Don’t think of it as Jason Isbell going mainstream, think about it as Wynonna Judd going Americana.
When Wynonna set out to record her upcoming album Wynonna & The Big Noise coming February 12th, she put herself in the hands of husband and producer Cactus Moser, who decided to approach the album by recording all the tracks live with a stripped down backing band and little overdubbing. Wynonna was hesitant and nervous at first, and you can see that in the live video they just released for the song “Things That I Lean On.” But the result is an organic and authentic treatment to songs that were carefully selected, and written by notable songwriters like Julie Miller, Travis Meadows, and Chris Stapleton.
“Things That I Lean On” begins by acquiescing to the frailties of being human, and then singing the praises of the gifts life bestows to overcome them. Written by Travis Meadows and Daniel Sanders, it is a perfect song for the conditions Cactus Moser created to record in. Though it’s not her own song, the love and honesty Wynonna sings with let’s you know it is still very personal and true to her experience, and it’s only appropriate the Jason Isbell would come in right as the yearning for sobriety is mentioned. He too can identify with being in over your head, but finding the things one needs to lift yourself up.
Similar to what country legend Don Williams did for his last album Reflections, Wynonna allowed cameras into the studio to capture the songs as they were recorded live, and multiple videos similar to the one for “Things That I Lean On” have been released. Also appearing as guests on Wynonna & The Big Noise are Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, and Timothy B. Schmit from The Eagles.
Though choosing Isbell may seem like a left field pick on paper, hearing the finished product, it makes perfect sense why Wynonna felt Isbell would be right for the part, and the results can’t be questioned. It makes one excited to hear the rest of Wynonna’s new record, and just like other artists such as Lee Ann Womack and Emmylou Harris, perhaps Wynonna Judd is the next to look towards the more open arms and mature audience of Americana for where her career is headed. If she continues to deliver songs like “Things That I Lean On,” she will be quite welcome.