Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit @ Ryman Auditorium / Nashville TN / October 24-26, 2014

DSCN1220Jason Isbell has been on one hell of a ride since June 2013, when he released his fourth solo LP, Southeastern. In between touring the world to promote the record with his crack 400 Unit, Isbell has taken in beaucoup accolades for having produced perhaps the best singer-songwriter album of this young century. The praise included a trifecta sweep (best song, album and artist) at the recent Americana Music Awards that yours truly did in fact prognosticate last year. Man, I would have bet my house on it!

Locally, Grimey’s Doyle Davis told me that Southeastern still continues to be among the store’s top-sellers. And back last August, Jason & the Unit did their first headlining show at the Ryman which was a spectacular sold-out event.

DSCN1182In plotting a return to the Ryman stage, it was not a surprise that one-night wouldn’t be enough. But, it quickly turned into three—a rare feat at the Ryman, only seen in recent times by Americana upstarts the Mumfords and Lumineers. Isbell also spiced up the bills bringing along three different friends to open each separate night: his wife Amanda Shires (Friday and also joining the 400 Unit as a member for all three nights as well), fellow Alabamians and soul-revivalists St. Paul & the Broken Bones (Saturday) and sizzling-hot countrified singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson (Sunday).

There was no way I was going to miss any of Isbell weekend in Music City, and I cleared my decks well in advance. Not quite knowing what Jason would have up his sleeve, I knew though that we’d be in for three unique performances.

DSCN1186The first clue did not come until a Friday afternoon tweet from Jason announcing that tonight he and the band would be playing Southeastern in its entirety for the first time ever. With that being the plan, the first night went down as a celebration of this great record, perhaps marking the end of its long successful ride leading up to a new record in 2015. The 65-minute run through of the record was mesmerizing with the Isbell faithful hanging on to every word. After a ten-minute break, the pouring out of Southeastern’s emotion left room only for a short set of four Isbell classics and a closing duet of Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer” with Amanda.

DSCN1251However, it was Saturday night’s show that served as the weekend’s crowning moment for Jason Isbell. This two-hour career-defining set in front of family and friends covered all the bases in putting Isbell’s quality catalog on display. And I am sure that anyone in the house would agree, that tonight the 400 Unit reminded us that they one of the finest bands in the land. Together they even served up one mighty take on “Sunshine of Your Love” in tribute to Cream’s Jack Bruce whose passing was in the day’s sad news.

DSCN1308Closing night was somewhat reminiscent of Saturday’s career walk with the added bonus of a three-piece horn section to fill things out. Working without a set list as he does, Isbell wound up including all but one of the songs from Southeastern and sent us home with a smoking cover of a Stones song.

Who knows what the future has in store for this young 35-year old who now makes his home just outside of Nashville. I can only expect more great things from him, and with Southeastern’s never-ending shelf-life, he still remains my “artist of the moment.”

DSCN1257See the Nashville Scene for more about Jason at the Ryman. (More photos at end of this blog post.)

Night One (10/24/14)
SETLIST:                                                                                                                                                      

  1. Cover Me Up
  2. Stockholm
  3. Traveling Alone
  4. Elephant
  5. Flying Over Water
  6. Different Days
  7. Live Oak
  8. Songs That She Sang in the Shower
  9. New South Wales
  10. Super 8
  11. Yvette
  12. Relatively Easy
  13. Decoration Day
  14. Outfit
  15. Alabama Pines
  16. Go it Alone
  17. Mutineer (Warren Zevon cover)

Night Two (10/25/14)
SETLIST:                                                                                                                                                      

  1. Go it Alone
  2. Streetlights
  3. Tour of Duty
  4. Dress Blues
  5. Never Gonna Change
  6. Stockholm
  7. Danko / Manuel
  8. Codeine
  9. Different Days
  10. Traveling Alone
  11. Live Oak
  12. Alabama Pines
  13. Cover Me Up
  14. Relatively Easy
  15. TVA
  16. Sunshine of Your Love (Creem cover)
  17. Decoration Day
  18. Outfit
  19. Flying Over Water
  20. Super 8

Night Three (10/26/14)
SETLIST:                                                                                                                                                      

  1. Flying Over Water
  2. Outfit
  3. Decoration Day
  4. Goddamn Lonely Love
  5. Stockholm
  6. Live Oak
  7. Relatively Easy
  8. Songs That She Sang in the Shower
  9. New South Wales
  10. Codeine
  11. Cover Me Up
  12. Alabama Pines
  13. Traveling Alone
  14. Elephant
  15. Heart on a String (Candi Staton cover)
  16. Super 8
  17. Danko / Manuel
  18. Different Days
  19. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (The Rolling Stones cover)

BAND:
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
Horn Section (10/26 only):
Rob Allen–Trumpet
Chad Fisher­–Trombone
Brad Guinn­–Saxophone

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