Digesting the Jason Isbell Documentary “Running With Our Eyes Closed”
When Jason Isbell announced his new album Weathervanes due out on June 9th, one of the first questions I had was whether they would use what a bad husband Jason Isbell is to market the album. After all, that was the decision made of how to market his last album Reunions from 2020, as well as his wife Amanda Shires’ latest album Take It Like a Man from 2022.
In a detailed spread in The New York Times published the week of the release of Reunions, an unflinchingly honest portrayal of the couple’s marriage troubles was conveyed as a foundation of how the public should perceive Isbell’s new album. In stark detail, the article delved into how a stressed Jason Isbell pushed Amanda Shires away during the album making process, criticized her for her fiddle being too loud, how his sobriety was tested when he took a swig of Listerine for its alcohol content, and how Shires moved out for a stint because of Isbell’s callous and selfish behavior.
“He was impossible,” Shires says in the NYT article. “It was like he wanted help but didn’t want help…” and about the fiddle issue, “I was like, ‘Holy Christ! It’s acoustic. I can’t make it any quieter.’”
Then in 2022 amid the release of Amanda’s Take It Like a Man, the same conflicts during the creation of Reunions were cited regularly in press coverage of the album as one of the primary inspirations for the work.
“This part of my life and our marriage was difficult and it took me back to the reason I came to writing and doing music in the first place, which is expression,” Shires told Terry Gross of NPR.
The details and specificity of Amanda’s criticisms of Isbell were stark and alarming, and Isbell’s contriteness about the situation felt revelatory. Though the press often loves to portray Jason Isbell as a vessel of virtue for the stances he takes on social issues, the actions in his personal life seemed to portray a different side.
Despite the thoughtful nature if Jason Isbell’s songs that have ensconced him at the top of the always-nebulous but increasingly commercially viable “Americana” genre, his public persona has been one of a prickly and judgemental individual, lashing out at people on Twitter. While he’s cheered on by large elements of his own constituency, Isbell commonly contributes to the overall divisiveness of American society and the destructive “dunk culture” which devolves into concerns over who wins and loses, as opposed to cross-ideological dialogue and understanding to solve societal concerns.
All of this is the setup for the release of the documentary Jason Isbell: Running With Our Eyes Closed on HBO, and streaming on HBO Max. Lo and behold, there was actually a full-on film production crew on site for the studio sessions of Reunions as part of a greater effort to chronicle that era in Jason Isbell’s career. The documentary specifically captures key moments in the Jason Isbell/Amanda Shires conflict during the making of the album.
Though the making of Reunions is the centerpiece of the 1 hr 40 min film, Running With Our Eyes Closed also delves into the back story of Jason Isbell, including interviewing his parents, tying their divorce into the inspirations behind Isbell’s song “Dreamsicle,” how Isbell’s upbringing has informed his music, and how his drinking caused his exit from The Drive-By Truckers. Details like how Isbell’s mother was only 16 when she had him, and his father was only 18 in rural Alabama help set the table for the type of insight and conflict that color in the lines of Jason Isbell songs.
The film goes beyond the recording sessions with producer Dave Cobb at RCA Studio A in Nashville to the onset of the pandemic, and the strange release of Reunions during the height of the lockdowns, which created another stress point for Jason Isbell and his band. The 400 Unit is also showcased in the film, including bassist Jimbo Hart’s riding lawnmower, and guitarist Sadler Vaden’s Roomba. About the only individual left out of the Jason Isbell story is the person that always seems to be left out—his first wife and fellow Drive-By Truckers member Shonna Tucker.
Along with offering intimate and rather incredible insight into the Jason Isbell universe, Running With Our Eyes Closed also offers great insight into the recording process of producer Dave Cobb, who takes a somewhat unique approach to recording. As opposed to practicing songs before heading into the studio like most bands do, or even road testing some of the songs in concert, Jason Isbell comes in with the songs day of, showing them to Dave Cobb and The 400 Unit fresh, and then recording them as the compositions come to life for the first time.
This Dave Cobb approach has resulted in some of the greatest albums released in the modern era of country and Americana music. But if an artist or band is ill-prepared for the process, or that process just doesn’t fit with how the performer approaches music, it can go bad, especially since Cobb will only block off a week or two for recording an entire album. This approach also ultimately helps feed into the conflict between Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires.
You go into Running With Our Eyes Closed expecting to see a bad side of Jason Isbell. This is how you’ve been set up by the previous press coverage and revelations about the Reunions recording process. It’s also how the film itself is sold, and how Jason Isbell sets up the film in the first few minutes.
“I need to move forward as a person through this work,” Jason Isbell says. “For me to do that, I have to come to terms with things that don’t make me look cool, or don’t paint me in the best light, or don’t promote an idea I have of controlling my own image. Because I think controlling your image is the opposite of creating art.”
There is certainly fault to be found in how Jason Isbell conducts himself as things get sideways with his better half as the film unfolds. But whatever the reality of things happens to be beyond the portrayals in the press, in this particular film it is not Jason Isbell who comes across as the aggressor and guilty party for train wrecking the Reunions recording sessions. It is Amanda Shires.
7 1/2 minutes into the documentary, Shires is already tearing apart the Dave Cobb approach to recording, saying with an attitude about the approach of not practicing beforehand and instead working out the songs organically in the studio, “It’s ridiculously hard, and the stupidest part of recording. You can’t practice it ’cause Dave doesn’t like a demo. And then if I mess up, someone’s gonna want to try and keep that probably.”
A few minutes later, Jason Isbell is saying how excited he is to be recording the album. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done in my life outside of you and our daughter.” But Amanda is sitting right beside Jason, trying to convince Jason that he’s stressed out, and that he’s lying to himself.
Where Jason Isbell shows up to the studio in wrinkled shirts and a floppy baseball hat, seemingly unaware cameras are capturing every moment, Amanda Shires shows up like she’s ready for a gig, including wearing sunglasses in the studio and even during some of the interviews in the documentary, sipping on a glass of wine while Isbell’s sobriety is being tested due to the stress of the process. Overall, Amanda Shires presents an attitude where she seems to believe she should be given more attention, if not be the center of it.
“The 12 string guitar, jeez. If I was producing this record, I would take all the 12-string guitars and give them away,” Shires says at one point. But she’s not the producer, though she clearly wants to be. Amanda offers the first stress test for Isbell’s songs when he’s writing them at home, which is an important part of the process. But she seems to want to refuse to cede responsibility to others as recording moves forward, and comes across as undermining of Dave Cobb.
Anyone who’s spent time in the recording studio knows how stressful it can be, no matter which studio it is, or the recording process, or how many votive candles you light and place on pedestals. It’s important that everyone feels the freedom to voice an opinion, but it’s also important that everyone buy into whatever process has been decided upon ahead of time of how to record a given project. In the case of Jason Isbell and Reunions, Amanda Shires did not do this. And from an outside perspective, she actively started trying to erode that process.
In The New York Times and other accounts, it was Jason Isbell’s criticism of Amanda’s fiddle being too loud that was the linchpin for the conflict—the final straw where Shires was tired of being disrespected. But with the cameras rolling in the studio when that very moment happened, it comes across as innocuous, with Shires being overly sensitive about a passing quip that wasn’t meant to be personal. Of course, every relationship has its nuances that the public may not be able to pick up on. But the actual moment was not nearly as bad as it was portrayed in The New York Times in 2020.
Where Amanda Shires is at least somewhat right is that Jason Isbell probably was more stressed about making Reunions than he was leading on to. But Shires harping about that clearly didn’t help the situation. It hurt since this ultimately *SPOILER ALERT* results in Amanda Shires leaving Isbell and sleeping in a hotel, Isbell spending some nights himself in a hotel as opposed to home and not getting any sleep, and a relationship spiraling towards divorce in the middle of the Reunions studio sessions.
Of course, how much of this is reality, and how much of this is the film makers looking to create a narrative arc is a fair question. Or perhaps since Jason and Amanda have used their marital conflict to create interest in their music previously, maybe it’s part of an outright marketing effort. But Running With Our Eyes Closed feels sincere, and later in the film when Amanda Sires is reading an email she sent Jason when things were at their worst and she was full of emotion, it drives home the pain she was feeling in these moments, regardless of who was ultimately to blame.
This is not to throw Amanda Sires under the bus completely. Isbell clearly had some fault too. But this was Jason Isbell’s album, and Jason Isbell’s documentary. As both Jason and Amanda admit, she’s only an auxiliary member of The 400 Unit. This is important so that Shires isn’t thought of simply as Jason Isbell’s wife, or one of his band members. Amanda Shires is her own person and has her own career as an artist. And when she goes to make an album, it’s important for everyone to be subservient to her, just like Isbell has done on numerous occasions.
Another final and important observation about Running With Our Eyes Closed is that it came out way too late. At the latest, it should have been released in late 2022, before Jason Isbell started his album cycle with Weathervanes, and when it could be more of a complementary piece to Reunions. Obviously a film project like this takes time to get finalized, but it feels like a distraction from what Jason Isbell is doing now. He’s moved on from producer Dave Cobb, and some of the recording process that fed into the conflict with Amanda. Reliving that and the moments of the pandemic feel dated, and like a distraction. We’ve all moved on.
But overall, Running With Our Eyes Closed is an important portrayal of Jason Isbell. His handling of the conflicts that arise, and the few intimate moments with his daughter Mercy show off a side that his persona on Twitter doesn’t convey. Though many Jason Isbell fans seem to be completely isolated from the criticism of him due to the siloed nature of American media, he’s become an extremely, extremely polarizing character. But Isbell’s pointed and political opinions and statements are not part of this film.
Unless you’re a Jason Isbell fan or already have an HBO Max subscription, watching Running With Our Eyes Closed may not be essential viewing. But it does feel essential if you want to try and understand what makes one of this generation’s greatest songwriters, and most influential artists in country, rock, and Americana tick. It’s also important for you to see both sides of the conflict between Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, so you can come to conclusions yourself.
May 15, 2023 @ 8:05 am
I enjoyed this documentary but quickly came to the conclusion that he and Amanda should not be in the same music group together if they want to keep their marriage and family together.
She’s got her own gig so just work separately and be happy ever after.
I also came to another conclusion that is probably an unpopular one: she’s not a great fiddler.
May 15, 2023 @ 8:28 am
If I had a dog in the race of Jason Isbell vs. Amanda Shires, it would be Amanda. Jason Isbell has personally and pointedly insulted me on Twitter on multiple occasions, and actively worked to tarnish my name. I have criticized him specifically for his treatment of Amanda, taking the portrayals from ‘The New York Times’ and other places as being accurate, and alarming. Meanwhile, I’ve been following Amanda Shires since she was a fiddle prodigy here in Texas, to the Thrift Store Cowboys, to her work with Rod Picott, to her solo stuff. When I saw Isbell play for the first time live and he was accompanied by Shires, I was star struck by Shires, not vice versa.
But I’m sorry, when I see someone say, “If I was producing this album…” in a recording session, it’s game over. You can’t do that, even if the point you’re trying to make has some validity.
As for her fiddle playing, I unfortunately have to agree. At one point, Amanda Shires was a great fiddle player. I saw it with my own two eyes, and heard it with my ears. These days, her playing is scratchy and serrated, favors the low registers to try to make some “moody” tone, and avoids every sweet note in the register. Her playing specifically in this film is darn near unbearable, especially when they play “Traveling Alone” together.
Amanda Shires is a good fiddle player. But since nobody can criticize her (yet she criticizes everyone else), she has devolved, thinking her attempts at a unique approach to the instrument are being well-received. This is the reason music criticism is so important. You offer it hoping to give insight, and convey respect through your honesty. That’s all Isbell was trying to do, and that’s all I’m trying to do here.
May 15, 2023 @ 8:41 am
She broke a finger a while back. A swinging rope incident. Wonder if it still affects her playing.
May 15, 2023 @ 9:42 am
It might. But after 10 years, I think maybe she would have evolved her playing to work with the injury. I think the issues go deeper than that. If Isbell can’t even say the fiddle is too loud when he’s trying to work a song out on a couch, imagine how the conversation would go if he or anyone else started questioning composition or technique.
May 16, 2023 @ 5:07 am
I think him telling her the fiddle is too loud is like my wife telling me I watch too much football. She doesn’t really care, she’s just in a mood and tries to change the focus to her…
May 15, 2023 @ 1:29 pm
Trigger saying trying to tarnish your name is a bit of a stretch. He simply gave to you what you gave to him.
Twitter has become a battle ground and I can’t fault someone for seeing everything as a fight. People view him as prickly because that’s what the entire platform is.
May 15, 2023 @ 2:08 pm
Jason Isbell has actively worked to tarnish my name on Twitter. He called me an “Incel,” which is a direct and personal insult, as well as false, base, and unnecessary. Then along with Professor Charles Hughes of Memphis, Isbell helped perpetuate the idea that this website is full of lies in the vacuum of being able to refute the verifiable claims I was making in my effort to tackle the Black erasure that the academic/media class commonly participate in with regards to country music.
I have never hurled personal insults at Jason Isbell, and I don’t participate in Twitter spats. There may not be a website that has lauded Jason Isbell more than Saving Country Music in history, and he’s certainly one of the top 5 most lauded artists here in the history of this website.
That said, if Jason Isbell starts hurling insults at large swaths of people or says things that are irrefutably false, it is my job as a critic and an journalist to be adversarial, honest, and work to correct the record.
I have cited “The New York Times” feature on Jason Isbell in 2020 and other media reports of his mistreatment of Amanda Shires as an example of Jason Isbell’s hypocrisy. Like I said in this article, I thought that this film would verify those concerns. What I found was something completely different, at least from what this film portrays. This article is yet another example of me defending Jason Isbell and working to set the record straight, despite how some will portray it.
Jason Isbell is a very important artist of our time, which is the reason he deserves objective criticism and scrutiny. Despite his personal insults toward me and his direct efforts to erode my credibility, I still do everything I can to divest any personal feelings and emotions I may have, and report on him fairly. I think this article is an example of that.
May 15, 2023 @ 2:17 pm
It’s ok to disagree. I read what those guys wrote and that’s all it is. They took exception with a few things you wrote. Unless there is something behind the scenes that the public is not aware of, it’s just a silly internet disagreement.
I think if he truly took the time to digest your writing he’d take less exception too it.
Also this article isn’t an anti Jason piece. It’s a little cringe how you get a bit deep into the marriage but it’s content they put out there first so it is what it is. I think Jason’s work on the human condition is so wide that it has to include a bit of hypocrisy. I know he sees it in himself because of things he’s said on stage and even in his lyrics. Your forgiveness for me but not for thee article covered some of that in what I felt was a fair way, however from his perspective I can see where he might see it as a little bit much.
May 16, 2023 @ 10:52 am
Incel is such a strange, toothless choice for an insult, because incels call themselves incels.
So if you are an incel, being called one is just acknowledgement of a self-given title.
And because it’s a self-given title: if you’re not an incel, being called one is also not an insult because the person calling you an incel is effectively acknowledging you aren’t one by calling you one.
It’s different than being called an a**hole, because there is no official community of people who self-identify as that.
May 17, 2023 @ 5:50 am
I think I saw that Twitter exchange started by Charles Hughes when I just checking your feed one day via the website. As I remember, it was just a “he’s a racist” name calling insult with nothing to back it up. Was heartened to see two writers that I respect push back against the base name calling, and disappointed when another one I whose work respect joined the pile-on. As I recall, one of those writers pushing back suggested that an academic like him maybe shouldn’t traffic in these kind of ad hominem attacks. And yes, Isbell called you a hack and said something about how you have attacked “real journalist” friends of his. I’m guessing that includes your article on that accountability list by one of those “real journalists.” Anyway, then Hughes suggested that those pushing back on his insult read the views of others on the thread that support what he said, as if what Isbell said should just be accepted because of his status as an artist.
