Watch Out! Jason Isbell’s Funny Infomercial For “The Saddest Song Ever”

Jason Isbell Releases The Saddest Song Ever

Americana and country music aren’t know for providing the world with the the lightest subjects in the music universe (Roger Miller and Todd Snider excluded). The Late Show With Stephen Colbert has underlined this truth by creating this fantastic infomercial with “ troubadour” Jason Isbell, you know, from “music.”

Its a send up of common roots topes of “break-ups, addiction, fatal diseases” as Isbell, who’s currently experiencing one of the happiest periods of his like with career success, a happy marriage and a new baby, pitches “The Saddest Song Ever” — a list song of country clichés like “unemployment, the troops, reliable trucks done gone breakin’ down” and more tears-in-your-beer favorites.

But wait! That’s not all! “My new 180-minute, four-chord song also covers new cartoonishly tragic down-home scenarios that my fellow singer-songwriters are much too cowardly to tackle. Covering universal topics like “ailing family dogs” to “dying family dogs” to “a tragic cannon accident” to “Frankenstein attacks a preschool.” It gets worse as as Isbell informs us that the song is “available on triple-cassette and Tidal, the two saddest music formats known to mankind.”

The skit was most likely filmed when Isbell was the musical guest on the show a few weeks back.

Check out the clip below and have a laugh. And for any Music City A&R people that wonder by, yes this song is a joke and not a Blake Shelton pitch.

Watch Out: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Performs ‘If It Takes A Lifetime’ on The Late Show

Jason Isbell - "The Late Show"

Stephen Colbert continues the Letterman legacy of supporting great roots music by inviting Grammy winner (so badass saying that) Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit took to the storied Tonight Show stage to perform a rowsing ‘If It Takes A Lifetime’ from our #1 choice of 2015 “Something More Than Free.”

In the technology is stupid department; An attentive viewing fan tweeted a screen cap (below) some discrepancies with the closed caption system and Isbell’s lyrics. I think I founf where they copied and pasted those alternate lyrics.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 5.29.13 AM

Top 6 Roots Music Moments at the 2016 Grammy Awards


Grit, heart and soul found it’s way between the sequins and glitter of the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Folks that have been bustin Asa’s for years, and sometimes decades, get recognition (and hopefully a bump in music and ticket sales) and a chance to stand toe-to-toe with ther accomplished msusiaans and remind the sometimes jaded industry audience why music will always tie us into a shared human condition.

Here are some highlights:

The Steeldrivers

After four nominations The SteelDrivers proved the fifth time is the charm. The Nashville-based bluegrass badasses won thier first Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album for their fifth realese ‘The Muscle Shoals Recordings.’
The critically-acclaimed album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart and achieved the highest first-week sales in the band’s history.

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn’s eponymous album picks up the well-deserved Best Folk Album Grammy.

The excellent documentary ‘Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” wins Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media.

Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr., and Bonnie Raitt play steal the show with this BB King tribute.

Aside from being part of the great tribute Chris Stapleton snagged 2 statues
Best Country Album (for Traveller) and Best Country Solo Performance (for the album’s title track). He shared the spotlight with producer Dave Cobb. He even called Taylor Swift out for “glitter bombing” him.

Jason Isbell made up for the snub of his 2013 ‘Southeastern’ by winning 2 Grasmmys during the event’s pre-telecast. Best Americana Album for ‘Somethng More Than Free’ and Best Americana Roots Song for ’24 Frames.”

Isbell thanked his wife, singer, songwriter Amanda Shires, who provides harmonies on the track; his manager Traci Thomas, his long-time band, the 400 Unit; producer Dave Cobb and those who voted mentioning humbly “It’s a real honor” to accept the award. At the end of his speech, Isbell also thanked Muscle Shoals, Ala., for “teaching me how to play music.”

Well done sir, no one deserves it more.

Cream of the Crop – Twang Nation Top Americana and Roots Music Picks of 2015


Another year has passed and the amount of quality music being created continues seemingly unabated in spite of the economic conditions surrounding those creators. More great Americana and roots music is being cerated than possibly any time in history. And along with the awards and resulting sales for artists like Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton the music is becoming more prominent in popular culture which assures its ongoing economic viability and influence in the future for more creative endeavors.

And as a fan it’s just plain badass.

But the picture is not all rosy. The golden goose rule applies in few areas more than it does in the music industry. Without the creators output the delivery channels offer nothing. No creator no business. The blame for the pitiful state of revenue sharing gets murky in the finger pointing. Pirating is the most obvious offender (stealing is stealing) But obtuse and outdated licensing laws and artists with little or no sense of their business worth plays into the overwhelming problems that plague the music industry. Some would like to blame technology for the current sorry state of the music economic environment, but the history of delivery – sheet music, radio, TV, movies or streaming, pays the fees they are legally bound to pay. It’s that legally mandated equitable distribution that needs to be seriously addressed if fans, and musicians, values the fruits of that labor.

And speaking of streaming, the digital access to music has blurred the concept of genres in the perception of an entire generation. Without the absolute geographic boundary of the record store bluegrass and thrash metal are served effortlessly from the same pipe allowing music in the mind of a young fans to be evaluated into good or bad. Will genres disappear altogether? I don’t think so. Human decision processes rely too much of distinctions and connections for it to melt into a mass of mono-genre . But these distinctions will matter less as a badge of personal culture separation and division. Music is becoming a format that brings us together in live events and online conversation.

But for every rules there are exceptions. I love the craft beer boom that is growing here in Texas and all over the nation. The creativity and ingenuity displayed by creates that love their craft is a treat to anyone with consideration to what they imbibe. But in that culture grows a geekdom that can verge on snobbery. A subgroup that use their love of quality as a self-appoineted status used as a license to condemn those that don’t align with their gospel. Music fandom falls into these same human patterns. I’ve done it myself. Nothing is more tedious then someone droning on ad nauseum about the inferiority of Budweiser or Florida Georgia Line. But I’ve never been a fan of barrel fish.

But when the industry, beer or music, systematically excludes selection ( based on some demographic studies to keep them rich and us without choices that needs to be addressed.

I resolve in the new year to try and refrain from wasting time on obviously contrived product, focus on the beauty and care taken on the rare, good stuff and the ways we can get more of the latter to our speakers.

No radio station, label, industry group or hell, blogger for that matter, has a monopoly on great music. It can come from anywhere at anytime. Let’s find it together.

Criteria – Calendar year 2015. No EPs, live, covers or re-release albums no matter how awesome.

Don’t see your favorite represented? Leave it in the comments, and here’s to a new year of twang!

14. Matthew McNeal – ‘Compadre’
McNeal creates music well beyond his 22-years on this planet. The rollicking road tale opener of loneliness and doubt “Alonely” sits comfortably with lonely introspective ballads like ‘A Losing Hand’ – ‘It’s a shame, my dear, the way the cards were dealt Not a diamond on the table to make it alright Two hearts laid down, Two spades to bury them I’ll be playing at a club out of town tonight’ – build into an impressive if rough around the edges offering of Texas roots rock and soul.

13. Aaron Lee Tasjan – ‘‘In The Blazes’
Country and folk can often feel weighted down by earnestness. It takes a deft hand of someone like Roger Miller or Bobby Bare Jr. to bring levity to the style without trading in attention and respect to the craft. Wry just short of snark lyrics in the“E.N.S.A.A.T.” (East Nashville Song about a Train) is a Heartbreakers-esque send up of the Ohio natives current residence and it’s movement toward bohemian homogenization. “Judee is a Punk,” a bittersweet ballad that namechecks Jesus and the Ramones and ‘Bitch Can Sing’ is a buzzed-out number that sound like what might have happened if the Stooges had cut a track in Muscle Shoals studios.

12. Sam Outlaw – ‘Angeleno’
Between the “Outlaw” surname (from his mom’s side), his past life as an ad-sales director to his SoCal zip code there’s much to warn you off Sam Outlaw’s Ry Cooder-produced second full-length ‘Angeleno.’ Like many on this list Outlaw well reflects a golden era of country and roots music without being weighed down by copping a nostalgic novelty routine. The opener “Who Do You Think You Are” is a smooth danzón-mambo number punctuated with mariachi-style horns that brings the tropical heat. ‘I’m Not Jealous’ is a smart honky-tonk send up of the ‘Walking the Floor Over You’ that turns the tables on the lady painting the town. Ignore all the surface and dive in and you too will be a believer.

11. Daniel Romano – ‘If I’ve Only One Time Askin’
Canada’s contribution to roots music is significant. From Hank Snow to all but one member of The Band it’s safe to say without or northern neighbor our favorite music wouldn’t be where it is today. Enter Daniel Romano , an ex-punker turned neo-traditionalist is taking classic forms and tropes na turning them on their ear. The string soaked opener ‘I’m Gonna Teach You” and the honky-tonk weeper “All The Way Under The Hill’ shows he can play it straight but the funk outro of ‘The One That GoT aWAY (Came Back Today)” and biting lyrics show there more there under the countrypoliton sheen.

10. Sarah Gayle Meech – ‘Tennessee Love Song’
If you think the outlaw spirit resides only in the YX chromosome Sarah Gayle Meech’s sophomore release,’Tennessee Love Song’ will set you straight. Meech takes us on a grand tour of country music’s genres and themes over the years. From the title cuts 70’s era Countrypolitan to the slinky, greasy groove of ‘No Mess,’ Tennessee Love Song,’is a amalgamation of styles forged into an extraordinary body of work.

9. Mike and the Moonpies – ‘Mockingbird’
So often we are sold a product with a ‘country music’ pasted on it’s exhilarating to hear a release that needs no outward claim. From the moseying pace of the barstool confessional of ‘One Is The Whiskey’ or the boot-scooting twin-fiddle driven shuffle of ‘Say It Simply’ there’s no denying Mike and the Moonpies’ third studio album bona fides. This is a shot of pure, great country music with no crossover dilution. God bless country music and god bless Texas.

