jason isbell st augustine 2016

A Brief History: Grammy Winner, Jason Isbell | Coming to St. Augustine Amphitheatre w/ Shovels and Rope | March 5, 2016

by • February 19, 2016

He looks bloated and a little tired standing there on the tiny stage at Mojo BBQ in Jacksonville Beach. It seems strange in the moment that a young guy with that much talent would leave a band as outstanding as Drive-by Truckers on the verge of a major breakthrough. It would later be well documented that Jason Isbell was drinking heavily in those days. As good as he was that night, it seemed highly unlikely Isbell would ever achieve any semblance of mainstream success.

Four years later, Isbell is playing two sets at Suwannee Springfest — one with the great Jim Lauderdale and Justin Townes Earle, the other with his band, The 400 Unit. He’s freshly sober. Still a little thick, but rested and clear headed. He had done powerful things before, both with The Truckers and on his first two solo efforts. But his latest record, Here We Rest, includes some tunes that seem like they are on a different level. “Alabama Pines” is one such song. Isbell is starting to round into a truly special songwriter.

GET TICKETS TO JASON ISBELL w/ SHOVELS & ROPE in St. Augustine HERE!

Well I moved into this room if you could call it that a week ago … The A/C hasn’t worked in twenty years/Probably never made a single person cold/But I can’t say the same for me, I’ve done it many times.” 

These are gorgeous lines, a bellwether of something special on the horizon. Justin Townes Earle has to cover his own microphone while Isbell plays so as to prevent his own vocals from drowning out Jason’s.

“If we pass through on a Sunday, better make a stop at Wayne’s/It’s the only open liquor store north, and I can’t stand the pain of bein’ by myself, without a little help, on a Sunday afternoon.” Now we are talking hyperbolic territory. The next, fill-in-the-blank with your favorite songwriter’s name.

The roots of sobriety take hold and suit him well. He marries his incredible fiancé, Amanda Shires, a fantastic songwriter in her own right. Then he creates one of the greatest albums in the history of popular music. Even on first listen, Southeastern sounds unlike anything even the greats of all time ever penned.

“Girl leave your boots by the bed, we ain’t leavin’ this room/till someone needs medical help or the Magnolias bloom.” To marry intimate poetry with superb musicianship the way he does on Southeastern is almost never accomplished. It is an enormous leap into stratospheric greatness. He could step away after that and have a legacy cemented as the best of a generation saturated with quality songwriters.

GET TICKETS TO JASON ISBELL w/ SHOVELS & ROPE in St. Augustine HERE!

2014 brings his triumphant return to Suwannee. He takes the stunning amphitheatre stage armed with brilliant new songs about sobriety and re-learning who you are. Slimmed down and gracious, beginning to harness his craft.

Few artists wish to follow greatness. The kid following his classmate’s excellent speech in Social Studies is feeling anxiety on heart attack levels. Isbell has to follow his own masterpiece.

Something More Than Free finally arrives in the summer of 2015. It has been a long two years of waiting for obsessive fans. Isbell releases the single “24 Frames” in advance of a healthy tour. He takes the stage at Florida Theatre and The Plaza Live in May of 2015 casting an almost lithe visage. The metamorphosis is well advanced. A supremely talented songwriter fully dedicated himself to the craft of writing and playing music. The results are magnificent. The same guy who got booted from Drive-by Truckers, and played a BBQ restaurant to fifty people, is now touring in support of what will become a Grammy-winning album.

Isbell is set for a return to North Florida to play one of the state’s great venues, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. The guy at the barbecue joint was worth every penny. So was the guy nursing nascent sobriety at Suwannee, and the one who returned with a masterpiece in his pocket, and the media-darling juggernaut who played The Plaza last year. Jason Isbell is worth the price of admission every time he takes the stage, at any stage of his career. Don’t miss him at one of the most beautiful venues in the South this March 5th.

GET TICKETS TO JASON ISBELL w/ SHOVELS & ROPE in St. Augustine HERE!

Jason Isbell St Augustine 2016 Preview by Jason Earle.


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