I love Jason Isbell’s music. I date that love to my first listen of DBT’s Decoration Day album when I was shocked that the young and pudgy country boy guitarslinger I saw on stage a year earlier could write (and competently sing) such killer songs as Outfit and Decoration Day. And I’m REALLY looking forward to the new album after hearing the three songs that have been released. Hoping for a return to Southeastern/SMTF/TNS greatness after what I thought was a good-not-great Reunions album. And after reading this article, I want to get a free trial of HBO Max so that I can check out the documentary. Well done.
May 15, 2023 @ 4:10 pm
Seems like you do have a dog in the race…
Dog the bouncer
May 16, 2023 @ 2:29 pm
If I had a dog in this race, I’d definitely be rooting for my dog. C’mon now, be honest.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:17 am
I agree. I wonder if he could find another decent fiddle player around Nashville?
Bill from WI
May 15, 2023 @ 1:34 pm
Ha ha that would go over great at home!
May 15, 2023 @ 8:40 am
I haven’t watched the doc but I am a fan of Jason Isbell’s music. I am also not on social media so I don’t see most of the things he posts unless they are reposted in an article. All I have to go on is this article and what I can say is that my wife and I can’t even repaint a room together without spiraling toward divorce. Although her wine and my bourbon do tend to make the process a bit more manageable…..
May 15, 2023 @ 11:20 am
Yep, brothers and dads are better for doing projects with than wives.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:03 pm
Ira and Charlie Louvin, Phil and Don Everly, Ray and Dave Davies, etc., etc., etc. might argue with you. (At least they won’t be arguing with each other).
North Woods Country
May 15, 2023 @ 8:48 am
It honestly feels like honesty in regard to this whole thing is self sabotage. Because everybody involved needs to hear very real criticisms but there’s a character assassination primed and ready for whoever dares to give them.
Best of luck to you, Kyle. I admire your integrity in putting yourself at risk for the sake of honesty conclusions and thoughts.
Cee Cee Bee
May 15, 2023 @ 8:59 am
I think the only reason I can enjoy his music is because I don’t follow Jason or Amanda – on social media or in any other way other than their music. I will probably take a pass on watching this documentary for that reason. I often find – that for me anyway – knowing to much about who a person is affects how I respond to what they do.
Jason is very talented – and unfortunately it seems the most talented people often have the darkest demons.
May 15, 2023 @ 9:01 am
He’s been pretty open about the fact he doesn’t want people who believe some of the things I believe about society and culture to buy his product and I’m happy to oblige. I got off the Isbell train a long time ago. I’m not a huge fan of Amanda Shire’s music but I saw her open for John Prine a few years ago and enjoyed it. Jason played accompanying guitar for her and they finished the show with all of them singing ‘Paradise’. It must have been before her slide into scratchy phase because I recall enjoying her playing.
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 15, 2023 @ 10:56 am
I appreciate you, Jonathan.
May 15, 2023 @ 9:09 am
I haven’t seen this yet but as a big fan of Isbell’s music I will at some point soon. It is interesting to hear how Amanda was portrayed in parts of this documentary and I heard rumblings about how she came across in other places. To echo what Rich said it’s obviously normal to have disagreements and fights especially when you also work with your partner so it could really just be an angle the film producers wanted to have everyone see and talk about. Drama sells.
Trigger I liked your comment about Isbell’s twitter and the “dunking” thing. I totally agree with your take.
May 15, 2023 @ 9:47 am
“it could really just be an angle the film producers wanted to have everyone see and talk about. Drama sells.”
When I first read “The New York Times” article in 2020 where they decided to center their marital drama as the focal point for the “Reunions” rollout, I was in shock. It didn’t portray Isbell in the best light, and was running a risk of alienating him from his own fan base. They don’t need to bring up personal stuff in public. You can talk about the music, the inspiration for the songs, etc. Then here comes this film. Some of this can be explained as Jason Isbell being honest and revealing. But there was definitely a decision made at some point that revealing these marital issues makes for good marketing.
As I said in the article, a filmmaker is tasked with finding the narrative arc–rising action, conflict, and resolution. How much of this is searching for a narrative, and how much of it is reality? I don’t know. But actually seeing the moments initially mentioned in “The New York Times” added a lot of clarity for me.
Publicists love to use personal drama to sell music. But of course, if Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires ever got a divorce, the first thing they would request from the public is to respect their privacy.
Referee Ron Cherry
May 16, 2023 @ 6:04 am
If they had any interest in being truly open and honest they would have interviewed Shonna Tucker. She knows where the bodies are buried. Not saying he likely did horrific things to her but 25 year old’s in somewhat famous rock bands who are raging drunks and colossal narcissists are not known for classy behavior.
Based on her Twitter statements she was not even approached about this doc. Not that she necessarily would have spoke with them had they asked as she stated she still has trauma from the marriage that ended over 15 years ago.
May 16, 2023 @ 7:31 am
The continued ignoring of Shonna Tucker from these deep dives into the Jason Isbell universe really is telling. At least this one mentioned her. The huge Buzzfeed puff piece from a couple of years ago that rewrote large swaths of country music/Jason Isbell history couldn’t even do that. But if you’re interviewing Isbell’s parents, Patterson Hood, etc., you kind of have too interview Shonna. Perhaps she turned it down.
The only reason I haven’t interviewed Shonna Tucker myself is because I rarely do interviews, and I don’t want to act like I’m going around trying to dig up dirt on Isbell. That’s how it will be perceived. I’m already getting attacked for “attacking” Jason Isbell in this article. But maybe I will.
There is no rational take on Jason Isbell to the public. You mention his name, and people immediately have a very visceral reaction on both sides, and you’re either lauding him, or attacking him. This is because he’s made his persona so synonymous with politics.
May 16, 2023 @ 7:49 am
Shonna tweeted that she wasn’t aware of the documentary until it came out. Seems like she was excluded intentionally.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:53 am
Probably horrible and crass of me to say it but for me, Shonna Tucker is way hotter than Amanda Shires. Just sayin…Shonna is way more natural, down to earth relatable Country girl than Amanda. And she’s talented, and cute as a button, and has an endearing personality to boot.
I know…I know…bad of me to say that out loud. Very offensive to so many…I won’t mention it again, I promise. Lord forgive me….
Lake Erie Brown
May 18, 2023 @ 6:34 am
Plucked the words right out of my head.
May 15, 2023 @ 9:36 am
I have been an Isbell fan for many years and greatly enjoy his music and have seen no less than ten of his shows locally and in other states. As Amanda has become a larger part of his creative process and band, there has been a distinctive change. Some have said she is not a good fiddler, other say it is a mood she is portraying in her playing. I tend to think the latter, but am still waiting to hear her break out some good fiddling as I’m not a big fan of her scratchy mood style I’ve been hearing. She did not come off well in the doc, and I mentioned it at the time. I was not a big Reunions fan. Just my opinion, but while the subject matter is heavy as usual, he seems to be at a loss for some of the wording of his past. I grow tired of the chorus going on and on. Each song becomes too repetitive. Kind of feeling the same about “Death Wish.”
I don’t know the guy so I have no clue what his issues are with his wife, its none of my business. Just listening to his music, I’ve felt her presence was a bit forced in some areas. Watching the doc, since they decided to include the drama…she just comes off as overbearing. It just seems like she is trying to take equal credit for his success and have equal say in his content. That is far from the truth.
May 15, 2023 @ 3:36 pm
I like Jason’s music but don’t apricate being preached to by anyone. However I avoid most social media so it does not impact me much. It is interesting how some male artist seem to change when they find a women and she becomes part of the “band” Not blaming the women but there is an impact. Yoko and John Lennon, I was a big Springsteen fan and when Patti S officially joined E-street band he and the band changed. I see the same with Jason. Again this could be exactly the same if a man joined an existing female band but I just have not seen it. Not blaming the women and it really only seems to be when they become part of the band.
May 15, 2023 @ 7:52 pm
Yes it happens, I have no clue if that is the case here, but it happens.
As a fan, I’m just a bit tired of the point of the song being thrown at me in the first 30 seconds…and then the EXACT SAME LYRICS being repeated 20 times throughout the song. It is boringly repetitive and…sorry…it’s just lazy.
Dude has put out some F’ing damn good shit over the years…In my my opinion a good amount of his work is timeless!! Unfortunately some of the recent is boringly repetitive.
I hate to even say that.
May 15, 2023 @ 9:38 am
“Though the press often loves to portray Jason Isbell as a vessel of virtue for the stances he takes on social issues, the actions in his personal life seemed to portray a different side.“
Kind of a cliche to point this out but yeah this always seems to be the case. I can USUALLY separate the artist from the art but for some reason with this guy I can’t. His phony virtuous postering is too…embarrassing.
May 20, 2023 @ 3:07 pm
I liked him better when he was drunk.
May 15, 2023 @ 9:50 am
I won’t watch it. Isbell is a very bad human. He knows he is a coward and pathetic man, so he lashes out constantly. Very childish. Plus, his music is just plain boring, its heartless just like his empty soul. The great song writer mantra around him is false. The pathetic story of his own self sabotaging ways is also overly boring. Nothing new, just a boozed-up musician who thinks life is tough. It’s all self-induced. Yawn.
May 15, 2023 @ 10:38 am
Norwegian Wood was pretty good though.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:56 pm
I can see not digging him, but “very bad human” and “empty soul” seems more than a little exaggerated.
May 15, 2023 @ 1:10 pm
Not exaggerated all in my opinion. Then again, its just my opinion in the comments section of SCM. My opinion means nothing, same as all the opinions expressed here in the comments. It’s just the comments section.
May 15, 2023 @ 6:01 pm
Actually your opinion does mean more than nothing. It shows who you are.
May 16, 2023 @ 2:41 pm
It shows that he’s an astute human being capable of forming a well-reasoned opinion?
Let’s not pretend Isbell is Merle Haggard or something.
May 16, 2023 @ 5:56 am
And yet you took the time to read (presumably) and comment on the article.
I think he is a genius. He’s a flawed human being as we all are, and he readily admits it.
But a ” very bad human” and an “empty soul”? Different strokes for different folks.
May 16, 2023 @ 5:44 pm
Absolutely hilarious. Jason kay he many things, but a bad human being isn’t one of them. As for his songwriting, he’s easily the most talented and respected songwriter on the planet. Your comments are clearly based in n politics..and I.guessing you have Orange posters in your wall. Isbell IS important and brilliantly talented no matter what you have to say about it. Saw him two months ago for the first time and he and his band are simply killer and one of the best rock bands on the planet.
May 16, 2023 @ 7:10 pm
The article is about Isbell. I gave my opinion about Isbell, and you attacked me personally, assuming my politics and room decor. Isbell flames folks all the time in comments, so I understand your passion for him. Same cloth.
May 15, 2023 @ 10:08 am
The parallels between Isbell and Springsteen are striking. I half expect his next album to only be for sale at Wal-Mart, his road crew to walk out on him over financial matters, and his daughter to show up at the Olympics riding a dressage horse. I used to think he was a reluctant celebrity, but it’s obvious now that he revels in it.
May 15, 2023 @ 10:09 am
I’m going to paint majority of this up as drama to sell a narrative and records more than reality but who knows. Isbell and DBT was a gateway for me to some great bands but his last few albums have been meh to me and the holier than thou approach he has on social media these days is a complete turn off
May 15, 2023 @ 10:11 am
I quit on Isbell a few years ago. I can usually separate the art from the artist for having different opinions than, but with him it isn’t just a difference of opinion. He openly hates and shows disdain for people with my beliefs. I’m not going to financially support someone who hates me.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:09 am
I disagree with Springsteen’s politics too, And the older her gets, the more wacked out he seems. but I can’t quit the guy. Too much great music over the years. There are others I like the same way.
But Isbell? Fuck that guy.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:24 am
But it’s completely cool that Kid Rock and Ted Nugent actively hate and show disdain for people with my beliefs, right?
Puh.leaze, spare me the rhetoric.
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 15, 2023 @ 11:39 am
Yes, it’s completely cool, because you are my enemy, and I’m your enemy. That’s how this works. You support celebrities with your view, and we’ll support celebrities with ours.
And by the way, you all made these rules. We’re just now waking up to what the rules are, and to the realization that we have no choice but to play by them.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:56 am
Kid Rock and Ted Nugent call people like out on their bullshit, and that’s why they get all twisted in knots. Nugent offers to debate people with ‘your beliefs’, but no one has the balls to do it. He comes with facts and receipts, the left simply parrot the government and MSM narrative.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:20 pm
LOL. Whatever you say, Jimmy. “facts” and “receipts.”
May 15, 2023 @ 6:08 pm
He is also a sex offender.
May 16, 2023 @ 8:32 am
trig, why won’t you let me point out that ted nugent is a pants-shitting draft dodger?
May 16, 2023 @ 8:42 am
Because I already put the stop sign up about Ted Nugent, because were not talking about Ted Nugent. He has nothing to do with this story, and all that will happen is back and forth comments of people screaming insults at each other and nothing gets resolved, muddying up an otherwise important conversation.
May 15, 2023 @ 1:54 pm
I could give a shit about Kid Rock. As someone else said, Ted will debate anyone one on one in a civil manner. I’ve seen him do it before. What He WON’T do is scream “RACIST HOMOPHOBE, RACIST HOMOPHOBE” and hide behind twitter like a little pussy as Isbell does.
May 15, 2023 @ 4:43 pm
Ah yes, the ever so civil Ted Nugent who said, just a couple years ago, that “evil, dishonesty and scam artists have always been around and that right now they’re liberal, they’re Democrat, they’re RINOs, they’re Hollywood, they’re fake news, they’re media, they’re academia and they’re half of our government, at least … There are rabid coyotes running around, you don’t wait till you see one to go get your gun, keep your gun handy. And every time you see one, shoot one.”
Ted is proud of his racism and his homophobia. There is no reason to go screaming about it. Civility isn’t a thing he cares about either, so I’m not sure why you are saying it is a primary attribute of his. Seems like the Ted you want to exist is not the Ted that does exist or even the Ted he wants to be.
May 15, 2023 @ 4:58 pm
Ted’s civility is widely known. Like when he called President Obama a “communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel”. Or on a gun rant during a concert of his when he held an AR-15 and screamed at people that Senator Feinstein should “ride one of these you worthless whore”.
His noted, even keel manor lead him to say that if Obama was elected a second time he would “be dead or in jail by this time next year”. We are still waiting on him to follow through on his promise.
May 15, 2023 @ 5:04 pm
This article is not about Ted Nugent, and this is a perfect example of how an off-topic quip can turn into a tangent that ultimately train wrecks an otherwise quality conversation about important topics.
No more comments about Ted Nugent, please.
May 16, 2023 @ 6:20 am
i love how people are complaining about isbell being unauthentic in this thread, and yet one of the hero’s of the right, kid rock, is just a rich kid from michigan who knows how to work the right crowd.
May 16, 2023 @ 2:18 pm
The thing with Isbell is that he used to have his finger on the pulse of something, but now it’s on the pulse of his own ***hole
May 17, 2023 @ 9:41 am
I also suggest not financially supporting people who hate you.
May 15, 2023 @ 10:31 am
If you have seen Peter Jackson’s “Get Back”, a lot of the tension in the recording studio came from that same approach Isbell uses. It works for some people. Bob Dylan is famous for changing his songs from one take to another in the studio (which is why his Bootleg Series is at 17 and counting. I believe it boils down to what works best for you. After all, pressure is needed to make a diamond.
May 15, 2023 @ 10:48 am
They are trying to sell themselves as being genuine, when the reality is that they are pretentious, performative, self absorbed assholes that at times have made some extremely good music. Psychological case study of passive-aggressive dude coupled up with narcissistic chick. Nothing new from self-important artists, but always disappointing and cringe.
May 15, 2023 @ 10:50 am
It would be a big deal, probably rising to the level of cancellation, if Isbell were to say “If I was producing this album…” at a Shires session.