8. Chris Stapleton – ‘Traveller’
Anointed the new savior of country music Stapleton is no overnight story. He cut his teeth on Music Row for over a decade penning hits for the likes of Kenny Chesney and Darius Rucker. He took a turn in the spotlight being the original power house lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of the The SteelDrivers. He was so good at that gig he inspired Adele to cover one of their songs. On his solo debut ‘Traveller’ Stapleton lends his soulful rasp to sparkling originals and breathing life into the George Jones and David Allan Coe chestnut”Tennessee Whiskey.” Stapleton wife, singer/songwriter Morgane Stapleton provides a welcoming warm countering harmony on many of the songs. Will ‘Traveller’ change the ways of Music Row? No and who cares?

7. Andrew Combs – ‘All These Dreams’
“Pop” music get’s a bad rap these days. But Andrew Combs sophomore release shows that the Texas-bred, Nashville-based singer/songwriter is an astute disciple of ’70s countrypolitan/folk rock in the vein of Glen Campbell, Mickey Newbury, Gordon Lightfoot, and Harry Nilsson that reminds us that pop can be inspired instead of just insipid. The album’s first single, “Foolin’” features a Jeff Lynne-style driving beat sliding up against Tejano-inspired break reminiscent of Doug Sahm era Texas Tornados.

6. Gretchen Peters – ‘Blackbirds’
Gretchen Peters knows a thing and more about song craft. A member of the esteemed Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame she enlisted a roster of contemporary American roots music luminaries like Jerry Douglas, Jason Isbell, Jimmy LaFave, Will Kimbrough, Kim Richey, Suzy Bogguss to help create her latest dark jewel. Pretty Things rides a “Only Women Bleed” melody and builds an atmospheric ode to to life’s ashes and rust. “Black Ribbons” is a moral tale on that BP disaster that isn’t cheapened by tin-ear moralizing.

5. Ryan Culwell – ‘Flatlands’
Though this is his third album I am a newcomer to Ryan Culwell. But I’m a believe now. His sound and hardscrabble tales bare the mark of country and rock found in much of the Texas troubadours like as early Steve Earle, Ryan Bingham and Rodney Crowell, whose voice he sometimes eerily suggests. The title ‘Flatlands’ refers to the Texas panhandle where he grew up and he and his family worked the oil fields. “Red River” is a chillingly sparse stroll through a muddled morality and quiet strength of the everyday.

4. Jamie Lin Wilson – “Holidays & Wedding Rings”
A familiar face on the Texas music scene, Jamie Lin Wilson’s wonderful full length debut, Holidays and Wedding Rings, is a collection of songs that pulse with authenticity. Her voice is comforting familiar and so uncompromisingly real. It’s the perfect vehicle to deliver these tales of hope, love, heartache and mortality. These are roadhouse confessionals and bar and small town testaments wrenched from the personal and identifiable roads we all travel. The pain and regret is palpable on “Just Some Things” Wilson’s duet with Wade Bowen follow both down an intersection of regret and quiet desperation. “It’s like running for the edge and thinking you’ll fly/Knowing damn well that it’s suicide.” Cheating is a staple of country music an the ballad “Roses by The Dozen” brings a contemporary sound and slant to this murder ballad featuring Texas singer/songwriter, Courtney Patton on harmonies and the sparse arrangement and placid vocals on “Whisper On My Skin” will deliver a chill to the skin and bring a tear to your eye.

3. John Moreland – “High on Tulsa Heat”
Texas born / Tulsa, Oklahoma-based singer-songwriter has only three records chalked in his discography but he’s already drawing comparisons to John Prine and Guy Clark. These are not names to evoke in a trifle, but this is more than hot air. Moreland digs deep beneath the surface and drags up the hope, pain and heartbreak that binds us in our shared humanity. In “Heart’s Too Heavy” his own humanity is on display “Well these angels in my eardrums / They can’t tell bad from good / I lived inside these melodies / Just to make sure I still could.” In a field where sincerity and songcraft are the stock-in-trade John Moreland has the goods to earn a place with the greats.

2. James McMurtry – “Complicated Game”
“Honey don’t you be yelling at me while I’m cleaning my gun. I’ll wash the blood off the tailgate when deer season’s done.” In the hands of a lesser songwriter hands this exchange between a shop owner looking down at his retirement and his wife might come off hackneyed. But Texas songwriter James McMurtry trained eye , honed over twelve records , the trailer park scenarios and lonesome road characters ring full and true. “Complicated Game” finds McMurtry uncharacteristically hopeful and romantic. It suits him, but these textures are kept short of cloying by his usual sardonic humor. One thing stands true, his stories crackle with his usual empathetic intelligence with a literary eye.

