Jason Isbell, a 2016 Roots N Blues N BBQ crowd favorite, has been making the press rounds to promote his latest album, “The Nashville Sound.” This album marks his first since the birth of his and 2017 artist Amanda Shire’s daughter Mercy, so this project provides a contemplative look at Isbell’s life post-fatherhood. This past month, Isbell performed on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
Isbell made the wise decision to perform “If We Were Vampires,” an album highlight. The performance consisted of Isbell, his guitar and a microphone. Illuminated by a simple lighting scheme, this stripped down set is perfect for this particular song. He doesn’t need anything else. Of course, the exception to this is Amanda Shires, whose ability to flawlessly harmonize with her husband on the studio version makes “If We Were Vampires” more affecting. However, this doesn’t mean Isbell cannot hold his own ground; his presence fills the entirety of the stage while commanding the attention of the audience with total ease. Watching through the television screen, you can’t help but wish that you were there, experiencing this reflective moment live.
As he’s proved on his past albums, Isbell is a skilled lyricist. In my opinion, no song on “The Nashville Sound” showcases this as well as “If We Were Vampires.” Dealing with topics like morality and everlasting love, the song is an intense rollercoaster of emotions. I question your humanity if these lyrics leave you with a dry eye: “It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever/likely one of us will have to spend some days alone/maybe we’ll get forty years together/but one day I’ll be gone or one day you’ll be gone.” Isbell’s lyrics are pure romantic poetry. The song is a beautiful tribute to the deep, emotional connection Isbell and his wife share and to the intricacies of relationships complicated by the constraints of time.
For some viewers, this performance on The Daily Show was their first exposure to the music of Jason Isbell. Without a doubt, Trevor Noah’s audience will look back on this The Daily Show appearance as the first time they heard one of their favorite artists. Isbell knew what he was doing when he selected “If We Were Vampires” to perform on late night television: it’s a perfect introduction to one of our favorite artists from The 2016 Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival.