Ear Full: Jason Isbell

Southeastern Son

Jason Isbell to perform at The F.M. Kirby Center


Fresh off festival stops at Bonnaroo and the Newport Folk Festival, critically acclaimed singer songwriter Jason Isbell will perform next week in The 570. Isbell plays The F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts Center on Friday, Aug. 9. Amanda Shires and local performer Mike Mizwinski will open the show.
Since parting ways with the Drive-By Truckers in 2007, Isbell has quit drinking, married songwriter Amanda Shires, and released his debut solo album, Southeastern. Sobriety has brought about some changes in Isbell’s work ethic. “I had a whole lot more to actually focus on the work that I was doing,” Isbell said in a recent phone interview. “I didn’t feel any kind of creative deficiency. I know a lot of people are afraid of that happening when they get sober, but that didn’t happen to me. I just had more time in the day to actually work on the craft of songwriting. It was a very positive thing for me. Everything was easier. Getting up in the morning was easier. Going to sleep was harder. It’s a major life change so it’s going to affect everything that you do. I’ve never been so drunk that I couldn’t play the guitar or sing, but I’ve become a lot better at both those things. To be honest, I was never really that messed up in the studio, but I did have the opportunity to get up and start working earlier every day.”
Southeastern is the follow-up to Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit’s 2011 release, Here We Rest, which cracked the top 100 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart, receiving high praise from NPR, Associated Press, Esquire, GQ, SPIN, USA Today, Blurt, My Old Kentucky Blog and many more. His song “Alabama Pines” won Song of the Year at the 2012 Americana Music Awards and Honors.
During his time with the Drive-By Truckers, Isbell was responsible for hits such as “Outfit,” “Danko/Manuel,” “Goddamn Lonely Love” and more. Isbell’s solo show will feature a mixed bag of songs he has written. “I play a lot of the songs off the new record and some of the old stuff I wrote with the Truckers,” Isbell said. “I don’t ever make a set list. I like for it to be different from day to day. I like to control the pacing of the show based on the mood of the crowd. If you like the songs I’ve written, it’s going to be a good show. They’re all coming from the same voice; whether I wrote them 10 years ago or ten months ago.”
Amanda Shires, Isbell’s new bride, will serve as one of the opening acts for the concert. Shires is a multi-talented singer-songwriter and fiddler in her own right, who is out in support of her new record, Down Fell the Doves, which is due out on Aug. 6. “We help each other at it (writing songs),” Isbell said. “Bounce ideas off of each other. We rarely sit down and collaborate and write a song together. Usually we write separately and we’ll assist each other during the editing process. It’s been positive for both of us.”
Local singer, songwriter and guitarist, Mike Mizwinski is a guitar based rock artist who tirelessly performs either solo or with his band, MiZ, throughout the region. Recently, Mizwinski opened for Derek Trucks Band, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Blues Traveler, Leon Russell, Railroad Earth, The Wallflowers and America.
When asked what Isbell had planned for the future, he replied with a confident uncertainty. “In all honesty, I try to keep my ass and my head in the same place. My goal right now is to make it through today without drinking and to have a really good time playing a show tonight. You make plans and God laughs at you.”

— tom graham

Tickets for all three acts are $25 and are available at the Kirby Center Box Office, charge by phone at 826-1100 and online at www.kirbycenter.org. There are a limited number of VIP seats still available, which include a premium seat and meet and greet with Isbell.