Posts Tagged ‘Jason Isbell’

Last month, Amanda Shires released “The Problem” in recognition of International Safe Abortion Day. The riveting ballad, featuring her husband Jason Isbell, confronted the stigmas associated with reproductive rights, and over the weekend “The Problem” received the live video treatment from Isbell and Shires.

Shires said the song was originally written in 2016 and narrated by a group of women discussing the decision to have an abortion. “Its first incarnation was talking about another girl’s abortion. It just struck me that it’s not something we all talk about, and it should be something that we talk about,” Shires in a telephone interview. “And when you hear people talk about it, you usually hear ‘em describing somebody else — whether it’s really somebody else or ‘asking for a friend,’ you never really know.”

Instead, Shires uses a young couple’s conversation about whether to have an abortion to propel the song, echoing her own experience with abortion in her late 20s. The husband-and-wife team are gearing up to hit the road for a run of acoustic duo performances next month. On November 5th, Isbell and Shires will play a drive-in show at Maggie Valley Festival Grounds in North Carolina, as well as a two-night run of “pod” concerts at The Bend in Charleston, SC on November 6th and 7th.

The video features a familiar sight for fans of Isbell, Shires, and Peter Levin‘s “I So Lounging” series, as the power couple performs from their house just outside of Nashville, TN. While the sound of the video is markedly similar to the single released last month, the performance video provides added emotion to the already-wrenching song. Throughout Shires and Isbell’s back-and-forth vocals, they return to a refrain of “I’m on your side.” While only four simple words, this provides a backbone to the message of standing by and supporting those affected by the fight for women’s rights.

Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell perform “The Problem.” Recorded live at the barn.

jason isbell, jason isbell 400 unit, jason isbell red rocks 2017, jason isbell bandcamp, jason isbell live album, jason isbell amanda shires, jason isbell red rocks amphitheater

One of the best things to come out of this weird year is all the Jason Isbell live albums, and here’s another one. This one’s from the iconic Red Rocks amphitheatre, and as usual, you get to stream one song for free (“Anxiety”), and you have to purchase it to hear the other 18.

Fans are now able to relive Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit‘s September 2017 concert at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater, as the entire performance has been shared to their Bandcamp for streaming and digital download. Entitled, Live At Red Rocks – Morrison, CO – 9/7/17, the 20-track live album is the latest archive audio to be released to Isbell’s Bandcamp, which includes Live at the CMA Theater released last month.

The September 7th, 2017 concert at the famous outdoor amphitheater included performances of “Anxiety”, “Alabama Pines”, “White Man’s World”, “Cumberland Gap”, “Stockholm”, “Cover Me Up”, and “If We Were Vampires” to name a few. Isbell’s band for the evening included his wife and fiddle player Amanda Shires, bassist Jimbo Hart, guitarist Sadler Vaden, drummer Chad Gamble, and pianist/singer Derry de Borja.

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Recorded live at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO on 9/7/17

released August 7th, 2020

The Band:
Jason Isbell – Vocals, Guitar
Amanda Shires – Fiddle, Vocals
Jimbo Hart – Bass, Vocals
Sadler Vaden – Guitar, Vocals
Chad Gamble – Drums, Vocals
Derry deBorja – Keys, Vocals

The Nashville Sound may have been Jason Isbell’s return to making 400 Unit albums (though the members did play on Southeastern and Something More Than Free), but Reunions captures the energy of the band’s live show in ways its predecessor didn’t. Reunions is populated with fiery, show-stealing guitar solos, explosive hard rock choruses, and moments where all the musicians sound like they’re feeding off of each other at once in a way that nears jam band territory. There’s still as much Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen on Reunions as there was on the last album, Reunions is full of stuff that would sound wildly out of fashion in a lesser songwriter’s hands, but Jason Isbell makes this music sound entirely relevant. He takes notes from the classic rock canon, but not in a way that comes off as reactionary to modern music. He makes familiar sounds feel fresh, he fills a void you might not’ve realized was there, and his subject matter resonates so much right now that these songs never feel like they’re from any time but the present.

This is a fantastic performance. Loved watching it, and now get to listen anywhere, anytime! Can’t wait until touring starts again!

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Recorded live at Brooklyn Bowl Nashville on May 15th, 2020 to celebrate the release of ‘Reunions.’
Jason Isbell – Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Amanda Shires – Fiddle, Vocals
Released June 19th, 2020

I’ve always been interested in hearing Jason’s original demo version of “Maybe It’s Time”. In 2018, Jason Isbell contributed the song “Maybe It’s Time” to the soundtrack of A Star Is Born, where it was performed by Bradley Cooper. The song earned Cooper his first solo Billboard chart placement and was later covered by Eddie Vedder. Now, Isbell has shared his own demo of the track. It’s out on Bandcamp today, along with an unreleased song called “Alabama Sky.” Listen below.

Back in May, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit released the new album “Reunions”.

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Jason Isbell – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar

“Maybe It’s Time (Demo)” was recorded by Dave Cobb RCA Studio A

“Alabama Sky” was recorded by Gena Johnson

released July 3rd, 2020

Setlist and Full Show Video: Jason Isbell Performs Entire ‘Reunions’ LP with Amanda Shires at Crowdless Brooklyn Bowl Nashville

Jason Isbell has not let the COVID-19 outbreak get in the way of celebrating his brand new album “Reunions”. Subbing in his creative collaborator and wife Amanda Shires for his 400 Unit band, Isbell performed the entirety of Reunions at the Brooklyn Bowl Nashville on Friday night, marking the live debut of almost every track as well as the first-ever live performance at the nascent venue.

Isbell and Shires enlisted FANS.com to help virtually populate the almost-empty room, as hundreds of fans tuned in via Zoom sending applause and messages to the duo,“Hey everybody I see y’all,” Isbell said waving to a screen filled with fans tuning in “…This crowd is ready.” “When people put new music out during this time it brings so much good to my life on the daily,” Shires added later in the performance, turning to Isbell. “And I know we could use more records. So I’m glad yours is out now.”

In addition to the slew of new music, Isbell used his encore to cover Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer” and look back at his own “Cover Me Up” from 2013’s Southeastern.

Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires
May 15th, 2020
Brooklyn Bowl, Nashville –  Crowdless Performance Broadcast Live by FANS.com

Setlist :
What’ve I Done to Help*, Dreamsicle*, Only Children*, Overseas, Running with Our Eyes Closed*, River*, Be Afraid, St. Peter’s Autograph*, It Gets Easier*, Letting You Go*
Enc: Mutineer^, Cover Me Up

Jason Isbell Variety Magazine Feature

Can someone learn from their past without being beleaguered by it? Is change something measured in footsteps, days sober, or something less tangible? These are all questions that Jason Isbell poses, and some of which he answers, on his latest album with The 400 Unit, “Reunions”.

The Nashville-based, Alabama-native singer-songwriter has traced a long and storied path to get to this, his seventh studio record and fourth alongside The Unit. From cutting his teeth with Drive-By Truckers in the late 2000s, to his departure from that group, hitting rock bottom, and finding salvation on 2013’s Southeastern, Isbell has seen quite a bit. One of the things that made him such an attractive songwriter was his ability to bring listeners in on that arc of rise, fall, and redemption. Now, with the release of Reunions, he begins to tell a new story.

Reunions, featuring 10 new songs, is a grab bag of material from Isbell. Some of it is the tried-and-true storytelling of his turbulent past, while some looks to his bright present of family life and critical acclaim, and still more look to realities completely bereft of Isbell himself. Reunions marks the evolution of an artist uncomplacent with doing what’s easy and restless enough to risk making some mistakes.

The album’s opening track, “What’ve I Done to Help”, finds Isbell still wrestling with his past and the resulting life it has created. While this isn’t the down-and-out Isbell to which audiences are privy, this is a much more cogent singer who acknowledges that all of these long-standing problems won’t go away just because “I kept my head down and showed up to work on time.”