1. Jason Isbell – “Something More Than Free’
It’s satisfying to see someone with a dedication and passion for music evolve and gain confidence in their craft to become truly exceptional. “Something More Than Free,’ Isbell’s follow-up to 2013’s ‘Southeastern,’ has all the markings of that growth, maturity and focus. Songs like “If It Takes a Lifetime,” with it’s shuffling ragtime-tinged rearview (I thought the highway loved me but she beat me like a drum) whole also looking ahead with hopeful determination to a better future (I keep my spirits high / find happiness by and by) and the title cut, with it’s soulful ode to pride in purpose and the study on the folly of planning that is “24 Frames” are all perfect examples of Isbell’s instinct for storytelling. With one boot in coffee shop folk and the other in the roadside honky-tonk he was just the man to straddle the Americana music divide and bust to the top of the Billboard Country, Folk and Rock charts. Isbell has become an artisan of life sketches that feel genuine in their detail and reverence. That’s what makes these songs exceptional.

Listen Up! : Jason Isbell – Squidbillies Theme

Jason Isbell Open | Squidbillies

According to producer Dave Cobb Squidbillies Creators Dave Willis & Jim Fortier are huge country and roots music music fans.

This love is on display by the distinguished list of artists, from Dwight Yoakam, Alabama Shakes, George Jones…even William Shatner (!) that have performed the title song for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim cartoon about a family of single-wide dwelling cephalopods Early (voiced by Unknown Hinson) Rusty, Granny and Elizabeth Cook who lends her warm lends her warm butter voice to the occasional love interest character Tammi.

Jason Isbell joins and the 400 unit are the latest addition to that list.

Below enjoy the extended version of Jason Isbell and the 400 unit Squidbillies theme below:

David Cobb – The Man Behind The Roots Music Tide

Dave Cobb

Being a great record producer means striking a delicate balance between passion for music and staking out an objective distance. One tip toward the former and a heavy hand can interfere in an artist’s true voice. Tip to the latter and there’s a technical hollowing resulting in a bloodless product.

David Cobb is a man that walks that line with his attention to detail and courage to take risks to capture sonic lightning in a bottle.

With a rock and roll heart he moved to L.A. to pursue a musician’s life. But through happenstance, his love for classic records, as well as the call of his Southern roots and love of family and friends, he has found himself one of the most in-demand producers in Nashville.

His journey to find the beating heart in the body of the process has led him to helping create in his home studio – or sometimes his kitchen in the case of Jason Isbell’s “Southeastern” – some of the most acclaimed records by contemporary roots artists. Folks like Shooter Jennings, Jamey Johnson, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Corb Lund, Lindi Ortega as well as upcoming releases by Holly Williams, Lake Street Dive and Amanda Shires – have found in him a kindred spirit. Incredibly talented people that he sees as more than clients, but as collaborators, friends and makers of sonic magic.

That’s what sets Cobb apart from other producers. Sure his first-hand knowledge comes from sitting where the musician sits and it buys him a good deal of credibility in the studio. But it’s his wide-eyed wonder, his true sincerity, his love of the art and faith in the artist that connects him in a way that few have done.

That also makes him a very busy man. Cobb took time from that busy schedule to talk to me from his home in Nashville.

TN: How long have you been in Nashville and what led you to move from L.A?

DC: I’ve been out here just over four years. Whenever I would travel out here the city was alive. This was the best music scene I’ve ever seen. There’s just an incredible amount of talent. The songwriting out here is insane.

TN: The city certainly has changed in the last few decades. It’s no longer just all about Music Row.

DC: Not at all. There’s such a great rock and outsider country scene. It’s alive, man. Everywhere you go.

TN: Your timing certainly seems right for where you wanted to take your career.

DC: It’s funny. What prompted me to move to Nashville was I was working with a band in L.A. and one of the guys in the band put on the song ‘Outfit” by the Drive-By Truckers. When I heard that song it really made me homesick. It reminded me of exactly how I grew up and the way it is in the Southeast. I suddenly felt a desire to come this way. I was in L.A. working with rock bands but now have a daughter and a move made sense. But hearing that song was a real pivotal thing. It’s funny how a lyric can rock you to the core like that. Then I chased that dude (Jason Isbell) down ever since to make a record.

TN: The Drive-By Truckers were one of the band that brought those same homesick feelings in me while riding the subway to work each day while living in New York City. Their sound was key in me starting this blog and begin discovering other bands in that vein.

DC: Absolutely, that’s the real sound of the South that I grew up with. Growing up in Georgia there was always a country music scene but this is beyond that. There’s this big lyrical , real songwriter thing. People playing in bars and writing great songs. This affects me much more than the typical country stuff. A little country and a little rock with a little folk. It hit me more than most of the stuff I’d been into.

TN: It’s refreshing and exciting to hear Southern songwriters grapple with our history while forging a new culture and new sounds toward the future.

DC: With the line “Don’t Tell ’em your Bigger Than Jesus, Don’t Give It Away” is pure Southern frankness and the swipe at John Lennon’s famous quote is excellent. The Southern idea that you’re suppose to keep yourself in check. You’re to know your place and never get cocky and not stray too far from home.

TN: Part of it is cultural and steeped in tradition but then there’s the economic part that if the next generation leaves where is the workforce for the mine or plant. A lot of great music deals with these themes of hardship and trying to get out.

DC: Absolutely. I remember after moving to California I would come back to visit my grandparents in Savannah and everyone would call you hollywood. You’d get teased pretty bad. It’s part of the Southeastern culture is there’s a culture of sticking it out. I actually enjoyed being a Southerner in L.A. I thought it was fun. Nobody ever moves there from Georgia. There’s lots of Texans and folks from the Mid-West but not from Georgia, it’s too far away.

TN; I’ve enjoyed L.A. the few times I’ve been there. I usually end up in some bar with Shooter (Jennings) As a matter of fact he’s the first person I remember bringing your name up.

DC: I just worked with Shooter again a few weeks ago in New York for the first time in years and we had a blast. I love that guy. I owe Shooter a lot and I would not be in Nashville today if it wasn’t for him. The first time I ever came to Nashville was to work on his ‘Electric Rodeo.’ He introduced me to great country music. Growing up my parents listed to Kenny Rogers and Barbara Mandrell, that sort of stuff. All I wanted to listen to was AC/DC (laughs.) My parents didn’t have Waylon or Don Williams records. Shooter turned me on to the good stuff. There was one record in particular called ‘White Mansions,’ ( by Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, John Dillon and Steve Cash) that’s the record that really got me. There’s something about the way it felt. It came at country in a very cinematic way, it’s very powerful.

TN: Tell me about the first time you met Shooter.

DC: I had this stupid idea when I moved to L.A. that I was going to buy a ’69 Dodge Charger and paint it like the General Lee and drive it around town. So I had these business cards made up with ’01’ printed on it. My manager set up a meeting with Shooter and I and I’m trying to hide my business card. Then we end up working together and doing stuff for the Dukes Of Hazard. L.A. is crazy like that. Shooter is one of the most humble and kind people I know. He’s the real deal.

TN: Few producers have had as much influence in contemporary roots music as you have. Part of the master plan?

DC: (Laughs) It’s definitely not part of a master plan. I moved to L.A. to do rock records. After my work with Shooter I did some songs with Jamey Johnson on ‘That Lonesome Song’ I started to get the country calls and that’s when I started coming to Nashville pretty regularly. One of the acts that called was the Oak Ridge Boys, one of my dad’s favorite bands. While working with them I had in the back of my head, my grandmother was a Pentecostal minister, and she used to tell my “Honey, you have to make music for the Lord,” she had the Oak Ridge Quartet records, she didn’t have a T.V. but she had those records. It was the first time my work connected with my past. That was exactly where I came from and the people I was surrounded with. You get this feeling that just feels like home.

I did a lot of research on that Oak Ridge Boys project. I started digging way back in old Gospel albums, stuff from the turn if the century. The music kept coming in and it started to mean more to me than the Led Zeppelin and The Beatles and Stones I grew up on. Then you realize that’s where they got it from.

TN: Why do you think Americana and roots music has become so commercially successful?

DC: My take, and it’s probably totally off, but with all the streaming and stealing music has no monetary value any more. But I think true artistry does. When Jason Isbell or Sturgill or Stapleton write records to…not be on the charts, not trying to make top 10 singles…it’s just making something personal. I think people are willing to put up money when they feel people are putting in the effort, making art. You want to buy the album, you want to go to the show and buy a t-shirt. It becomes more of a lifestyle instead of a commodity. There’s a loyalty instilled that you don’t get with pop. Theses fans will stick with them. Maybe real art is the only thing that defeats music piracy.

TN: When I saw Sturgill and Isbell early in their careers they were playing to small venues and giving it as much as if they were playing a large hall. They were giving people their moneys worth.

DC: I just think that’s who they are. I remember in rock bands growing up and there was “put on your stage costume.” These guys wear what they always wear , it’s who they are. They play these small clubs and they give it 110% it’s who they are no matter where they are because they love it. Money is not the motivation for these guys, I know them. I’m just happy that people are supporting them, it’s a very special time when people are craving something real.

TN: As someone helping to define the genre how would you define Americana?

DC: Man, I just see Americana is another word for honest. Call it what you want I’m just happy people are out supporting it. I thought it was great when Jason’s record went #1 on the folk, country and rock chart. That means they couldn’t figure out what it was so they had to spread it across categories. That’s great and really funny.

When I worked with Chris Stapleton at the big label Mercury they let him make the album he wanted with no pressure for singles. They got it. They let him make an honest record and they supported him down the line. I even see Nashville embracing real art, they are feeling the influences. For example I recently cut a song with Brandy Clark, she’s got one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. She’s amazing. I think things are changing for the best. I think a lot of mainstream artist might prefer to make a more honest album.

TN: How was it to work with Jason Isbell on his most acclaimed albums?

