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'Austin City Limits' taped its 1,000th episode. Allison Russell made it communion.

Allison Russell performs with her band at the 1,000th taping of "Austin City Limits" on May 25 at ACL Live.

"Austin City Limits" couldn't have asked for a more gracious performer to mark its 1,000th taping than Allison Russell. Before playing the enchanting song "Persephone" from her Grammy-nominated 2021 album "Outside Child," the Montreal native talked about how seeing the show for the first time as a teen fleeing an abusive home helped her envision a better future.

"I began to realize that there was another way to live," she said. "I heard the sounds of freedom, and I wanted to be free."

And free she is: Free to bring a band of seven women to the ACL Live stage, free to bring up her husband and daughter as guest singers on a couple of songs, free to switch between banjo and clarinet, or free to just sing with all of her heart and sway to the music in a stunning silver-lined black dress.

Allison Russell tapes "Austin City Limits" on May 25 at ACL Live. "I've been watching this show my whole life," she said. "To get to be here for the first time with my chosen family is beyond anything I could have imagined."

In some respects, her performance felt like a female-driven, acoustic-oriented companion to last year's landmark "Austin City Limits" taping by Jon Batiste, who told the crowd that "this is not a concert for me. This is a spiritual practice." Russell echoed that sentiment: "Music is more than entertainment." she declared. "We believe that it is communion."

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She spoke often, and eloquently, between songs in a 90-minute set that included almost every song from "Outside Child," a long-in-the-making solo debut from a woman who's been making records for 20 years. After early tenures in the Vancouver bands Po' Girl and Fear of Drinking, Russell and her husband, JT Nero, formed the band Birds of Chicago a decade ago.

Russell then joined fellow singer-songwriters Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla and Amythyst Kiah on the acclaimed 2019 album "Songs of Our Native Daughters." Two songs from that record, "You're Not Alone" and "Quasheba, Quasheba," were among the highlights of her Wednesday performance, as was a closing cover of Sadé's "By Your Side" that Russell issued as a single last year.

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But mostly the taping was a tour-de-force display of "Outside Child," an album that almost certainly marks the ascendance of a major North American artist. Alternately anthemic — the powerful "4th Day Prayer" and instantly memorable "Nightflyer" — and ethereal, as on the opener "Hy-Brasil" and "Little Rebirth," Russell's music is highly original, drawing significantly from bandmates with whom she proudly shared the spotlight.

Allison Russell tapes "Austin City Limits" May 25 at ACL Live. Russell talked about how the seeing the show for the first time as a teen fleeing an abusive home affected her. "I began to realize that there was another way to live," she said. "I heard the sounds of freedom, and I wanted to be free."

When was the last time you saw a seven-piece band with no bass or keyboards? Russell's lineup includes violinist Chauntee Ross and cellist Monique Ross of the Milwaukee sibling duo SistaStrings; another cellist, Larissa Maestro; guitarists Mandy Fer (electric) and Joy Clark (acoustic); and drummer Elizabeth Goodfellow.

Russell introduced them twice, the emotion in her voice clear when she expressed gratitude for sharing this moment with them. "I've been watching this show my whole life," she said. "To get to be here for the first time with my chosen family is beyond anything I could have imagined."

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The evening began with Austin mayor Steve Adler joining "Austin City Limits" executive producer Terry Lickona onstage to officially declare Wednesday "Austin City Limits Day" in the city of Austin. Lickona also acknowledged Tuesday's elementary school shooting in Uvalde, adding his hopes for music to be "a healing force."

Russell also referenced the shooting on Twitter. "We held each other & wept before soundcheck," she said, posting from the venue on Wednesday afternoon. "Our culture's critical empathy impairment/deficit + refusal to implement #GunControlNow in the US has stolen the lives of 19 more school children my daughter's age & 2 teachers. Words fail. But we'll keep singing for them."

Allison Russell, center, and her band during an "Austin City Limits" taping: Chauntee Ross, from left, Larissa Maestro, Monique Ross, Joy Clark, Mandy Ferranini and Elizabeth Goodfellow.