A poet disguised as a rock star

Jason Isbell is a wonderful poet. He just doesn’t get as much credit as he should because he sets his poetry to music.

I saw Jason Isbell and his fantastic band The 400 Unit a couple of nights ago.

There were several “goose bumps” moments during the set… I just love his way with lyrics. He’s also a heckuva guitar player, and has one of the most soulful voices around. With his band, he can turn on a dime from all-out rockers to heartbreaking ballads.

Anxiety deals with the internal struggles he goes through, even when to the outside world he has it all – successful career, lovely and talented wife, adorable daughter:

It’s the weight of the world
But it’s nothing at all
Light as a prayer, and then I feel myself fall
You got to give me a minute
Because I’m way down in it
And I can’t breathe so I can’t speak
I want to be strong and steady, always ready
Now, I feel so small, I feel so weak

Anxiety
How do you always get the best of me?
I’m out here living in a fantasy
I can’t enjoy a goddamn thing
Anxiety
Why am I never where I am supposed to be?
Even with my lover sleeping close to me
I’m wide awake and I’m in a pain

White Man’s World deals with “white privilege”:

I’m a white man living on a white man’s street
I’ve got the bones of the red man under my feet
The highway runs through their burial grounds
Past the oceans of cotton

I’m a white man looking in a black man’s eyes
Wishing I’d never been one of the guys
Who pretended not to hear another white man’s joke
Oh, the times ain’t forgotten

There’s no such thing as someone else’s war
Your creature comforts aren’t the only things worth fighting for
You’re still breathing, it’s not too late
We’re all carrying one big burden, sharing one fate

I’m a white man living in a white man’s nation
I think the man upstairs must’a took a vacation
I still have faith, but I don’t know why
Maybe it’s the fire in my little girl’s eyes
Maybe it’s the fire in my little girl’s eyes

Last of My Kind is a fish-out-of-water tale of a farm boy from Arkansas living in NYC:

So many people with so much to do
The winter’s so cold my hands turn blue
Old men sleeping on the filthy ground
They spend their whole day just walking around
Nobody else here seems to care
They walk right past them like they ain’t even there
Am I the last of my kind?
Am I the last of my kind?

Daddy said the river would always lead me home
But the river can’t take me back in time
And daddy’s dead and gone
The family farm’s a parking lot for Walton’s five and dime
Am I the last of my kind?
Am I the last of my kind?

And Cumberland Gap reflects the struggles of a guy in coal country when the industry is fading and his town is dying:

Remember when we could see the mountain’s peak?
The sparkle off the amphibole?
Like a giant golden eagle’s beak
Now they say no one wants the coal

I thought about moving away
But what would my mama say?
I’m all that she has left and I’m with her every day
As soon as the sun goes down
I find my way to the Mustang Lounge
And if you don’t sit facing the window
You could be in any town

Maybe the Cumberland Gap just swallows you whole

I highly recommend that you catch a poetry reading this summer or fall.

 

 

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