Then, take a song like “Dreamsicle”, which again looks to the past but goes back a little further. From a turbulent childhood filled with cross country moves and frequent goodbyes to friends, “Dreamsicle” lays the emotional groundwork for songs closer to Isbell’s present self. With lines like, “I’ll be 18 four years from now/ with different friends in a different town/ I’ll finally be free,” Isbell offers a tender glimpse into a troubled childhood paramount to his adult formation.

Obviously, the lyrics are the focal point of Isbell’s music, but Reunions sets itself apart musically as well as lyrically. Take a song like “Overseas”, for example, with an opening guitar solo that comes roaring in like it’s a Tom Petty track. Isbell even poked fun at his musical maturation on Twitter the day the album was released, revealing that he wrote and recorded all of Reunions without using a capo. “How’s that for a folksinger and songwriter?” he asked.

Then, on Reunions, there’s a mysterious song-writing element that ties itself to Isbell as well as non-literal characters. “River” focuses on a protagonist who finds his saviour in the form of a river. The river tends to Isbell, hears his secrets, “wash my head when I’ve been sinning/wash my knuckles when they bleed.” As our character is saved by the dutiful protection of the river, the final stanza ends with the line, “and last night I woke up screaming at my wife.” This is immediately proceeded by a fiddle run from none other than Amanda Shires, Isbell’s wife.

This is not the lone reference to Isbell’s better half, for the song “St. Peter’s Autograph” is about Shires grieving over the passing of friend Neal Casal. Isbell said of the song in a recent New York Times profile, “I was trying to say, ‘It’s all right to grieve the parts of your relationship you might think I’d be upset or jealous about.’”

The role that Isbell and Shires’ domestic life plays in Reunions is unavoidable and unmistakable. It also represents the side of Isbell that looks optimistically toward the future, with a wife and a child, rather than constantly back at his destructive past. While Jason Isbell is not ready to give up that past just yet, Reunions shows the progress of a man who has learned from his mistakes, but is not defined by them.

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We could all use a little Jason Isbell right now. Thankfully, the Alabama-bred/Nashville-based country singer and beloved songwriter is right on time with a new album. His next project with his ace country-rock band the 400 Unit, “Reunions”, arrives next month, the follow-up to 2017’s critically adored The Nashville Sound. That album garnered them new attention in corners where they may have been previously unknown, but Isbell’s longtime fans have been lapping up his music for the better part of 20 years.

He’s never really made a bad album, either with his band or solo, so the bar is high for Reunions. So far, the singles have been both thoughtful and delicate (“Dreamsicle” and “Only Children” are introspective and nostalgic) as well as powerful and politically forthcoming in the vein of “White Man’s World” (“What’ve I Done To Help” and “Be Afraid” both examine our current moment with criticism and bite). Isbell is one of the most consistent songwriters of his day, and his music always has a lot of heart. Indeed, the hopes are high for this new album, but I have faith in Jason Isbell. He knows his way around a country song.

Southeastern Records. Released on:  27th March 2020.

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In addition to his new album, Jason Isbell unveiled the lead single, “Be Afraid,” as well as a tour with dates that run from February until September. and span headlining shows to festivals. Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and musician Jason Isbell and his band the 400 Unit will release their highly anticipated new album, “Reunions”, May 15th via Spunk Records. Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb and recorded at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, the album features 10 new songs written by Isbell including album track, “Be Afraid,”.

Reunions is Isbell’s seventh full-length studio album and the fourth released with his band, the 400 UnitDerry deBorja (piano, keyboard, organ, omnichord), Chad Gamble (drums, tambourine), Jimbo Hart (bass), Amanda Shires (fiddle) and Sadler Vaden (acoustic guitar, electric guitar). The new album also includes background vocals from special guests David Crosby (Crosby, Stills & Nashthe Byrds) and Jay Buchanan (Rival Sons)..

