Southeastern (2013) :: Jason Isbell :: Album of the Week
A Little History:
Southeastern is Jason Isbell’s fourth studio album, released in June of 2013, from Southeastern Records. The album was produced by David Cobb. The album followed a stint Isball had in rehab. He has stated regarding the album, and the timing of recording,
“This time I want to remember it all.”
This album was recorded without full participation of Isbell’s regular backing band, The 400 Unit, mostly due to the fact that Isbell wanted this to be more of a solo, acoustic album. That said, Chad Gamble and Derry deBorja, of The 400 Unit, do appear on drums and keyboards, respectively, on the album.
Isbell’s producer, Cobb, encouraged him to record his vocals in one take. The album was finished a day or two before Isbell’s wedding to fellow musician Amanda Shires.
The album isn’t named after geography or direction, Isbell explains:
“(geography) wasn’t actually the reason I named the album that. That came from a tool and die shop in Alabama that my dad worked at when I was very young. He came home with terrible stories; I thought of the place as a dungeon. So I wanted to reclaim that for my own purposes.”
The album debuted at # 23 on Billboard 200,and # 7 on Top Rock Albums, selling 18,000 copies in its first week.
Though I was aware of Jason Isbell, it was not until the Fall of 216 that I started to really listen to his music. The opening track from this album, “Cover Me Up”, was gifted to me as part of a significant playlist that meant a lot to me at the time. Though the playlist was full of other amazing songs, it was this one that stood out and stuck itself into me. I listened to it so much that it made the list of most played songs of 2016 (#12).
The song is about hope, about love, about getting clean and grabbing hold of life again. It is one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard, real and raw, emotional, flawed, confessional, hopeful, and what feels like — true.
It is by far my favorite song on the album, but there are many others that I love, as well. “Elephant” was the second song on this album to grab a hold of me. It is heartbreaking, and again, so raw and real, and true feeling. “Flying Over Water” is a newer favorite. It feels like the retrospective, 20/20 vision we all seem to get after a relationship is over, the way we (finally) see things clearer, even if it is too late.
My second favorite track, coming in after “Cover Me Up” is “Songs that She Sang in the Shower”. This one is hard to listen to some days. Music being intertwined in love, and becoming part of the loss and heartbreak when love is lost, hits pretty deep with me. This is a turn it up and sing-a-long, and cry, in the car alone – though, to be fair, “Cover Me Up” is one I now turn up loud, sing-a-long, and it definitely makes me cry now… but once it didn’t.
“Super 8” belongs on my next Road Trip Mix (its in the works, as is a plan for a road trip…SOON). “Yvette” is another hard to listen to song, which hits on a personal level, and makes me cry, too.
Honestly, there is not a song on here that I have not embraced, and fallen musically in love with. Jason’s voice, his songwriting, his lyrics, and the guitar work, weave into me deep and stay there. The album feels like a story, or a string of stories, about love, about relationships – and their life spans, about loss, about hurt, about redemption, about survival, and really just about living.
I am really hoping he tours this year, as I would love to hear him, and all these songs, live.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Cover Me Up
So girl leave your boots by the bed,
we ain’t leavin’ this room,
’til someone needs medical help,
or the magnolias bloom.
It’s cold in this house,
and I ain’t going out to chop wood,
so cover me up,
and know you’re enough,
to use me for good.”
2. Songs that She Sang in the Shower
“And the songs that she sang in the shower,
all ring in my ears,
like ‘Wish You Were Here.”
How I wish you were here
And experience robs me of hope that you’ll ever return,
so I breathe,
and I burn.
I breathe and I burn.”
3. Flying Over Water
Take my hand,
baby we’re over land.
I know flying over water makes you cry.”
“If I’d fucked her before she got sick,
I’d never hear the end of it,
she don’t have the spirit for that now.
We just drink our drinks,
and laugh out loud,
and bitch about the weekend crowd,
and try to ignore the elephant,
“I’ve watched you in class,
your eyes are cut glass,
and you stay covered upstairs
head to your toe,
so nobody will know it was you.”