The Austin Chronicle

Music Gift Guide: Books

Another 40th anniversary ACL tie-in

Reviewed by Doug Freeman, December 5, 2014, Music

Austin City Limits: A History

by Tracey E.W. Laird
Oxford University Press, 248pp., $24.95

Marking 40 years on PBS, Austin City Limits is just hitting its stride, and Tracey Laird's history does its vibrant legacy justice. Although the professor of music at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga., at times approaches her subject and the unique local culture that gave it rise with an academic aloofness, that distance keeps the focus grounded when it could tip too heavily into provincial aggrandizement. Archival exhumations from the show's early years and memos gradually building nationwide support capture the crafting of an aesthetic. Likewise, Laird excels at profiling the personalities behind the scenes, tenures that span decades. Even then, Austin City Limits: A History may be most elucidating when touching on the business side of the program amid the public television turmoil of the Nineties and its global branding by ACL Fest. Closing with the live concert staple's move from UT to the Moody Theater in 2011, Laird suggests less an end of an era than a continuation of an ideal deeply rooted yet always in flux.

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