DC: He just writes these devastating songs. My job was to clear things out of the way of the lyrics. When he and I first met , and couple of weeks before we did ‘Southeastern,’ I played him one of my favorite records Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Trouble Water.’ There’s a song on that record called ‘The Only Living Boy in New York,’ to me it’s a masterpiece if an album and I think the production is brilliant. It’s an acoustic feeling record that’s not acoustic at all. That’s the approach we wanted to take with Southeastern.’ It’s like he’s on an acoustic guitar singing directly to you but there’s a lot more going on. The way I work is I think vocals are the most important element for emotional communication. Especially when you have artists like Jason that write such great lyrics, my job is to hear that and clear the space and let that emotion through.

When we did the Isbell records we never listened to the songs before we go into the studio, He walks in and says “Here’s a song” and it’s like “Great let’s do it.” When he did “Elephant” from “Southeastern” it was one of those moments “I can’t believe this is coming through the speakers.” Like hearing a record you’ve always owned but are hearing for the first time. You know?

If I have a technique in the studio it’s to fly by the seat of my pants. I love when an artists vision is fresh and they nail it. To me that’s the best it’s ever going to be. You just have to believe in talented people.

TN: Is there a specific sound your chasing in these sessions?

DC: I don’t think I have a sound. Jason’s album doesn’t sound like Sturgill’s. They don’t sound like Stapleton. I never wanted to be that guy. I’m a huge fan of Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck, Atoms of Peace) and you know when he’s made an album. I’d rather be a chameleon on that front. I guess if there’s a common theme it’s making sure the voice is primary. Make sure the singer is carrying the band. I cut everything live, all together, often in one room, but when the vocals great that’s the track. In modern records people go in and put everybody in booths and then once the instruments are done the singer cuts 50 passes of vocals then they mix it together and tune it. I prefer they way the Beatles or Stones did it, live and vocal leads the track.

TN: How did you end up working with George Jones for the Suidbillies theme?

DC: I met some folks at xx tigers doing by working with Nikki Lane in L.A., I was just then moving to Nashville, and I got a call from Cartoon Network to work with George. The writers of Squidbillies really know their country music. I was referred by the good people at 38 Tigers because they knew I loved classic country music. Next thing you know I’m in the studio working with George Jones! For me George Jones is the greatest country singer of all time. His runs and his whole feel, there’s something about him..when my daughter was young I put on a George Jones and Merle Haggard record where they were singing each other’s songs. I would play it for here so, even though she was born in L.A., she had a feeling of the South. That session was a blast. He’s one of the funniest human beings I’ve ever met. He did Donald Duck impressions the whole time. We brought in Hargus “Pig” Robbins to play piano, Pig had played on Jone’s ‘White Lightening,” it was awesome. I tried to make that session, that one song, emblematic of his career. I tried to make it sound like a late 50s George Jones record. He made this great video for my daughter talking like Donald Duck. He was just a wonderful human being.

TN: What other producers influenced you?

DC: I really love Glyn Johns work, especially with his 70’s work with The Who, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. I love the way ‘Sticky Fingers’ and ‘Let It Bleed’ feel. Other influence would be Stax and Muscle Shoals, I love the way those records feel too. The rawness comes from not seeing perfection as the outcome..the goal. I don’t like to let people think about stuff too much. I think it ruins records when you get neurotic. The rough edges are the absence of neurosis. I let people hear Otis Redding’s ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ If you listen to his vocal it’s sharp and flat and the guitar is rushing, but it’s perfect, It’s so perfect. With technology it’s so easy to tune and tweak you’d lose the whole feel of that song.

TN: Technology is a double-edged sword. It allows the next George Jones or Elliot Smith to record a masterpiece on a laptop and that masterpiece can then be processed to death.

DC: I’m not anti technology, but you have to be carful with the problems you’re trying to solve. Sometimes they’re not problems at all.

TN: One more question, I was told I need to ask you about your fake Greenland rock band.

DC: (laughs) I’ll probably get into trouble talking about this. I love the P.T. Barnham aspect of the music industry. It’s fun. I was working with an artist that was late to a session so me and the session drummer started messing around on some sill prog-rock track. I had the English singer from my old band come in and sing on it. I wanted it to be from a country nobody knows about. So, Greenland! Nobody ever knows anybody from Greenland. So I call this industry person and say “Hey there’s this band from Greenland you need to check out.” So I took the track down and played it for them, and they were loving it. And they said “We have to sign this band.” That’s when I told them that it was me and some friends goofing off. They said “I don’t care.” They took it to the head of a major label and played it for them and they said “I love it! I love it! We need to fly the band in from Greenland to do a showcase!” About a week later it all settled down but I got embarrass because it went too high so fast. I wanted it to be fake bands in monk robes that you can’t see their face, one on tour in the U.K. And one in America at the same time so you never know if you’re seeing the real band. I loved that we made a record where nobody knows who you are, there were no rules. It was really freeing. You could have anyone join the band, a revolving membership. It’d be fun.

Jason Isbell Announces 2016 Winter Tour Dates

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell’s will take the extraordinary songs from his best-selling latest (94,000 copies to date) ‘Something More Than Free’ (Southeastern Records/Thirty Tigers) on the road in the New Year. Kicking off on February 11 with two performances at ACL Live at Austin’s Moody Theater with stops in Chicago, Boston and New York City (See All Tour Dates Below).

