used to Rule the World,” a funky blues rocker with a slinky slide solo that’s the opening cut from her latest album Slipstream. She continued through a set heavy on the acclaimed new LP, from the snarky rocker “Down to You” and the reggae-infused makeover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” to the smoky blues take on Bob Dylan’s “Million Miles” and the folk-rocking commentary of “Marriage Made in Hollywood.” The highlights of the new songs may have been a pair of gorgeous ballads, “You Can’t Fail Me Now” (co-written by Loudon Wainwright III and Slipstream producer Joe Henry) and “Not Cause I Wanted To.” She peppered the set with some of her classics as well, dedicating the funky hit “Love Sneakin’ Up On You” to the late Austin guitarist Stephen Bruton, who served many years in her band, and giving her smash version of John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love” an extra swampy flavor. Raitt closed her performance with a shimmeringly atmospheric “Angel From Montgomery,” letting John Prine’s classic tune settle over the crowd like a soft rain. It was a gentle comedown for an otherwise fiery show.

“We come this evening to bring you some joy, some inspiration and some positive vibrations,” declared Mavis Staples in the middle of her set, and there’s no way anyone present didn’t get that. Making music since she was (gulp) ten years old, Staples is a veteran, but her performance tonight underscored that, at 72, she’s still as much about passion as professionalism. Her set began with the a cappella “Wonderful Savior,” a simple gospel tune to set the mood. Ramping up the energy Mavis shared space with guitarist Rick Holstrom’s biting tone on “Creep Along Moses.”  A stately cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Wrote a Song For Everyone” kept the buzz at maximum. “Freedom Highway” and “Eyes On the Prize” hearkened back to the 60s, when the Staple Singers were the musical voice of the civil rights movement, while “You Are Not Alone,” the Jeff Tweedy-composed title track to her latest LP, testified to her stunning way with a ballad. “I’ll Take You There” became the call-and-response gospel epic it was always meant to be and left the crowd hanging on, waiting for more as Mavis left the stage.

When she returned for an encore she was joined by Bonnie for a heartfelt take on Randy Newman’s “Losing You” – “this song is very special,” claimed Mavis, “It’s for both our fathers” – and a rousing, groovy “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” put the entire studio in the spirit. But in a show overflowing with highlights, perhaps the biggest was her version of the Band’s “The Weight.” Mavis performed on the version in the film The Last Waltz and claimed it as her own tonight, sharing the vocals with her singers and bringing the audience to a wild standing ovation. Mavis claimed in her interview that she’s long wanted to be on Austin City Limits and that she was thrilled to be here, and we can only say: right back atcha, ma’am – “Meeting Mavis is like going to church,” says associate producer Leslie Nichols. This is a show that will pass into ACL legend.

We always say we can’t wait for y’all to see these performances, and we couldn’t be any more heartfelt with that sentiment after this show. Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples – can it get anymore soulful? Find out for yourselves this fall when this episode airs on PBS.