Since 1976, Austin City Limits has been one of the more significant live music television. The only two more honored TV places for an artist to play is Saturday Night Live and halftime at the Super Bowl. And neither of those gigs give you the time to really give a sense of your show. The show established Austin, Texas as a place for live music for people who didn’t live in the Lone Star State. It’s hard to imagine if SXSW would be as huge or even exist if Austin City Limits hadn’t been picked up by PBS all those years ago. Austin City Limits: Country is a 10 DVD set that compiles many of the great performances over all those seasons.
While it is the last disc in the boxset, the perfect place to start your viewing pleasure is the first episode with Willie Nelson. He lives nearby so he’s the perfect first gift. He makes the stage his home and invites you to join him. The pilot concert was recorded in 1974 so you’re seeing a rather young Willie enjoying his time on stage. There’s such joy as he runs through a set that includes “Crazy,” “Whiskey River,” “Good Hearted Woman” and so much more in the hour. His “Bloody Mary Morning” ought to be the anthem for any place serving brunch. When you start off with the first disc, Willie returns (for season 2) with “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain” and “Red Headed Stranger.” Willie returns on season 8 as a surprise guest to duet with Roger Miller on “Old Friends.” Willie and Asleep at the Wheel team up for “On The Road Again” and “Always On My Mind.” Finally Willie arrives for the 2014 Hall of Fame episode to perform “Whiskey River” like he did 40 years before. Then he does “Crazy” with Emmylou Harris, “Funny How Time Slips Away” with Lyle Lovett and all three of them join for “On The Road Again.” While Willie wasn’t on every episode, his welcoming charm sets the tone for the show.
Plenty of legends are captured live on the stage. The recently passed Charley Pride lights up the audience with “Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone” and “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’.” Marty Robbins goes deeper into Texas with “El Paso.” Johnny Cash wows the audience with his classics “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Ring of Fire,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “I Walk the Line.” Waylon Jennings delivers “I’m A Ramblin’ Man,” “Luckenbach, Texas” and “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” John Denver teams up with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Jerry Reed brings “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” and “Amos Moses.” Lorretta Lynn gives us “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and the warning of “Don’t Come Home A’Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).” Tanya Tucker reminds the audience where they are with “Texas (When I Die)” after “Delta Dawn.” Dolly Parton arrives with “Coat of Many Colors” and “I Will Always Love You.”
There’s plenty of country stars that became huge in the ’80s including Alabama, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Rodney Crowell, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Faith Hill & Martina McBride. Garth Brooks pops up and does “Friends In Low Places” to remind us how he revolutionized the genre’s appeal. Dwight Yoakam brings out Buck Owens for “Streets of Bakerfield” to remind us of the Hee Haw star’s greatness. Folks who became stars around the turn of the century including Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn also get their turn to shine before the fine folks of Austin.
There’s a few of the more recent country stars including Eric Church, Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves. This is a fine compilation of what’s happened in country music over the course of the nearly 40 years. It opens with “Whiskey River” and nearly ends on “Tennessee Whiskey.” And the music just flows as it’s live on stage where the audience is as important as the cameras. Austin City Limits: Country gives so many of the greatest performers a stage to show what makes their music so special. The 164 songs across 10 DVDs are a sweet slice of the magic made in Texas.
The video starts 1.33:1 full frame for the first part of the show’s run. The more recent years has it at 1.78:1 anamorphic. They’ve made the video look good enough so you see the wardrobe of the performers. The audio also varies from Dolby Digital Mono for the early years to Dolby Digital Stereo for the second half.
Interviews with various people who made the show every week.
Backstage Interviews with Garth Brooks, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Lee Ann Womack, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, Sara Evans, Brad Paisley, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Christ Stapleton & Kacey Musgraves.
Time-Life presents Austin City Limits: Country. Starring Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn. Boxset Contents 164 performances over 10 DVDs. Released: March 24, 2021
Tags: Austin City Limits, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson