Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Georgia Blue (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/96kHz | Time – 01:07:51 minutes | 1,34 GB | Genre: Folk Rock, Southern Rock, Americana
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Southeastern Records
Georgia Blue is a labor of love. On election day 2020, when I saw that there was a good chance the state of Georgia might go blue, I came up with an idea: to record an album of Georgia-related songs as a thank you to the state and donate the money to a Georgia based non-profit organization.
I will admit my motivations were a bit selfish. For years, I’ve been looking for an excuse to record these songs with my band and some friends. The songs on this album are some of my favorite Georgia-related songs, but the tracklist is not meant to be comprehensive. I would love to cover Outkast and 2 Chainz, but I don’t think the finished product would be very good. We’re a rock band, so we covered rock songs. We have roots in blues and R&B, so we enlisted some brilliant artists to help us pull off songs by Precious Bryant, James Brown, and Gladys Knight.
My favorite part of the Georgia Blue recording process was having the opportunity to work with these very special artists, and I thank them: Amanda Shires, Brittney Spencer, Adia Victoria, Brandi Carlile, Julien Baker, Béla Fleck, Chris Thile, Steve Gorman, Peter Levin, and John Paul White.
I hope you enjoy listening to these recordings as much as we enjoyed making them. Keep listening to good music and fighting the good fight. – Jason Isbell
When the state of Georgia flipped from red to blue during the 2020 presidential elections, Jason Isbell (an Alabama native) was moved to show his support by recording an album of his favorite songs by the state’s musicians, donating the proceeds to voter-rights and affordable-housing advocacy organizations. It kicks off with R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming,” one of the most heart-tugging displays of human emotion and nostalgia ever put to song. Isbell and Co. glorify that, proving themselves true fans. Béla Fleck and Chris Thile join in (on banjo and mandolin respectively) for the string part originally arranged by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, and the cover highlights a Michael Stipe quality to Isbell’s voice that, once you hear it, you can’t unhear it. James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is reinvented with soul-baring country sensation Brittney Spencer simmering on the lead. She also delivers a classy tribute to Gladys Knight on “Midnight Train to Georgia,” with the 400 Unit and John Paul White having a ball doubling as the Pips. Isbell’s fiddle-virtuoso bandmate/wife Amanda Shires lends her crystal-clear voice to a muscular, less murky cover of Cat Power’s “Cross Bones Style.” Sadler Vaden—guitarist for the 400 Unit—steps up for “Honeysuckle Blue” by Drivin N Cryin, a song that highlights the intersection of gospel and Southern rock to chronicle Georgia’s beauty (dogwoods, Blue Ridge mountains) and the poverty that runs through the state like a river. Julien Baker and Brandi Carlile team up for the Indigo Girls’ “Kid Fears,” recreating Amy Ray and Emily Saliers’ spooky echo trick on later verses. It looks sketchy on paper: Carlile’s powerhouse voice would surely blow down Baker’s low-and-tender style—and, to be honest, that happens, especially when Isbell joins in on the guest part originally sung by Stipe. It’s a brave move to cover Otis Redding, but Isbell does a knock-out job on “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” layering strings in the place of those famous horns. He also pours out his heart and probably damages his throat hollering one of The Black Crowes’ best, “Sometimes Salvation.” He can’t match the chest-beating histrionics of Chris Robinson but, damn, it’s still entertaining; and the band, with original Crowes drummer Steve Gorman sitting in, sounds like the real thing, right down to the high-wire guitar solo and those chill-inducing opening starts-and-stops. There’s a faithful cover of the Allmans’ jazz-meets-jam classic “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” (complete with Gregg Allman keyboardist Peter Levin) and a subdued take on R.E.M.’s “Driver 8.” Adia Victoria’s languorous tone pours like honey across “The Truth” by blueswoman Precious Bryant. And the band wrings out every drop of resignation from keening liberation anthem “I’m Through” (with its killer line “Forget everything I ever told you/ I’m sure I lied way more than twice/ But understand I am not Emily Post”) by the late Vic Chesnutt, the Americana artist who fought through paralysis to play guitar and who always felt like he could not have sprung from anywhere but the particular fantasy-world bubble of Athens, Georgia. – Shelly Ridenour
1. Nightswimming feat. Béla Fleck, Chris Thile (03:59)
2. Honeysuckle Blue feat. Sadler Vaden (05:17)
3. It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World feat. Brittney Spencer (04:31)
4. Cross Bones Style feat. Amanda Shires (06:24)
5. The Truth feat. Adia Victoria (03:33)
6. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (03:11)
7. Sometimes Salvation feat. Steve Gorman (05:02)
8. Kid Fears feat. Julien Baker, Brandi Carlile (04:10)
9. Reverse (04:52)
10. Midnight Train To Georgia feat. Brittney Spencer, John Paul White (04:50)
11. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed feat. Peter Levin (12:20)
12. I’m Through (06:12)
13. Driver 8 feat. John Paul White (03:35)