I’ve read his tweets where he fires off at pretty much any random person he happens to see going against him that day, and then his little Twitter minions pile on, giddy and hoping he’ll acknowledge their existence.
None of that keeps me from loving his work. Although he’d probably tell me he doesn’t want me to listen to his songs or come to his shows. We live in strange times.
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 15, 2023 @ 10:55 am
I’m negatively amused anytime the lives of American elites are portrayed as difficult, or when things like recording albums, or making movies are portrayed as hard, in an objective, non-relative way. It makes me feel embarrassed for us as a people. Denzel Washington had some great things to say about this very issue, during a panel of movie people he was recently on. You can probably find it on YouTube if interested.
This quote from the article is what stood out to me most:
….”Isbell commonly contributes to the overall divisiveness of American society and the destructive “dunk culture” which devolves into concerns over who wins and loses, as opposed to cross-ideological dialogue and understanding to solve societal concerns.”….
Trigger perpetually, like intrinsically, either as a result of his personality type, or maybe his upbringing, fails to understand that the divisiveness is not something that can be contributed to; it just is. The divisiveness is the natural result of two worldviews that cannot and will not logically co-exist. And this is where Isbell gets it, and Trigger doesn’t. Even if you want to say Isbell is just “signaling” or whatever, he’s doing it on behalf of a worldview that he believes in. He’s letting others with his worldview know that he is with them.
When Trigger talks about “cross-ideological dialogue”, it makes one wonder what he thinks there is to discuss between “Let’s mutilate kids.” and “Mutilating kids is evil.” The people like Isbell, who participate in what Trigger characterizes as “concerns over who wins and who loses” know that winning or losing on the issues at hand is of the utmost importance, and that there is no middle ground between these issues. Let’s use the “surgery” issue for example. Does Trigger think the middle ground is just to remove the tip of the penis, as opposed to the entire penis? I really would like to understand, because I believe Trigger is intelligent, articulate, and sincere, even if he is extremely ignorant and misguided.
The Middle Ground Fallacy is a logical fallacy for a reason. It suggests that the truth is automatically the middle between two “extremes”. I put extremes in quotation marks because protecting children is not extreme. And again, I chose this issue as an example for this discussion. There are many other issues that could also be used.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:25 am
How do you know he believes in that world view? Did Matt Lauer “believe” in the me 2 movement? Do the BLM activists buying multi-million dollar houses “believe “ in the cause?
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 15, 2023 @ 11:34 am
Those are valid questions, Jake.
Matt Lauer and the BLM leaders are inner-schoolers.
Isbell is an initiate (outer school).
Think of “Woke” the same way you think of something like the Free Masons or Mormons. The initiates only know a little bit, and they believe in it.
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 15, 2023 @ 11:58 am
And Jake, to tag onto what I said, I would also add that we’re all sinners, and our sinfulness can cause us to be hypocritical at times. For example, I believe it’s wrong to get hatefully angry at people while driving, but sometimes I do it anyway, and I need to ask God to forgive me. My intent is to never get hatefully angry.
I said that to say, that one’s belief in something, doesn’t meant they flawlessly practice the belief 100% of the time and if they ever fail they are an empty signaler.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:26 pm
I see what you’re saying but I think you’re underestimating most people’s inability to resist conformity, their ability to lie to themselves, and the obvious one…their willingness to portray themselves a certain way for ulterior motives. Just saying we don’t know what or why he really believes. Especially because his REPEATED behavior doesn’t match his supposed altruism.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:31 am
You are assuming the wells of information are roughly the same for both sides. They aren’t. I have had some lefties say that the experts on gender dysphoria who went on Joe Rogan and other podcasts are spewing right wing propaganda. They won’t even recognize the fact that there are politically neutral parties that research things.
It’s 2002 again and this is their Iraq War and Patriot Act
Lake Erie Brown
May 18, 2023 @ 6:47 am
Yeah, and those two things really aged well, didn’t they? Even the GOP disowns their involvement in the former these days.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:16 pm
Sure, for some concerns there is no middle ground. But for others, there is, and you will never attain it when you “other” anyone who disagrees with you.
My greater point is that generally speaking, Jason Isbell isn’t out there arguing for things from his perspective, trying to convince others to believe what he does in a way that will swell support to his side. Instead, he’s playing a video game called Twitter, and the points he gets is measured by how many likes and retweets he receives by using his platform to “own”
others. This isn’t all Isbell does on Twitter, or in life. But it is uniquely unhelpful not just to his own causes, but to the ability to build consensus around nearly universally agreed upon ideas, like that children should have to wait until they’re 18 before making life-altering decisions.
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 15, 2023 @ 4:18 pm
I’m not saying there is no middle ground; there’s always a middle ground. I’m saying that to automatically conclude that the truth always lies in the middle ground between two opposites, is a fallacy; it would obviously depend on what the two opposite positions were. The truth should be determined by what is true, not based on a compromise, but on what is objectively true. Just because two sides compromise on something, does not mean they’ve landed on the true or correct position. For you to say that mutilating children is wrong, or for it to be wrong, it needs to be more than just your opinion, otherwise, it’s not truly wrong. But it is truly wrong, and we both know that.
Try to really grasp what I’m about to explain. I know it might be hard to wrap one’s mind around, for those who believe “everyone is good”, or that “we are all Americans”, or that “there is still something that unifies us”. Isbell understands there will be no compromise. He knows who his enemies are, and that there is no convincing them, and he’s right. He knows we are in a cold civil war;… a war of words, of ideas, and of legal and political power. He knows we are already “othered”. He isn’t “othering” people like me; I’ve happily and willingly “othered” myself by openly rejecting his worldview. What he does on Twitter isn’t intended to convince the inconvincible, nor should it be, as that would be a waste of time. The purpose of what he and others do on Twitter is to demoralize and humiliate the enemy, by making them feel outnumbered, backwards, stupid, or evil, and to rally the “troops”.
They do this, because both sides know that these are non-negotiable issues. The issues that were negotiable, like tax rates, are no longer relevant. We are in a new world now. I’ve explained over and over and over and over how we got here, and nobody wants to take it seriously, but it’s really happening, and no amount of wishing for a middle ground agreement will stop it.
May 16, 2023 @ 2:16 pm
We appreciate you King Honky
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 16, 2023 @ 4:42 pm
Anybody who likes Vernon Oxford is a friend of mine.
May 16, 2023 @ 6:43 am
Blame Hegel and dialectical thinking which had been taken up by the elites and dominated academia for centuries and spilled out from there poisoning the minds of everyone else. German philosophy is truly the worst and wholly Godless. Not enough can be said about the intellectual elite in the Germanosphere and its role in where we are today.
May 15, 2023 @ 10:58 am
I read the whole post because I’m largely unfamiliar. I got off Isbell after the live Ryman clunker. Don’t sell something that sounds like that to people. They must not project the record to sell. This is the equivalent of a tell-all book. I noticed they aren’t headlining festivals anymore and they are playing way smaller markets (looking at you, Evansville, Indiana).
I haven’t listened to Shires since “Devastate”. Not my cup of tea. I did preorder the Shires/Sister Bobbie Nelson vinyl immediately. I always remember Billy Joe pushing her to be a songwriter.
May 15, 2023 @ 2:02 pm
Meanwhile, DBT are still plodding along. They played a 2 night (residency?) last weekend at the Orange Peel in Asheville. I noticed one of their new T-shirts said “Hood/Cooley” like they were a campaign team instead of a band.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:02 am
Isbell is, & continues to be, a mediocre talent at best.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:31 am
Which aspects of his talent do you find “mediocre”? What comes to mind to me is vocals, but he’s a damn fine guitar player and songwriter.
May 15, 2023 @ 1:35 pm
May 16, 2023 @ 4:29 am
I don’t think his guitar playing is above “competent blues daddy” level, either. I’m not ripping, just observing. Maybe he moves some people. There’s an awful lot of wishcasting and political PR behind his fandom. Who knows, it all maybe as staged and fake as Russiagate.
May 16, 2023 @ 6:10 pm
I think Isbell overplays on electric. Sadler Vaden, on the other hand, is one of best I’ve seen.
