Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled
From across that lonesome ocean
From “Boots of Spanish Leather”
These classic Dylan lines are tattooed across Jason Isbell’s left forearm, perhaps a reminder of his new-found sobriety. His much anticipated and highly acclaimed new record, Southeastern, epically documents the torment and drama that he has gone though on this journey. Maybe years from now, some young singer-songwriter will ink this sensitive refrain from the record’s poignant opening track, “Cover Me Up,” on his forearm:
But I made it through
‘Cause somebody knew
I was meant for someone
And thankfully, life today is good for Jason Isbell: A new wife that likes to play fiddle beside him, and a brilliant record that now sits atop of the Americana Music Association charts. Young Isbell, still only 34, even finds himself with friends in high places praising his efforts–like Ryan Adams and Tom Petty.
The Alabama born and bred former Drive-By Trucker now conveniently resides in East Nashville and chose Grimeys to celebrate the new record release. In his show intro, Mike Grimes even made mention of how both Isbell’s distributer (Thirty Tigers) and manager both office in the 1604 8th Avenue South building where he was about to perform.
Packing the record store to its limit with faithful fans, Isbell and his full band, including wife Amanda Shires on fiddle, offered up six songs from the new record in a brief 30-minute set followed by a meet and greet. Watching him play from front and center, I was taken by the modest and humble poise with which Jason performs. He’s just got to know how darn good these new songs are. They are some of the best he has ever written. He delivered them in such a heartfelt and sincere way, as though it was the first and only time he would ever play them. Despite songs that are so obviously personal and painful, he stood tall with a triumphant confidence and swagger that seemed to say “Man, I beat all that crap, didn’t I?”
The polished 400 Unit put down a solid accompaniment for Isbell. Especially notable was the layering of Shire’s fiddle and the lush, ethereal sounds from keyboardist de Derry de Borja’s Mellotron. Isbell’s vocals sounded strong while sensitively conveying their serious personal nature. After “Live Oak,” he put the acoustic guitar aside and rocked us out on the closing “Super 8” with his gold Duesenberg electric. Now there’s a song that somebody like the Eagles or Wilco would be proud to call their own!
Grimey’s had a special presale during this event for an upcoming Isbell show at the Ryman on August 17th with the fabulous Catlin Rose opening. This is a double-bill not to miss and will mark only the second time that Isbell has graced the Ryman stage. The first was his performance of “Alabama Pines” last year at the American Music Awards when it was named Song of the Year. The Awards show returns there on September 18th, and Isbell needs to keep that date open. My vote is in, and I think Southeastern is a cinch to win Album of the Year.
- Traveling Alone
- Cover Me Up
- Different Days
- Live Oak
- Super 8
Jason Isbell – Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitars
Derry de Borja – Keyboards and Mellotron
Chad Gamble – Drums
Jimbo Hart – Bass
Sadler Vaden – Electric Guitar
Amanda Shires – Fiddle
The nominations have already been announced for the Americana awards. The album missed the cutoff date. Maybe next year.