Friday at Mountain Jam 2016: Jason Isbell Thrills With Solid Songwriting [PICTURES]
Jason Isbell is one of the finest songwriters in the current musical landscape -- and if the crowd gathered to see him at Mountain Jam 2016 on Friday (June 3) needed any further proof of that statement, he gave it to them somewhere around half a dozen songs into his 75-minute set.
"I wrote this next song when I was 21, 22 years old and didn't have much to talk about -- because I was 21, 22 years old," Isbell told the crowd before playing "Decoration Day," the title track of the Drive-By Truckers' 2003 album, one heck of a story song based on a family tale Isbell "swore I'd never repeat under any circumstances."
Twenty-one or 22 years old. And in the 15 or so years since then, Isbell's writing has only gotten finer, as songs such as "24 Frames" and "Something More Than Free," both from his most recent album, demonstrated. From the opening notes of "Stockholm" to the set-closing "Children of Children," Isbell's honest lyrics were the star, commanding attention on Mountain Jam's massive Mountain Stage.
Mountain Jam is a music festival, of course, so there's often more people milling about during sets than at a concert with just two or three bands on the bill. But it seemed as though everyone stopped to listen during the incredible love song that is "Cover Me Up," the lead track from 2013's Southeastern. Isbell earned one of the loudest cheers of his show at the line "But I sobered up and I swore off that stuff, forever this time" -- a line made all the more beautiful because it was inspired by true life.
The singer-songwriter's set wasn't all serious moments, though: Before "Codeine," Isbell noted that the song is one of his favorite moments of his show because it includes a "big blue accordion."
"The only instrument that can make me feel simultaneously romantic and hungry," the artist quipped.
Isbell also mentioned that he'd spent his afternoon watching up-and-comer Courtney Barnett's set, calling her music "some inspirational rock 'n' roll s--t" and effusively praising her artistry.
"It's a really big give and take when you're playing to different crowds every night," King tells The Boot of performing at festivals like Mountain Jam. "We like to feel the reciprocation from the crowd whenever we're playing and feel whatever it is they're digging on at the moment and go off of what they're feeling. We don't really write setlists, we just kind of go off of what the vibe is telling us to do."
Readers can flip through the gallery above to see photos from some of Mountain Jam's Friday sets.
More Photos From Mountain Jam 2016