Neil Young’s Potatoes
May 15, 2023 @ 11:36 am
I think the guy is a pulsating asshole but I strongly, strongly disagree with this. He’s the poster child for separating the art from the artist.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:20 pm
Saying that Jason Isbell has no talent doesn’t help support whatever grievance you have with Isbell beyond the music, it undermines it. That doesn’t mean Isbell is perfect. I think many folks found “Reunions” a little underwhelming, and perhaps now with the insight of this film, we know why. But he still is an important artist of our time, and that’s empirically true, even if it’s not specifically true for you.
May 15, 2023 @ 2:20 pm
“Saying that Jason Isbell has no talent doesn’t help support whatever grievance you have with Isbell beyond the music, it undermines it.”
Trigger i am just going to come out and say it.
You assume way too much, read too much into someone else’s comment.
Sometimes you need to get out of your own way (like we all do, at times).
Isbell does not smoke a guitar like so many other musicians, that we could be discussing.
I do not wish anything bad for he or his family.
He is a mediocre talent that the media has propped up.
May 15, 2023 @ 3:15 pm
I’m with Di. If you can afford to pay Water Carter six figures for Ed King’s ’59 Les Paul, you need to be able to make the thing talk.(Unless, of course, he bought it as an investment…)
May 15, 2023 @ 8:21 pm
You clearly don’t play guitar. Of the other big(ger) country acts that he is associated with/comparable to, DBT, Sturgill, Stapleton, Childers, Turnpike, etc. Jason is head and shoulders better at playing guitar than any of them. His technique is insane and his breadth of style sets him apart from the others mentioned. Just his playing on those early DBT records are enough to qualify him in this way. I’m sorry but you’re wrong here.
May 16, 2023 @ 7:29 am
“You clearly don’t play guitar.”
You are correct.
Although, for a short time in high school, i played banjo.
Had mono, had to sit out six weeks.
Asked my Dad if he would take some money out of my savings account and stop by Tom Pickett’s music store on the way home from work and buy a banjo.
A banjo pro at Pickett’s graciously and with GREAT PATIENCE, taught me how to rip Foggy Mountain Breakdown on that banjo.
: D Do not play guitar but I do have discriminating and exceedingly great taste.
I know what sounds good, and well, you know …
If you play guitar, Way cool for you.
I Love music
Jon Gruden Cheetos
May 16, 2023 @ 2:46 pm
I play guitar. I’ve seen Isbell live. He’s more of a show-off than Engleman, but he’s not better. He’s no Pete Anderson either.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:05 am
He pontificates because he knows he has no soul.
He is as much a marketer as the most fervent Nashville businessman.
The difference is, the businessman is honest about it.
Reminds me of the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector.
May 16, 2023 @ 6:25 am
“he pontificates because he knows he has no soul” says ck, without a hint of irony as one of the biggest pontificators on this site. why are the people always quoting the bible the worst? a real head scratcher.
May 16, 2023 @ 9:00 am
By the way, I didn’t quote the Bible (capitalize the b). I referenced it.
May 16, 2023 @ 9:17 am
NO more comments on this thread.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:07 am
I remember when Steve Earle and Alison Moorer got married it seemed like it was a “look at us we’re happily married artists and we work together 24/7 and we always overtalk about it in the media” vibe. I remember thinking this isn’t going to end well for them and it didn’t… I get a similar vibe from Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires but hopefully it will end up better for them…if they stop oversharing in the media…
May 15, 2023 @ 12:13 pm
At least Isbell is principled; he doesn’t so much care who his wife sleeps with on the side as long as they aren’t a Trump supporter.
May 15, 2023 @ 4:18 pm
Not the first time I’ve heard this kind of thing mentioned. Seems to be something of an open secret .
May 15, 2023 @ 8:16 pm
I honestly have no idea. The whole “cuck” pejorative is a common diss. Although I’ve heard and seen enough to know that in many music circles fidelity is the exception, not the norm.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:08 am
Fiddle cuts through mix soo much if not careful and thoughtful with the playing and pads. And if a fiddle is sawing away it covers up the nuance of anything else being player. Conversely listen to his Alison Krauss plays when she is intentionally lying low on a song. I however understand her fear of a “mistake” being left in by the producer in the pursuit of ‘organic’
May 15, 2023 @ 3:21 pm
B.B. King had it right. He sings, then Lucille (his guitar) sings. They never got in each other’s way.
May 15, 2023 @ 8:18 pm
I play steel guitar on the weekends and it often sits in the same sonic register as fiddle. One group I play with the fiddle player is always sawing away on every verse in between vocals never letting anyone else fill, unless she is singing. I can’t bring it up because she is married to the singer.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:11 am
I saw the doc and was personally not turned off by her. There is no telling the angle the director was trying to control, if any. There also was only so much we were shown. Perhaps the fiddle loud thing was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She is also his wife and provably has to deal with a bunch of his take home baggage and as such can speak more freely.
Just offering counterpoint because none of your concerns even occurred to me when watching and I analyze everything deeper than I probably should.
This also shows me how hard he is on himself and it gave me some feelings of grace and mercy towards his behaviors. Go ahead and roast me for that.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:22 pm
As I said in the article, I think we all need to take into account that this is a film, and the filmmmakers have an incentive to play up the drama to make it compelling. Who knows what parts were left on the cutting house floor. I don’t have any reason to believe it’s not an accurate portrayal of events. But people should watch it, read the New York Times article that give a bit of a different perspective, and decide for themselves.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:43 pm
Totally agree. I was just playing devil’s advocate because what may have painted her in a less than glorious light may for all we know have been the entirety of the more negative film they had on her and tons of good stuff may have been left out. She seems more apt to speak her mind and often that comes off as complaining.
I have no dog in this fight and no bias either way.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:17 am
I love isbells music but i he’s a pretentious asshole. Like i had to block his twitter bec How toxic he is on there
Neil Young’s Potatoes
May 15, 2023 @ 11:34 am
It’s telling that there is no outside producer on Weathervanes. The most vicious Twitter virtue signalers are the weakest people in their actual lives and Jason appears to have been consumed by a succubus. Hopefully the album doesn’t suffer. Jason is a wizard, after all.
That’s the part that often gets overlooked in the stupidity surrounding Isbell. I watched this doc expecting the protagonist to be attending Antifa meetings and breaking bread with Randi Weingarten while urging his followers to do as Big Pharma says lest they be thrown into the Gulag, but it was much different than that. It’s the story of a generational talent plying his trade and creating his art while his far-less talented wife nitpicks and nags. She may serve Jason well as a muse but that’s the extent of her ability to contribute.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:12 pm
Generational talent? Hahahahaha. Is that you Jason?
May 15, 2023 @ 11:40 am
As a registered independent, I’m not beholden to any political party. However, I do believe in the existence of certain universal truths. One of which is that dispariging and/or defaming an indivdiual because of their beliefs doesn’t futher the debate or humanity I stopped listening and following Jason and Amanda because I couldn’t seperate the art from their non-performing behavior. I feel they and us would have been better off if they would have attacked the idea or logic of the person asserting an opposing view. There is always hope one can change, but the probability decreases as we age.
May 15, 2023 @ 11:59 am
I was done with Isbell a long time ago, if you can say “done” with what has been a marginal interest at best.
Managing a two-career marriage is difficult at best, and it’s even harder when the two careers overlap. On top of that, professional music is a career for obsessives, and obsessives unavoidably clash.
They both seem like nasty pieces of work, but I wish their marriage all the best as they push through the chop. Marriage isn’t for sissies.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:10 pm
Both Isbell and Shires come across as horrible people. They are insufferable pricks, pretentious and completely out of touch with reality. Isbell’s albums have gotten weaker since That Nashville Sound. He seems to buy into all the hype (most of it unwarranted) surrounding his greatness. RamblinWreck hit the nail on the head above.
