Welcome to a blog post about Jason Isbell. This will be kinda short and it will kick off with a few “stipulations” and “suggestions.”
Stipulation I: Luna is the best “active” band, and “Malibu Love Nest” is their best song.
Stipulation II: Craig Finn is the the best active rock star, and the live version of “Killer Parties” on A Positive Rage best exemplifies this.
Stipulation III: Jason Isbell is the best active songwriter, and “Different Days” is his best song. Matthew Houck from Phosphorescent is a close 1A here, and “Nothing Was Stolen” helps exemplify.
Suggestion I: I don’t know who the greatest band of all time is. There are a lot of options. The Beatles is not the right answer.
Suggestion II: Mick Jagger is the greatest frontman of all time, although Chuck Berry is still the purest rock star that will probably ever be (man I would love to play the keyboard like the dude in this video!)
We shall explore all the above stipulations at some later date. Today we are looking at Isbell. Today on the Periscope there we said we might do a post here about “Different Days.” Well, that’s going to be a little too much work for today. So instead we’ll do a little top five. These are not necessarily my favorite 5 songs from Isbell, but pretty much. So, “in no particular order”:
I. “Danko/ Manuel,” from The Dirty South. 2003. On the Periscope I was a little inaccurate–Isbell was 24-25 when he wrote this one. It’s about the band The Band, and about emulating one’s heroes and the pros and cons of that action.
First they make you out to be/ the only pirate on the sea/ they say Danko would have sounded just like me/ “Is that the man you want to be?”
II. “Goddam Lonely Love” also from The Dirty South. 2003.
So I’ll take two of what you’re having and I’ll take all of what you got/
to kill this goddamn lonely, goddamn lonely love
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before/ a man walks into a bar and leaves before his ashes hit the floor/ stop me if I ever get that far/ the sun’s a desperate star that burns like every single one before
Dude was 25 years old.
III. “Speed Trap Town” from Something More Than Free. 2015. A kind of reprise to “Outfit” in that this is a song about “the old man.” More of a character piece though, perhaps. It’s hard to do better than the opening verse:
She said, “It’s none of my business but it breaks my heart”/ dropped a dozen cheap roses in my shopping cart/ made it out to the truck without breaking down/ everybody knows you in a speed trap town
IV. “Different Days” from Southeastern. 2013. I do think this is his masterpiece so far. That’s not a didactic opinion; it’s just my favorite. Every line is masterful, but we gotta go with this:
Time went by and I left and I left again/ Jesus loves a sinner but the highway loves a sin my/ daddy told me I believe he told me true/ that the right thing’s always the hardest thing to do
V. “New South Wales” from Southeastern. 2013. If Different Days is my favorite song, New South Wales has my favorite Isbell line and sentiment.
And the sand that they call cocaine cost you twice as much as gold/ you’d be better off to drink your coffee black/ but I swear, the land it listened to the stories that we told/ god bless the busted boat that brings us back.
God bless the busted boat that brings us back. Amen baby.
That’s the Jason Isbell tribute for today. If you like what you hear, it’s worth going back and picking up the Drive By Truckers songs from him as well. He does a mean Van Morrison too…
sixshootercountry.com, “Jason Isbell live @ The Albert Hall, Manchester 25/10/2017 Reviewed.”