This is the coolest thing that has happened to us in awhile! Sound Opinions did a Buried Treasures show, where Greg and Jim each picked four albums that they felt were worthy of being called hits even thought they had escaped a lot of mainstream notice. Our 2014 release “Lean Into the Wind” was one of Greg Kot’s picks! We just listened to the show, lots of good music on there. You can listen too - http://www.soundopinions.org/show/464
We’re a little late on this one, but we did just get back home to California after the longest road tour we’ve done yet. And it happened to be a Honeymoon Tour.
Yuma and I got hitched on March 1st, 2014 here at our home. We later learned that we now share an anniversary with Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash!
Yuma wore a vintage western suit, and I wore my mom’s wedding dress that my grandmother made for her.
Everyone pitched in! My uncle helped plant succulents, my grandmother did all of the flowers,my sister project managed the event, our friend Kim magically produced the backdrop for the band and my dad even did some sewing, something I’ve never seen before! Yuma’s folks generously opened up their home to our guests and made it a really memorable day.
You may have heard that we are in a serious drought out here in the West. After planning an outdoor wedding during what should have been a dry part of the year, it decided to rain. And we couldn’t even complain because we needed it so badly. In fact, since we’ve been back, several people have mentioned that it may have been the last time it rained here in Paso, and suggested that we maybe renew our vows.
We just adjusted to an indoor party at the last minute and even set up to play a show after the ceremony!
A few days later we hit the road on our Honeymoon Tour!
I can’t express enough gratitude to all of the friends who flew in, pitched in, made music with us and wished us well. It felt like the start of something great!
I still want to list a few. It may give some insight into where our new record is coming from…
Blue - Joni Mitchell
The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight - Neko Case
Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
Dixie Chicken - Little Feat
Like Clockwork - Queens of the Stone Age
Rumors - Fleetwood Mac
Southeastern - Jason Isbell
Only Everything - Juliana Hatfield
- Miss Shevaughn
Instead of our end-of-year ‘most listened to’ albums, I’m going to review “Southeastern” by Jason Isbell, because it is THAT important of an album
February of 2011 was when Miss Shevaughn & I moved out of our apartment in Chicago and into our Honda Element. We spent the whole year on the road - and played over 125 gigs. In November of that year, we stopped in Seattle for a few days off. Our friend, Cristina Calle, had gotten us tickets to see Jason & Isbell & The 400 Unit. They were opening for Justin Townes Earle. I had never heard Jason’s music, even though both Cristina and I were acquainted with Jason’s keyboard player, Derry - from when we all lived in the DC/Baltimore area years ago.
Truth be told - I was just really happy to be seeing someone else play their music on stage. Miss Shevaughn & I were REALLY weary from our time on the road. I remember being quite impressed with Jason’s ability as a guitarist, even if some of his songwriting wasn’t as quite as diverse and varied as I would have liked. His band rocked what looked to be a near sold-out show. After the gig, we hung around drinking with Derry, and wisely, didn’t accompany the bands to the bar/diner they were headed to. If we had, my hangover would have been twice as crippling the next day.
Jason was still drinking then, as we all did shots of tequila with him right before he and his band left the venue. He was quite friendly, but still had the look of someone who hit the road hard and didn’t really take good care of himself.
So when “Southeastern” was released earlier this year, it was accompanied with a “I fell in love, got sober and wrote these songs” press campaign. I thought “well, good for him - even if it does sound like a ‘VH1 - Behind The Music’ plot.” I remember reading some really stunning reviews of the album, too, but my arbitrarily rebellious nature filed the album under “I don’t remember him being THAT good, I’ll get around to it eventually”.
After all, he was a pretty decent songwriter/guitarist/front man - but would the stripped-down, bare-bones presentation of so many of the tunes on “Southeastern” harm, or help his, what I felt at the time to be, somewhat average alt-country song craft?
The humbling experience of eating my own words was only part of what I feel “Southeastern” represents to me. To be released so successfully in a year when honesty, emotion and creativity took a back seat to stylized, predictable, mass-marketed homogeny - Jason’s album gave me hope. Hope for my own music career and hope for the (most likely) millions of people who are appreciating the simple beauty of the songs on “Southeastern”.
This year, at The Future Of Music Coalition summit, I heard the head of Thirty Tigers (Jason’s management/PR firm) talk about how important the story behind the song was. The narrative of Jason’s path to sobriety and his marriage were key in making “Southeastern” a success. He was only half right - the path that Jason took allowed him to sit down and pen songs that are vulnerable and draw you in almost instantaneously. The story behind the song IS the song.
People will tell you about how vulnerability is necessary to write songs that feel sincere. Emotionally dropping your guard and looking inside for the sake of writing a 3-4 minute pop song is much easier said than done. I can speak from personal experience, and say that no matter how practiced you might think you are at handling being vulnerable on stage, holding a guitar, playing a song YOU wrote, with the WHOLE ROOM staring at you (or worse - NOT staring at you and playing with their damn phones while you are singing your heart out)… It can make the most confident of performers want to run, hide, and snort up a mountain of cocaine. So “Southeastern” personifies bravery. It is brave because Jason Isbell ALL READY had a career in music. Writing and singing his personal brand of sometimes sad, sometimes rocking alt-country. He could have kept on writing what people expected to hear from him and made a decent paycheck in the process. But instead, he cobbled together a collection heart-wrenching stories about drunken scumbaggery, cancer casualties, and honest-to-goodness love for another human being. Once again, speaking from experience, writing an honest love song that doesn’t automatically fall into the territory of trite, cliched, hackneyed pap is REALLY FUCKING HARD.
Going one step further - even his SINGING sounds more emotional, believable, and consequently, more vulnerable than his voice has on any of his previous recorded efforts.
I have listened to “Southeastern” a hundred times. and I will most likely listen to it a hundred more. And every time I hear it - I think “if I live in a world where people can be drawn in and won over by songs like “Elephant” & “Flying Over Water” - then there just might be hope for me, Miss Shevaughn, Chris Darby, Simon Flory, The Quiet Hollers, Leslie Sisson, and the hundreds of other musicians we have shared the stage with in the last three years.”
If all you can play are those three chords, and all you can sing is the truth - there might still be a place for you. THAT is what an album like “Southeastern” says to a musician like me.
Thank you for reading. Have a happy new year.
We’ll be seeing you all very soon.
Brushed the Dust off, a song that might be on the album.
"Oh Tornado" is a new demo that we played out a bit this spring. It’s most likely going to end up on the new album we’re recording this summer.
The song was inspired by Stefanie Kohn, a really kind, creative and inspiring person I had the pleasure to be friends with and to play music with. If she were still here, today she would be celebrating her birthday.
When we played together in the band, in miniature, we had a song that Stef wrote called “Tornado”. Here it is: http://www.myspace.com/inminiature