Live Shot: Jason Isbell

Texas Union Ballroom, June 20

Photo by John Anderson

Since quitting the Drive-By Truckers in 2007, Jason Isbell has become one of the best songwriters in Americana today. As the Alabama native noted Saturday night to 1,000 strong at a sold-out Texas Union Ballroom, if it wasn't for his 2013 LP Southeastern, "We wouldn't be here right now." The album's stripped-down sound, largely shedding his band the 400 Unit, served as the focal point for this solo acoustic show, and setup to Isbell's fifth studio release, next month's Something More Than Free. Following local songwriter David Ramirez's opening set, previewing songs from his own upcoming Fables that draws impressive influences from the headliner, Isbell boldly led off the fundraiser for the Cactus Cafe and KUTX with his new title track, a blue-collar anthem in line with past peaks. Older tunes "Tour of Duty" and "Dress Blues," the latter recently covered with a measure of commercial success by the Zac Brown Band, likewise cut with Isbell's empathetic eye as he turned to the slow fallout of a generation at war. "Different Days" burned personal, as did the bar-closing lilt of "Streetlights," the singer winding stories and subtle guitar work throughout. "Goddamn Lonely Love" dug back to Truckers material ahead of "Stockholm," "Alabama Pines," and new tune "Speed Trap Town," while a searing "Cover Me Up" and wrenching "Songs That She Sang in the Shower" launched the Southeastern run of "Relatively Easy," "Live Oak," and stunning "Elephant." Closing with Trucker favorite "Outfit," Isbell noted for Father's Day that, "If you have a dad and he's worth a shit, call him and tell him you love him." Capping the 80-minute set with an encore offering new single "24 Frames" and "Traveling Alone," he closed with Tom Petty's "Even the Losers," an unnecessary cover as Jason Isbell claims his place near the top of the songwriting food chain.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Jason Isbell
Settling in but Never Settling at the Old Settler's Music Fest
Settling in but Never Settling at the Old Settler's Music Fest
Executive Director Jean Spivey looks back at three decades of roots music

Kevin Curtin, April 12, 2019

Playback: That’s the Breaks
Playback: That’s the Breaks
In studio with Confucius and Fresh, hosts of KUTX’s first ever hip-hop specialty show

Kevin Curtin, Aug. 31, 2018

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Kinky Friedman
Resurrection (Record Review)

Rick Weaver, Jan. 3, 2020

More by Doug Freeman
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

Sept. 18, 2020

Wilson Marks Finds Beauty in the Random
Wilson Marks Finds Beauty in the Random
Seela serves up whimsical illustration in “Only a Train” clip

Sept. 11, 2020


Jason Isbell

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle