I went to a Jason Isbell show a couple of weeks ago, and walked out feeling like hell. No doubt about it, Jason is a great songwriter, but the show was so unrelievedly bleak that I found myself wishing I'd stayed home and watched "Seinfeld" reruns instead. And I was doubly disappointed that Isbell's wife and regular bandmate, Amanda Shires, wasn't there for the show. He said she had a gig of her own back in Nashville. Come to think of it, that's where I wish I was. Amanda's violin and vocals are like little rays of light sneaking between the blinds into the dark rooms of Jason's songs. But more than that, she's an accomplished singer-songwriter in her own right. Her work is full of that light, making even her most bittersweet songs something to lift your spirit.
A great and famous man once said, "There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." Amanda shares my admiration for this great man; indeed, she wrote a song for him called "A Song For Leonard Cohen":
I wish that I could buy you a drinkI'd get you drunk and I'd get me outgoing
And then more and then five
All week or just this one night...
We'd compare mythologies*
And toast those friends that never believed
That our voices ever had much to offer
And then, maybe, we would go for a walk
And I'd just listen while you talk...
|Amanda has a tattoo of lyrics from Leonard's "Take This Waltz" on her back.|
At her May 15, 2014 show at St. Bonaventure's Parish Hall, in Bristol, England, she followed "A Song For Leonard Cohen" with a cover of the master's "I'm Your Man." Both tracks from the show are below.** Isbell plays guitar on the tracks, and if you listen real close I swear you can hear him smiling--something I don't think he did the whole night I saw him play. I bet Amanda makes you smile too.
A Song For Leonard Cohen
I'm Your Man
*"Let Us Compare Mythologies" was the title of Leonard Cohen's first book of poetry, published in 1956, when he was 21.
**I'm sorry to say I can't find the name of the taper, but it's a lovely recording, so thank you, whoever you are.
Here are videos of both songs, for those who don't like to download MP3s: