When he (Dylan) was at his best he was as good as anybody,” Isbell said. “I think Dylan is a starting point that you will come back to a lot of times if you write songs for a living. I still find myself going back to his catalog and finding new things in it. … With Bob Dylan, I know I’m never going to wake up and not want to listen to Bob Dylan anymore.
–Jason Isbell (2015)
Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. All that stuff about Sam Stone the soldier junky daddy and Donald and Lydia, where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that. If I had to pick one song of his, it might be Lake Marie. I don’t remember what album that’s on.
-Bob Dylan (to Bill Flanagan in 2009)
John Prine (born October 10, 1946) is an American country folk singer-songwriter. He has been active as a composer, recording artist, and live performer since the early 1970s, and is known for an often humorous style of country music that has elements of protest and social commentary.
…I didn’t grow up wanting to be a country singer, and I still don’t really see myself as one,… I mean, I don’t feel like I have much in common with those folks. Their job is to sell out arenas. Mine is to make art. Big difference.
-Jason Isbell (Men’s Journal interview)
I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think that’s laziness.
-Jason Isbell (musicradar.com, 2016)
This is the first of five posts on Jason Isbell’s 25 best songs (in BTL’s humble opinion). We do (how can one not?) include his work together with the brilliant Drive-by Truckers.
Here are the first 5 songs (25-21 on our list).
25. Palmetto Rose
From the album “Something More Than Free” (2015).
Palmetto rose in the AC vent
Cross-stitched pillow where the head rest went
He said his cab was his orneriest friend
Left him jumping like trees in the wind
Live at House of Blues Boston, MA. – February 27, 2016
..a swampy, swinging rocker that takes an anthemic turn during every chorus. A tribute to Charleston, South Carolina — where, coincidentally, 400 Unit guitarist Sadler Vaden lived before relocating to Nashville in 2011 — the song has since become a staple of Isbell’s shows, even serving as the opening number during a recent show at the House of Blues in Boston. Slightly slower in tempo, “Palmetto Rose” takes on new life during the Boston performance, with Isbell and his five-piece band moving between the loose blues-rock of the song’s verses to a taut refrain.
This war that I wage to get up every day
It’s a fiberglass boat, it’s azaleas in May
It’s the women I love and the law that I hate
Lord, let me die in the Iodine State
Lord, let me die in the Iodine State
[about the album title]
It seemed to be a good point of reference for the sort of life that I have now. Freedom is a means to an end. Very often you hear people putting so much emphasis on having the freedom to choose, and living the lives that they want. And I understand that I have been very fortunate to be born into certain circumstances that allow me to do whatever I want to do, for the most part. But freedom can also be enough rope by which to hang yourself. I went through a long period of time where I didn’t have to answer to anybody, so I made a lot big mistakes: things that I don’t necessarily regret now — because I learned from them — but I overdosed on that freedom for a while. I think as you get older, if you mature and grow in the right way, then eventually you realize it’s not really freedom that you’re fighting for. It’s what that freedom can get you. It’s freedom combined with the ability to make good decisions and align your priorities correctly. The ability to make those decisions is a privilege that not everybody has.
~Jason Isbell (to Caitlin White – stereogum.com)
The Alabama-raised songwriter’s new collection, set to his trademark country-tinged soft rock, is populated with everyday snapshots from the modern South — from the young man fleeing his too-small hometown in “Speed Trap Town” to the law-defying South Carolinian telling a “bullshit story about the Civil War” on the murky blues rocker “Palmetto Rose.” On the latter, Isbell ponders hundreds of years of national history with conflicting shame and pride, before arriving at a very American conclusion: “I follow my own free will,” he sings, “and I take in my fill.” It’s a master class in songwriting from an artist who’s never sounded more confident.
~Jonathan Bernstein (rollingstone.com)