Review: Austin City Limits Sarah McLachlan/Duffy

Austin City Limits “Sarah McLachlan followed by Duffy”
Saturday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m.
Additional air dates: Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 10 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 20, at 11 p.m.
Preview the show at austincitylimits.org

For fans of intelligent, passionate songcraft, Sarah McLachlan hardly needs any introduction. The Canadian singer/songwriter has been an award-winning, critically-acclaimed, multi-platinum artist for two decades. Her 1987 debut album Touch launched the classically-trained Nova Scotia native as a star in the Great White North; subsequent albums Solace, Fumbling Towards Ectsasy and the Grammy-winning Surfacing made her an international sensation. Hits like “Possession,” “Into the Fire,” “Fallen” and “Building a Mystery” remain staples of adult album alternative radio. In addition to creating her own music, she’s recorded numerous songs for soundtracks, including the Oscar-nominated “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2, curated the Lilith Fair music festival, launched a children’s choir and percussion ensemble as part of a Vancouver-based outreach program and supported or established various charities around the world. Now, in support of her recently-released greatest hits album Closer: The Best of Sarah McLachlan and its single “U Want Me 2,” she comes to studio 6A for her long-awaited debut episode of Austin City Limits.

Part of the current wave of hit U.K.performers conquering America, Welsh-born singer/songwriter born Aimee Anne Duffy grew up listening to her parents’ record collection and watching her father’s old tapes of the 1960s rock TV show Ready Steady Go. From her teens she sang in bands, spending a year in Switzerland on a project and even competing in the Welsh equivalent of American Idol. But it wasn’t until she moved to England and met manager and record label owner Jeanette Lee that her career began in earnest. Lee introduced Duffy to ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, with whom she co-wrote her songs and orchestrated her sound. Indebted to soul-inflected artists like Dusty Springfield and Amy Winehouse, her debut album Rockferry became a million-selling success in the U.K.and Europe, thanks to a brace of hit singles. The biggest, “Mercy,” stormed the U.S. charts as well. Duffy began her journey through America at the 2008 South By Southwest Music Festival; now she returns for her triumphant debut on Austin City Limits.

- Michael Toland

About the Reviewer: Michael Toland is manager of national productions for KLRU and contributes music reviews to several online and print publications.