I am not stuck in the 70s and 80s when it comes to my musical tastes.
Really, I’m not.
(Actually, the more I declare it, the less you believe it, I know.)
But for sure my favorite “current” artist is Jason Isbell. My 25 year old son Riley is the first one to tell me about Isbell, which he did by giving me a copy of the seminal 2013 CD, Southeastern.
I’ve told people that Isbell lives at the intersection of recovery and poetry. Throw in a vocal delivery that is without compare, and you’ll see why two Jason Isbell concerts (both of which I attended with Riley) have brought me to tears.
Here are my top five Jason Isbell songs. Buyer beware: given that he often deals with the grit of addiction as well as the glory of recovery, many of his lyrics are … colorful.
5.“New South Wales” from the album Southeastern. “The sand that they call cocaine” and the “[body fluid deleted] they call tequila” lets you know this is a singer who is glad to be rid of both.
4. “Codeine” from the album Here We Rest. The melody sounds like rollicking good fun. They lyric make it clear it’s not. That sort of ambiguity makes a good song great.
3. “The Last Of My Kind” from the album Nashville Sound. I’m pretty sure that I “clap on the one and the three,” so, I’m sorry. A song for vanishing breeds everywhere.
2. “Travelling Alone” from the album Southeastern. This studio version Amanda Shires Isbell (his wife) is superb.
1. “Cover Me Up” from the album Southeastern. This one features not just the intersection of recovery and poetry, but the intersection of vocal power and lyric beauty as well.