Jason Isbell is my generation’s poet troubadour.
I wish I had the vocabulary to describe his music in an educated-knows-what-she-is-talking-about manner, but I don’t. The first thing coming to my mind is a word stolen from Cameron Crowe in Almost Famous, “Incendiary.” Except I am no William Miller and I will never get to write for Rolling Stone magazine. Actually, I am no Cameron Crowe either.
Last night I spent 2 hours in music fangirl bliss listening to my favorite artist crooning into the microphone and wailing on his guitar, while his beautiful charming and haunting wife played with his band, The 400 Unit in Canadaigua, New York. I feel a kinship with Amanda Shires because she is from Lubbock, Texas, my home. Her voice adds a unique dimension to his vocals, and the sound of her fiddle felt like it was drifting across the venue and sneaking into my brain. I know, that sounds cheesy, but it was truly a visceral experience.
I had good intentions of attempting to write a smart, worthy read of a review. I even started a note so I could keep up with the set list. It only has one entry because I forgot my grand plans about 12 seconds into the first number, Anxiety.
It felt like I was being swept away by his lyrics and melodic imagery, and I was too busy swaying and singing along. I couldn’t critique the show. I was too busy living it.
I tried to educate myself on the vernacular used to describe his music. People who have never heard of him ask me “Is he country?” My stock answer is “No, he’s amazing.” Sorry, Mom- but he’s different.
Perhaps I could call him a storyteller. I feel like each of his songs are showing me a new way to describe yearning, guilt, appreciation, and pride all wrapped up in guitar and fiddle strings.
It would be presumptuous for me to start trying to break down his lyrics and explaining what they must mean, so I won’t do that.
I guess the point is, maybe music reviews are just bullshit. If we are lucky, we get to go to a show and feel like someone is showing us a different point of view. Perhaps they are teaching us a lesson. Maybe it’s all just some attempt to ease the disquiet sitting just beneath our sternum, the little motor of Anxiety that keeps us awake at night even when all is right in our world.
I’m not a musician, poet, or artist at all. I’m just a fangirl who appreciates when someone gives me a catharsis and allows me to feel a little more of a connection with humanity.
Perhaps that is the point. Live music gives us a vehicle to connect. It’s intoxicating. Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit left me feeling a little Something More than Free.