Isbell will be backed by his crackerjack longtime band The 400 Unit, featuring Derry DeBorja (keys) Chad Gamble (drums), Jimbo Hart (bass), and Sadler Vaden (guitar). Isbell and company will be bringing the great co-headliners and openers The Avett Brothers, John Prine, Lydia Loveless, Shovels & Rope and more in support of the new dates.

Isbell has released his second ‘Building The Song’ video (above,) which featuring in studio footage as he , producer David Cobb and his bandmates created and recorded each song on Something More Than Free.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Upcoming Tour Dates

10/1 – Lexington, KY – Rupp Arena %%
10/2 – Huntsville, AL – Von Braun Center Concert Hall >> *SOLD OUT
10/3 – Memphis, TN – Orpheum Theatre >> *SOLD OUT
10/4 – Washington, DC – UNITE To Face Addiction Rally
10/8 – Springfield, MO – Gillioz Theatre $$
10/9 – Carbondale, IL – Carbondale Live on Main $$
10/10 – Bloomington, IL – The Castle Theatre $$ *SOLD OUT
10/15 – Tuscaloosa, AL – Tuscaloosa Amphitheater !!
10/16 & 17 – Charleston, SC – Charleston Music Hall \ *SOLD OUT
10/18 – Atlanta, GA – Piedmont Park Promenade ##
10/23 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium *SOLD OUT
10/24 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium *SOLD OUT
10/25 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium *SOLD OUT
10/26- Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium *SOLD OUT
10/29 – Amarillo, TX – Potter County Memorial Stadium **
10/30 – New Orleans, LA – Voodoo Music Experience
11/6 – Knoxville, TN – Tennessee Theatre //
11/7 – Boone, NC – Schaefer Center for the Arts
11/8 – Chattanooga, TN – Tivoli Theatre //
11/12 – Madison, WI – Capitol Theater @@
11/13 – Eau Claire, WI – State Theatre @@
11/14 – Green Bay, WI – Meyer Theatre @@
11/19 – Durham, NC – Durham Performing Arts Center << 11/20 - Roanoke, VA - Berglund Center << 11/21 - Savannah, GA - Lucas Theatre for the Arts << 12/9 - Kansas City, MO - Uptown Theater && 12/10 & 11 - Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre && *SOLD OUT 12/12 - Omaha, NE - Sokol Auditorium && 1/6 - Oslo, Norway - Rockefeller 1/7 - Stockholm, Sweden - Bern 1/8 - Gotenburg, Sweden - Pustervik 1/9 - Copenhagen, Denmark - Vega 1/11 - Berlin, Germany - Privatclub 1/12 - Hamburg, Germany - Knust 1/13 - Cologne, Germany - Blue Shell 1/15 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - Paradiso 1/16 - Brussels, Belgium - Orangerie 1/18 - Paris, France - La Maroquinerie 1/19 - Brighton, UK - Concorde 2 1/20 - Bristol, UK - Trinity 1/22 - London, UK - O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire 1/23 - Manchester, UK - Ritz 1/24 – Glasgow, UK – O2 ABC Celtic Connections 1/31-2/6 - Miami, FL - Cayamo Cruise 2/11 & 12 - Austin, TX - ACL Live at the Moody Theater ++ 2/16 - Dallas, TX - South Side Ballroom ++ 2/17 - St. Louis, MO - Peabody Opera House ++ 2/19 - Indianapolis, IN - The Murat Theatre ++ 2/20 - Chicago, IL - Chicago Theatre ++ 2/25 - New York, NY - Beacon Theatre ++ 2/27 - Boston, MA - House of Blues ++ 2/29 - Toronto, ON - The Danforth Music Hall ++ 3/1 - Royal Oak, MI - Royal Oak Music Theatre ++ 3/2 - Pittsburgh, PA - Benedum Center for the Performing Arts ++ 3/5 - St. Augustine, FL - St. Augustine Amphitheatre ++ %% = Supporting The Avett Brothers >> = Co-Headline with John Prine
$$ = Lydia Loveless supporting
!! = Sturgill Simpson & Brandy Clarke supporting
\ = Hiss Golden Messenger supporting
## = Strand of Oaks & Natalie Prass supporting
** = Ray Wylie supporting
// = Cory Branan supporting
@@ = Elizabeth Cook supporting
<< = Anderson East supporting && = Rayland Baxter supporting ++ = Shovels & Rope supporting Ryman Auditorium Special Guests: October 23: Amanda Shires October 24: Parker Millsap October 25: Hurray for the Riff Raff October 26: Chris Stapleton

Album Review: Jason Isbell – “Something More Than Free”

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell  - Something More Than Free

If “Something More Than Free,” Jason Isbell’s follow-up to 2013’s career-defining album ‘Southeastern’ has a unifying theme it’s finding the everyday beauty in maturity. Yes, Isbell defies contemporary music trends by making his songs about something. His songs fully embody rich narratives that pump blood into lyrics. Words striking in their economy yet not lacking in marrow. Unlike others in the industry he refuses to hide behind crass chart confections or soul-syphoning irony. 

