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Jason Isbell Confronts His Past Struggles On 'Southeastern'

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Jason Isbell performs in the Soundcheck studio. Jason Isbell performs in the Soundcheck studio. (Michael Katzif / WNYC)

Jason Isbell got his start with the alt-country and Southern-rock band Drive-By Truckers, and he says that during those years, he was regularly drunk on stage. But now, after years of alcoholism, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter has gotten sober, is newly married to songwriter Amanda Shires, and leads his new band The 400 Unit. On his latest solo album, the superb Southeastern, Isbell details his longtime struggles with a new emotional openness.

That record turned many heads and found itself on many a best of 2013 list, thanks to threadbare songs and honest -- sometimes even humorous -- recountings of his former destructive lifestyle, maintaining relationships and confronting darkness and weakness. The result is among Isbell’s best work yet.

Hear Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires perform songs from Southeastern in the Soundcheck studio.

Set List:

  • "Live Oak"
  • "Different Days"
  • "Elephant"


Jason Isbell

Comments [25]

Spm from London

just discovered Jason on Spotify, love every song Ive heard, when are you coming back to UK?? perhaps for Country 2 Country Festival????

Dec. 10 2014 11:42 AM
Karen Carroll from Clarkesville, GA

My son (who is taking his wife to hear Jason in concert tonight in Macon, GA) just turned me on to his music. Wow, the lyrics are so meaningful, and the music is magical!! Can't wait to download some of their music!!

Mar. 22 2014 06:59 PM
Martin from England

Saw jason and Amanda in November in Manchester and have just bought tickets for Leeds in May with the 400 unit can't wait.Southeastern was not only one of 2013s best but for me one of the best ever.

Feb. 22 2014 03:12 AM
eddie251 from Boone NC

My best friend and I saw the Abingdon VA show at the Barter Theater. Cozy personal type venue,unbelievable acoustics' One of the greatest live performances I have ever had the privilege to see!!!

Feb. 12 2014 11:55 AM
Teodosij Tzinguilev from Sofia, Bulgaria

Jason's music is so beautiful. And that Duesenberg (I guess) guitar sound on the electric recordings is fabulous. Greetings from Bulgaria!

Feb. 02 2014 04:50 AM
Richard Bush from At home and up too late

I have been a serious listener of all kinds of music for over five decades, and I count Jason's Southeastern as one of my top ten albums of all those years. He is a fantastic song writer and superb story teller. I listen to his current album nearly every day, speaking as it does to many of my own personal life experiences in a heart-felt, poignant manner.

When I heard that he and Amanda had married I could not have been happier for them. She, too, is a wonderful writer and songsmith, and like Southeastern, I listen to her most recent albums on a regular basis.

I think that, taken together as well as separately, the music of these two extraordinary artists speaks straight to my heart and soul. I was married to a wonderful, lovely woman for forty years--knew her as a special friend, as an incomparable lover, and as not only a tremendous wife but also great mother to our four children. I lost her last year in January, have struggled mightily to make sense of losing her so young and suddenly to brain cancer, but I find solace in the gifts from these two sensitive and loving people.

I am going to see Jason in a week here in the St. Louis area. If I am lucky, perhaps Amanda will be there, too. Either way I look forward to personally sharing some great music with others who will be there.

Feb. 02 2014 02:43 AM

There are ao few albums you can say really touched your life in some way, this is one of three for me, over more than three decades...can't get enough of it.

Feb. 01 2014 10:17 PM
ROBERT from Phila.

Just saw Jason with Amanda and the 400 Unit Weds. night @ Union Transfer in Phila. Great show, gracious performers

Jan. 31 2014 07:13 PM
Greg from Boise

We saw Jason and the 400 Unit at the Northern Rockies Music Festival in 2012 in Hailey Idaho so I can attest that he does come out west, at least once in a while. I've been to many shows there over the years and his was absolutely one of the best.

Jan. 31 2014 04:00 PM
Pam from Manchester, CT

I got Southeastern just after it came out and nearly wore it out. I went out and bought the other CDs with Jason and the 400 them all. Saw Jason in Hartford last August. Love following Jason and Amanda's exploits on FB.

Jan. 31 2014 03:38 PM
Brigitte Rath from Breckenridge

Hands down my favorite album in 2013. Love the lyrics and the music. My only complaint: Jason doesn't seem to come out west to perform. I live in Colorado. You should come to Red Rocks!!!!!

Jan. 31 2014 03:03 PM
Ryan from KC

Absolutely cannot get enough of Southeastern. Tuned in late to this broadcast. Can't wait for the full audio to be up later.

Jan. 31 2014 02:32 PM

I`m 62 yrs old, this song brings back memories of my wife`s illness, she is a 13 yr. suvivor

Jan. 31 2014 02:29 PM

I was able to get the kinks worked out on my phone.
Love it, Jason! Thank you so much. We'll see ya again real soon.

Jan. 31 2014 02:29 PM
Chris from Tampa

Mrs. Isbell's fiddle playing is as pretty as she is. Thanks guys. Your latest albums are home runs and are in constant rotation in my house. Any chance we can hear an Amanda song? Maybe Box Cutters?

Jan. 31 2014 02:28 PM
Michael Heinbach from West Hartford, CT

Jason, I've been sober now for just over a year. Thanks for being an inspiration on my journey, a Twitter all-star and a baseball junkie.

Jan. 31 2014 02:27 PM
Producer Joel Meyer from Soundcheck studio, WNYC

Hey Rachel, Tim, et. al: Our apologies that you're unable to access the stream. We have just a couple of minutes left in the segment. Check back by the end of the day today, and we'll have the archived version posted on THIS page. Thanks so much for listening! -- Producer Joel

Jan. 31 2014 02:26 PM
Tim Miller

Boom. Got it by dowloading the WNYC app from the app store.

Jan. 31 2014 02:25 PM
Tim Miller from Georgia

Yeah I can't seem to access the session via the player either. I have tried on iphone and ipad....nothing.

Jan. 31 2014 02:23 PM
Karen from Richmond, VA

Love this new album...heading to New Orleans to see y'all at JazzFest!

Jan. 31 2014 02:21 PM

Every time i hear these songs i find something new

Jan. 31 2014 02:07 PM
Jeff from IL

Sounds great...flub and all! Looking forward to the show in Indy next week.

Jan. 31 2014 02:03 PM

Tuning in from Nashville. I can't seem to hear the show through the player.

Jan. 31 2014 02:02 PM
Mike from Chicago

I'm driving to Milwaukee from Chicago to catch your show. Can't wait. Love your stuff, just got into you with the new one. Bought everthing else and love it all.

See you in Milwaukee!

Jan. 31 2014 01:53 PM
Mark Forsythe from Muscle shoals area

I sobered up in 94 and got to go to some weekend clubs I could tell back then he was headed to b a good one , man he is a good one , sometimes we have to go Thur the mud to get to the roses God will Bless

Jan. 31 2014 01:23 PM

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