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit have shared a new song from their forthcoming album Reunions which is out May 15. “Only Children” is spare and somber and quite lovely.

“There are a lot of ghosts on this album,” Isbell said in a press release. “Sometimes the songs are about the ghosts of people who aren’t around anymore, but they’re also about who I used to be, the ghost of myself. I found myself writing songs that I wanted to write 15 years ago, but in those days, I hadn’t written enough songs to know how to do it yet. Just now have I been able to pull it off to my own satisfaction. In that sense, it’s a reunion with the me I was back then.”

Of the release, Isbell shares, “There are a lot of ghosts on this album. Sometimes the songs are about the ghosts of people who aren’t around anymore, but they’re also about who I used to be, the ghost of myself. I found myself writing songs that I wanted to write fifteen years ago, but in those days, I hadn’t written enough songs to know how to do it yet. Just now have I been able to pull it off to my own satisfaction. In that sense it’s a reunion with the me I was back then.”

Originally from Green Hill, Alabama and now based in Nashville, Isbell is widely renowned as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. Since the release of his breakthrough solo album, Southeastern, in 2013,

NPR Music calls him, “one of the finest singer-songwriters working at the intersection of folk, country and rock today,” and continues, “his songs have an exquisite, rawboned realism and deeply embedded class consciousness,” while American Songwriter declares, “There’s no better songwriter on the planet at this moment, no one operating with the same depth, eloquence or feeling” and USA Today proclaims, “he has developed into one o the great American songwriters…in a world where most pop songs are lies, Isbell is determined to find truth.”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit “Be Afraid” Southeastern Records marketed and distributed by Thirty Tigers

Jason Isbell’s seventh solo album, “Reunions”, will be released on May 15th.

In “Mr. Tillman” the single off his 2018 LP God’s Favorite CustomerFather John Misty sings through a bizarre conversation he had with the person working the desk of his hotel. Jason Isbell makes a cameo shortly after a member of the hotel staff casually mentions Tillman has a few outstanding charges and that Tillman left his passport in his room’s mini fridge: “Did you and your guests have a pleasant stay? What a beautiful tattoo that young man had on his face / And oh, will you need a driver out to Philly? Jason Isbell’s here as well and he seemed a little worried about you.”

Isbell later joked about the instance on Twitter, but refrained from popping out for a cameo when Misty — a.k.a Josh Tillman — played “Mr. Tillman” at Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park on Wednesday night (June 19th) and was met with a round of cheers when he sang through the verse.

A year after Father John Misty unveiled God’s Favorite Customer, Isbell and his band, the superlative 400 Unit (which includes renowned fiddle player Amanda Shires, Isbell’s wife), find themselves on the road with Father Misty and Jade Bird. The trek is proving to be an ideal match-up for two of the best songwriters in American rock, and they have plenty in common — to the point where it’s shocking no one’s made the call to pair them up on a co-headlining tour before.

Pristine tenors with exceptional musical acumen aside, Tillman and Isbell share a brave propensity to stare, unblinkingly, into the churn of crisis. Disintegrating relationships, loosening grips on mental health, the pressures that come with striving to be a good partner (and father, in Isbell’s case), and facing all of the above in a world gone mad and growing madder by the minute — none of this is off-limits or too far afield for either songwriter. Isbell’s “White Man’s World” from 2017’s The Nashville Sound is a master class in this allergy to bullshit put to paper, and the song directly confronts the racism, sexism and classism that shaped the American experiment in a radical call for empathy. Even his contribution to the soundtrack for A Star Is Born, “Maybe It’s Time,” throws to this (and played over well in Brooklyn).

Tillman explores the consequences of these destructive forces across both 2017’s Pure Comedyand God’s Favorite Customer, and though he’s the one who called the planet a “godless rock that refuses to die” (on Pure Comedy’s “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution”), it could’ve been an Isbell line. On their own terms, they each unpack the scariest issues of the moment while condensing them into songs listeners can absorb and sing along to, as both artists were met with a near-constant sing-along from the crowd of 5,000 that gathered to join them in the rain in Prospect Park.

But neither Isbell nor Tillman remained fixated on the doom and gloom, and both managed to keep from overwhelming the masses by working plenty of swoon-worthy balladry and deeply funny banter into their sets. Tillman and Isbell’s love songs are just as potent as the discourse of their heaviest cuts, and those remain rapturous crowd pleasers on this current jaunt. Isbell rarely plays “Cover Me Up” if Shires isn’t present (which, given her own career and the touring it requires, can lead to weeks or months apart), but when she is, it’s a breathtaking duet and an intimate glimpse into the love they share.

The finale “If We Were Vampires” has them both considering their mortality while celebrating the eternity of their love, and was just as stunning. 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear was one long love letter to his wife, Emma, and Tillman soared through the songs off that album that directly pull from significant moments their marriage, from the moment they met (set closer “I Went to the Store One Day”) to their wedding and honeymoon (“Chateau Lobby #4 [in C for Two Virgins],” complete with mariachi interlude courtesy of his killer brass section).

In between songs, Isbell and Tillman kept their musings brief (and briefer than most would’ve liked, as one dude in the crowd actually screamed “I WANT BANTER!” five songs into Tillman’s set). Isbell praised Tillman and his band, joking that they played “songs that I can listen to where I don’t get mad” from backstage; Tillman praised Isbell and Bird in turn, but first took a few minutes to try to find a hair tie for his mane and requested a scrunchie, which one fan happily met. (He was surprised that he wasn’t met with “a blizzard of scrunchies,” which, same.)

The new material popped, too: though the well-worn gems from their catalogues were roundly applauded, both Isbell and Misty — who’ve been hard at work on the follow-ups to both The Nashville Sound and God’s Favorite Customer — played brand new material. Isbell’s “Overseas” is clearly a throw to making a relationship work across long distances (“Does your heart rest easy where you are? / Do they treat you like a star?”), while Misty’s fresh cuts (name TBD) offered a stylistic gear-shift with ‘80s synths, harmonica solos and a drum beat Ronnie Spector would covet. In spite of the dreary weather a Misty night for Misty and Co, Isbell, Tillman and the magnificent musicians that join them onstage each night proved that they should’ve circled their tour buses a long time ago. We’re all the luckier they finally did just that.

Fever Breaks Cover

Last fall, I went to Nashville and made a record. My friend Jason Isbell produced it and the 400 Unit backed me up. It was a blast to work on.

It’s a rainy November evening in Nashville and Josh Ritter and Jason Isbell are huddled in front of the console at Sound Emporium Studios, an historic space located in an otherwise nondescript building in the city’s Belmont neighborhood. It’s the last recording session for Ritter’s new album, which Isbell is producing and playing on as part of the 400 Unit, and they’re in the thick of adding fiddle to one of the album’s tracks.

The song, an optimistic, mid-tempo rambler called “In Passing,” is the group’s penultimate to finish after a week in the studio, following initial sessions held back in August. “In Passing” is anchored by the acoustic warmth and unpretentious erudition (“Love the thorn and hate the rose,” Ritter sings in the hook) endemic to Ritter’s earlier work, with a gently twangy, studiously meaty heft lent by the 400 Unit. It’s classic Ritter on Muscle Shoals-bred steroids.

Jason’s Wife Amanda Shires layers three fiddle parts atop one another, the second and third layers played ever-so-slightly more loosely than the first, making for a sound that’s at once fat and chiming, stretching across the backing music like thick, lustrous strands of taffy. Shires isn’t hearing what she’s wanting after the first couple of takes and has a few choice words for her fiddle in the interim.

The album is called ‘Fever Breaks’ and it comes out April 26th. I’m so excited to share it! You can listen to “Old Black Magic” now.

‘Fever Breaks’ – new album out April 26, 2019.