This is the stuff of life.

Opener “If It Takes a Lifetime” is a ragtime jaunt on down to the working day punch-clock. The protagonist gives a weary regard on the past (I thought the highway loved me but she beat me like a drum) and embodies a hopeful determination for a better future (I keep my spirits high / find happiness by and by).

The first single “24 Frames” is a perfect example of Isbell’s economy of word and imagery. A lean narrative of diminishing the self in deference to deepen relationships set to fragments of sonic vignettes that shine. 

‘Children Of Children’ is an achingly beautiful cut that has an 70’s-era Neil Young dark ferocity about it. The song both celebrates and bucks generational norms with an acoustic guitar and slinky bass giving way to howling slide whirling in the eye of an orchestral string outro. 

The title song is soulful ode to pride in purpose. It’s from the view of a blue-collar day laborer, but it just as easily maps to Isbell’s focus and perseverance on mastering the craft in an uncertain industry. “And the day will come when I’ll find a reason,  And somebody proud to love a man like me / My back is numb / my hands are freezing / What I’m working for is something more than free.”

In the aftermath of the reprehensible Charleston church shooting South Carolina has becomes a battle ground of the South’s cultural idenity. Isbell’s “Palmetto Rose,”  written and recorded before the tragedy, is a swampy funk study of the richness of a culture often mischaracterized.  The song gets its title rom the lovely flowers woven from strips of leaves from state tree. At once Isbell gives voice to the street vendors, many African-American, that peddle them and offers up a challenge to the hubris, mostly Anglo, of revising history. “Catch you comin’ out of a King Street store / Bullshit story ’bout the Civil War / You can believe what you wanna believe / But there ain’t no makin’ up a basket weave / Everybody in the tri-county knows / Who makes the best palmetto rose.”

“To The Band That I Loved” may or may not be about his stint in the mighty Drive-By Truckers. The reference to being “22 backwoods years old” jibes with the age he was when he joined the band. The subject moves from the singular “Now I know you’ll be fine on your own” and “Your voice makes the miles melt away” recalls camaraderie shared by Isbell and band members Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. But there’s another layer of nuance that makes me believe it’s for his first wife and Drive-By Trucker’s bassist Shonna Tucker. Either way it’s a fine cut that only Isbell knows knows where it’s heart lies. (UPDATE – A Rolling Stone article says “To a Band I Loved…” is about Denton TX’s Centro-Matic. So, never mind! hat tip to Jason Scally @Santascal for the 411.)

Go-to roots music producer Dave Cobb, that helmed ‘Southeastern,” returns to guide the album into aesthetic cohesion and knows enough to stay out of the way and allow Isbell and his band’s humanity to shine through. During the recording Isbell tweeted that he felt the songs on  ‘Something More Than Free” reviled those on “Southeastern.” That’s a tall order, and largely subjective. Isbell’s songs paint authentic and poetic worlds in the great southern tradition of storytelling. It’s like picking the best story your grandfather told you on the porch while driking sweet tea in the summer heat. 

Some stories might edge out others, but mostly you’re just glade someone’s around that cares enough to tell them. 

Official Site | Buy



Listen Up! Jason Isbell – “24 Frames”

Jason Isbell – “24 Frames”

Jason isbell told Rolling Stone that his new song “24 Frames” “…kind of sounds like the way indie rock sounded when I was 15.”

Isbell was 15 in 1994, a year when grunge and post-punk reigned. Though the keen melodic sensibility that echoed through the airwaves then has always been part of Isbell’s toolkit “24 Frames” also owes much to his Southern heritage. The tight-but-loose pop jangle is reminiscent of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and the wail of the slide has melancholy shades of Duane Allman.

But the songwriting is pure Isbell. He has a way of making the common moments exquisite.

“This is how you make yourself vanish into nothing; And this is how you make yourself worthy of the love she gave to you back when you didn’t own a beautiful thing.”

But all is not rosy and Isbell shows in the refrain, accompanied by Amanda Shires’ understated harmony, that plans are for fools.

“You thought God was an architect; now you know, He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow.”

Harkening it’s cinematic reference “24 Frames” is a sonic diorama of the human condition packed into 3:13.

Beautiful in it’s brevity.

’24 Frames’ can be found on ‘Something More Than Free,’ out 7/17. Pre-order it and get ’24 Frames’ as an immeadiate download.

Watch Out! Ryan Adams w/ Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires – Jacksonville Skyline – Ryman Nashville Tn 04/27/15

Ryan Adams w/ Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires - Jacksonville Skyline - Ryman Nashville Tn 04/27/15

Ryan Adams’ ongoing tour for his current self-titled release took him to a packed house at the historic Ryman Auditorium last night. Past tour mates, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, were part of those in attendance and the crowd were treated when they joined Adams on a lovely rendition of his “Jacksonville Skyline.”