That said, this is a well written piece, Trigger. There was a time I would have loved to watch a documentary on Isbell, but glad you summed it up. We don’t always agree, but I appreciate when you write about stuff like this.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:12 pm
Not to borrow From a Guitar group where everyone acts like boomers, but “ha ha ha wife bad borther gobbles”
Jason Isbell is easy for me to separate the art from the artist with, partly because I’ve never met the guy, and partly because he keeps most of his obnoxious persona on Twitter, where I spend precious little time
And partly because he’s actually good at his work and art.
On the contrast, Mark O’Connor, whom I’m only bringing up as a contrast to Jason Isbell, but also to comment on the Amanda Shires part
I have met Mark O’Connor, and he’s a colossal obnoxious virtue signal or on Facebook, where I spend a lot more time.
I gave up on Marco Connor when Bob Woodward came out with that book right before the election, where he announced right before the election that Donald Trump had warned him about how bad Cove it was at the start of the whole thing. But when I put down in a comment that it seemed weird, that a well-known journalist would hold onto potentially life-saving information until right before an election, I was derided as being a Trump supporter.
I am not a particularly right, leaning person, nor am I a particularly left-leaning person. I simply don’t like the extreme opinions presented by either side, but that is neither here, nor there, except to further my point that Mark O’Connor, possibly the greatest fiddle, prodigy of a generation Was so celebrated in his childhood for his remarkable ability, that, as he improved past the point of no return, his later career output has been overplayed, nonsensically, improvised, and completely void of style or phrasing as hot licks and complicated harmonies are layered on top of each other in a show offish display That has no particular musical value
And Amanda Shires isn’t far behind. Comparisons to Yoko Ono immediately come to mind, of people who don’t seem to recognize that just because they’re doing something unusual doesn’t mean it’s good, and just because they want to experiment doesn’t mean all of us have to like it because not everyone worships experimentation just for experimentations own sake.
And, and I see this as a contest, winning, fiddler myself, Amanda Shires Wouldn’t even place at most of the fiddle contests I’ve competed in. Not to toot my own horn or anything since I’ve only ever won one fiddle contest, but at least I’m usually walking away with a consolation prize.
And at the risk of sounding like a wife, bad boomer, I would not want my wife to be within 10 miles of a studio if I was recording a project. And I’m not even married.
But from my perspective, I am seeing John and Yoko all over again, and that isn’t exactly the love story of the ages.
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 15, 2023 @ 12:20 pm
….”I simply don’t like the extreme opinions presented by either side”….
The Middle Ground Fallacy is a parasite on the mind of the intelligent and sincere, …and on civil society itself.
Truth exists. We should all care to know what it is.
May 15, 2023 @ 4:47 pm
Thinking both parties are wrong is very different than thinking Neither party is right.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:14 pm
“Unless you’re a Jason Isbell fan or already have an HBO Max subscription, watching Running With Our Eyes Closed may not be essential viewing.”
Correct. Not essential viewing, at least for me.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:20 pm
I think what Isbell has been trying for some time to do is hard-core self-examination, and it seems that his most acerbic twitter content was/is pushing hard on people for behavior and opinions that he feels that he has been guilty of in the past. Obviously not constructive, and maybe some kind of step before arriving at the ability to improve yourself and love yourself at the same time. I appreciate his dedication to figuring himself out though, this film included. That’s the point of art, to pick at the shell of assumptions until you get to something like truth, maybe cause others to start scraping away at themselves too. The hope that humanity someday learns something that gets us to a better place, figuratively and physically.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:23 pm
I feel for Ms Tucker, who, according to her tweets was unaware of the pending release of this doc, and who spoke of trauma from her time with Isbell. She too knows a Jason Isbell and likely feels more than conflicted over how he is lauded. In her defence, she always wishes well, and doesn’t engage in online bitterness. I have much respect for her individually and as an artist.
May 15, 2023 @ 12:25 pm
Third from last para, ‘complimentary’ should read ‘complementary’, as it complements the record rather than compliments it (as it surely doesn’t).
Thanks for the essay. I can’t wait to hear another album in the Now That’s What I Call Dave Cobb catalogue.
May 15, 2023 @ 1:26 pm
Something we say in the comic book and video game hobbies (which have already been mangled beyond all recognition by the woke virus) is “don’t give money to people who hate you.”
I think this a good rejoinder to “separate the art from the artist.” There is a difference between an artist having demons, or living a lifestyle I wouldn’t co-sign and someone who openly and actively spews hatred at me. I was never an Isbell fan to begin with so I can’t really say that I don’t support him anymore, but he’s certainly on my “don’t buy” list.
May 15, 2023 @ 1:58 pm
I have no need to see this. I’m a left of center guy and gave up on Isbell a long time ago. The mean sarcasm of his social media and the idol worship of his followers is too much.
Also the whole media darling thing is out of control. I am sure critics have written their fawning reviews of the new record before they even here the whole thing.
Shires seems like the Yoko of Americana. Would we even know anything about her if she hadn’t latched on to Jason?
May 15, 2023 @ 3:30 pm
This is when I first heard of her.
May 15, 2023 @ 3:33 pm
When he wrote Decoration Day or Cigarettes & Wine, he was a heck of a song writer. The DBTs also ruled at the time. If both had only stayed to writing songs. Instead both become yappy (and nauseating) about politics. They signaled every virtue and lo and behold, their art started to suck. They’ve both become producers of mono-genre, NPR sounding adult contemporary music that is also nauseating. Sadly, I’ve lost getting fresh art to enjoy. I wouldn’t burn a single synapse about what they think or have to say outside of a song. I do wish his marriage well. No matter how big a DB he’s become, and he’s become a big one, I want every family to have peace.
May 15, 2023 @ 3:59 pm
Look up Tab Benoit.
He is a MONSTER talent.
*Credit given to Corncaster and Trevistrat here on Trigger’s forum, for seeing that i get to Benoit’s performance in Feb. ’23.
They said, Go.
May 15, 2023 @ 3:58 pm
I like Isbell, I’ve seen him in concert, I enjoyed this documentary. I also enjoy Saving Country Music. I’ve discovered so many awesome musicians through this website. That being said, Trigger’s coverage of Isbell is so incredibly biased. I honestly don’t know how that’s what you take away from this documentary.
May 15, 2023 @ 4:20 pm
I honestly don’t know how someone would take this article as being incredibly biased against Jason Isbell, but thanks for reading.
May 15, 2023 @ 4:55 pm
Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I loved Reunions. I knew who Jason Isbell was, but that album elevated him from good to great in my eyes. I had the chance to see him live for the first time a couple of months back and it was everything I could have wanted in a concert.
I do see his posts on Twitter and like another commenter, I think he’s using the site as a way of working through some of his own issues (but not well). It’s a terrible site, and we’d all be better off not being on it, but (shrug). I’m no therapist, but I’d guess an addictive personality finds another thing to be addicted to if it can’t be alcohol.
I appreciated the documentary, it was certainly eye-opening as far as some of his early and ongoing issues. I wish Jason and Amanda well both for their own peace of mind as well as for their daughter.
May 15, 2023 @ 6:11 pm
I’m not a big fan but I saw Isbell live at the Ryman during that stint that came out as a live album. I was stoned on pain pills and anti anxiety medication in the front couple rows. Me and Amanda were making eyes all night as I was standing there in a daze absolutely transfixed in a trance. Isbell caught on and shot me the dirtiest look and I could only laugh. Later he played that Petty ‘Shes my girl’ or whatever song. He was definitely threatened by my good looks and the electric magnetic connection me and Amanda had so the relationship troubles go further back. That is all.
May 15, 2023 @ 6:28 pm
You’re killing us, Smalls.
: D Rock on with you bad self, Blockman.
May 16, 2023 @ 7:10 am
Thanks Di. I’m here to speak the truth wholly and without compromising or bias while entertaining at the same time. As one of Trigs favorite commentators and only financial backers of this site I like to think I have met this mark and continue to accomplish what I’ve set out to do with every comment.
May 16, 2023 @ 7:08 am
Don’t know anything about that, but having helped run a festival, Shires seemed to be quite a flirt. However, that doesn’t mean anything and I’ve often seen this kind of behavior from female artists as a defense mechanism, as one told me “if he thinks I might f- him, he won’t try to kill me.”
May 16, 2023 @ 7:23 am
Uh that’s pretty ridiculous. I’m going to kill her from the audience of the Ryman? What? But thanks for confirming that our connection was real. Someone once said ‘girls just wanna have fun’ and I’m objectively more fun (and handsome) than Isbell guaranteed. However I detect a hint of jealousy on your part that you weren’t on the receiving end of her flirtatious longings like I had been. To say she was thinking I was going to kill her because I smiled at her is pretty insane.
May 16, 2023 @ 12:45 pm
Huh? No jealousy at all, just stating my experience. Also, not saying you’d attack her, just adding my 2¢ as to why she, and a few other artists, can seem flirtatious. If you “making eyes” with a fiddle player is something you really need your life, have at it.
May 16, 2023 @ 9:03 am
Those female artists live in a bizarre world of fear.
The males in the audience aren’t the Mongols.
May 16, 2023 @ 12:46 pm
I don’t know, I’m guessing they’ve had a few experiences that inform their instincts and tactics to remain safe.
May 15, 2023 @ 6:59 pm
When you spend as many words commenting on your own article as you did writing it you have become the very definition of pretentious. If you had confidence in your work you would let it speak for itself. In “real” journalism writers virtually never appear in the comments section
May 15, 2023 @ 7:48 pm
This comment is so 2009. I don’t respond to commenters due to insecurity. I do it out of respect for other people’s opinions. This isn’t an autocracy, it’s a community. We have discussions and learn from each other.
Does Jason Isbell respond to people on Twitter?
May 17, 2023 @ 8:22 pm
Is he not allowed to talk to his reader??
May 16, 2023 @ 6:20 am
I read an awful lot of sour grapes in these comments.
May 16, 2023 @ 8:52 am
Great points, Trig. Interesting to see all sides captured and thoughtful insight provided. I have had a hard time giving Jason Isbell the benefit of the doubt after his public ripping of Ryan Adams following his NYT article which ultimately proved nothing other than RA is an asshole both publicly and privately in his relationships. Felt like Jason Isbell was in a glass house Throwing stones.
May 16, 2023 @ 10:17 am
He married above his station, creating a level of insecurity that a man like him simply cannot overcome.
May 16, 2023 @ 10:55 am
A former friend turned me onto Isbell right when Southeastern came out and I was hooked, traveled to Nashville multiple times to see him at City Winery, saw him elsewhere too. Then after following him for a while on Twitter and seeing what a bullying douchebag he was, I quit his music cold turkey. Won’t listen to him, never play his records I own.
It has nothing to do with his politics. I love American Aquarium and me and BJ Barham have polar opposite political views, but BJ is one of the nicest, friendliest artists I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Jason Isbell is just an asshole that’s mad at the world he had to grow up poor
Luke Bryan Burner
May 16, 2023 @ 1:57 pm
It’s really sad that once every month or so you decide to release these articles that are clearly nothing more than bait to increase engagement in your website. Yourself and your readers not only actively dislike Jason but you also say he’s not country. So how does this save country music? What’s the point of covering someone no one here likes?
May 16, 2023 @ 2:22 pm
Websites have to have engagement dude. Luke Bryan sucks. Burner phones are alright though.
May 16, 2023 @ 2:32 pm
So little people like you on the internet have something to gripe about…..I love Jason’s music, but he is DB, and people can’t sat he isn’t. Trigger wrote a good article that showed both sides and viewpoints. If you don’t like it, ( it’s a free site by the way) go read a rolling stones article there buddy!!!
May 16, 2023 @ 4:45 pm
Man, I’m sorry that you look at it that way. I agree it’s a shame that I can’t even mention the name “Jason Isbell” without folks coming out of the woodwork to scream about politics. But really, when it comes to all the top tier artists at the moment, you mention their name, and the naysayers all chime in. It’s the same for Tyler Childers and Zach Bryan. I wrote an article about this very thing last week. But these are important artists in the independent side of country and roots music, and I’m not going to shy away from them just because it causes a ruckus in the comments. I think it would be strange if they released a full-blown documentary on Jason Isbell, and I didn’t comment on it.
May 16, 2023 @ 2:04 pm
The dude is so afraid she’s gonna split again. Watch the Dan Rather interview, he was so careful in his answers it was hard to watch. I’d like to have known them both before the fame took their identity
May 16, 2023 @ 6:41 pm
As a married man for 29 years, I agree with your article 100%. One of the first scenes, Amanda was wrongly correcting a lyric. And when Jason tried to explain the context, she started to roll her eyes and speak down to him, It looked awkward for the band. I understand, my wife and I have argued just in the process of moving furniture. There is no way I could collaborate in a creative piece of work with her. They should separate from working together in order to save their marriage.
Jason should give all his attention to the men in his band at the studio, and give all of his attention to his family at home.
I loved Southeastern, Something More than Free, and The Nashville Sound. He lost me with Reuinions and his twitter post.
This documentary was the final nail.
May 17, 2023 @ 5:51 am
Furniture moving has nearly caused divorce in my home on multiple occasions
May 17, 2023 @ 8:32 am
Great little doc. I appreciate the rawness of it- like a lot of his songs, there’s ugliness allowed to just sit there. Big contrast from the same regurgitated garbage we’re force fed by the country hitmakers. Just perusing the comments here, the usual nonsense can be condensed into these points- 1-I’m so mad he doesn’t think the same way I do and 2- Shires’ fiddle playing should be more like I want it. Fascinating insights, thanks all.
May 17, 2023 @ 8:52 am
Man, who cares about all this personal s&%t? Focus on the music and let the adults work through their lives w/o a bunch of amateur counseling. Good thing Waylon never starred in a “revealing” documentary, Trigger would be beside himself.
May 18, 2023 @ 10:34 am
As much as I try to separate art from artists, Jason Isbell is such a narcissistic evangelist for his virtue signal driven worldviews that it colors everything he does to me and I have trouble enjoying his music because of it. That he seems to be in a perpetual daddy-issue struggle with the conservative Alabama culture that he came up in to the point where he constantly has to act out to oppose it, it’s just goddamn tiresome.
We’re all running from something from our early years, but most of us as well adjusted adults have moved past it to grow into reasonable people who aren’t constantly preaching our form of religion to everyone who will listen. He should try it. But narcissists have no self-reflective feedback loop, so on he will go being painful, shrill, and preachy AF.
May 18, 2023 @ 8:41 pm
If you start from the feeling “I don’t like this man due to his politics” and walk backwards into his art then you come away with the kinds distorted perceptions that pepper this post and its comments.
Your hints and allegations about Isbell and Shires’ use of their marital challenges as some craven effort in self-promotion is tantamount to accusing an author of a memoir about their drug addiction of being an unseemly profiteer when they mention that their memoir is about addiction when they’re asked about it. It’s a totally odd and confused take.
May 18, 2023 @ 8:51 pm
I was covering Jason Isbell for going on a decade before I had any clear understanding of what his politics even were.
This film was about the making of “Reunions” and the marital trouble Isbell facing in that period, so point taken. But the 2020 New York Times feature published to coincide with the “Reunions” release was centered around the marriage issues as opposed to the music of the album, as were multiple other features.
May 20, 2023 @ 8:26 pm
I have no background in music, so I can’t hang in conversation with you guys with musical backgrounds. That said, I thought Southeastern was the finest album of my 3rd decade, so although I don’t love all of Isbell’s stuff, I’m mostly a fan of his music. What I found interesting about this thread is that so many people call Amanda Shires a horrible fiddle player. I don’t know if she is or isn’t, but I’ve thought her style was out of place since I started seeing her play with him on YouTube videos. As I said, I don’t have a musical background, so I couldn’t figure out if she was a good player or not–but I have been sure for years that she doesn’t sound good playing with him. And that’s to the point I actively avoid music with her playing. I have heard some of her own music, and it sounds better.
May 21, 2023 @ 2:45 pm
I enjoy much of his music. But he’s a progressive jerk-off and my interest in him has faded over the years. But still appreciate a lot of his work.