You think Jason Isbell is just now getting political?
The newest album from magical Americana wordsmith and guitar-shredder Jason Isbell doesn’t even d
rop until June 16. We’ve only heard two songs and seen a track listing.
Still, I’ve heard and read the complaints in multiple places.
“Jason needs to realize not everyone is mad that Trump is our president, and some of those people are his fans.”
“Oh great. Everything has to be political.”
Most of these comments have been prompted by two simple phrases: the line “I’ve heard enough of the white man’s blues” from the already released song Hope the High Road, and White Man’s World, the title of a song we’ve yet to hear.
In turn, those seated at the far right of today’s wobbly political dinner table have started to smash their plates and hurl their chairs across the room.
“ I am praying to god… as in the lord Jesus Christ himself that ‘White mans world’ isn’t the same as that shit that the Drive By Truckers released recently,” wrote one easily offended patron of the website Saving Country Music. The person then went on to predict the end of Isbell’s career if he so much as gave credence to the African American’s viewpoint on police brutality.
The thing is, Isbell has always been political. If you disagree, or are among the contingent of fans who have publicly stated they “don’t like this new rock and roll sound,” then you likely haven’t listened closely to his lyrics, and you damn sure haven’t listened to anything before Southeastern.
Isbell is never going to give you a ball-peen hammer blow to the forehead with his viewpoints. Well, 2010 Isbell might get on twitter and do that.
But, like any other subject, he artistically and mindfully weaves these messages into songs that cover a wide range of topics. As in life, politics is sprinkled throughout everything we touch.
From ‘Alabama Pines’:
The liberties that we can’t do without seem to disappear
Like ghosts in the air
When we don’t even care, it truly vanishes away
From ‘Tour of Duty’:
I taught myself to tolerate the pain
All the loneliness and boredom and the work I did in vain
All the work we did in vain. Now I’m not the same as I was
From ‘However Long’:
See the man’s got too much to count
Try to recollect the sermon on the mount
Blessed are the poor when they’re all swinging from the gallows
From ‘Relatively Easy’:
Is your brother on a church kick?
Seems like just a different kind of dope sick
Better off to teach a dog a card trick
Than try to have a point and make it clear
From ‘Palmetto Rose’:
Catch him coming out of a King Street store
Bullshit story about the Civil War
You can believe what you want to believe
But there ain’t no making up a basket weave
Not to mention the phrase “Hollywood War” from ‘Dress Blues,” a line that was modified when Zac Brown Band recorded a cover of the song.
And there are many more if you want to dig in and listen to Isbell’s catalog, which is something it would behoove you to do.
Now, all of these lines aren’t outright political proclamations, and I’m sure Isbell would correct some of my interpretations of them. But to just now get upset that he is speaking his mind and singing viewpoints that are unabashedly and clearly left of center speaks volumes of today’s political climate.
Instead of considering an opposing opinion, people are losing their minds over what a song might mean.
Of course, when Isbell’s previous albums were released, we hadn’t yet elected such a polarizing president, one who refuses to debate viewpoints and instead resorts to insults and rapid changes of subject in an attempt to mask a lack of critical thinking ability.
They were, as Isbell also sings, different days.