Live from the Ryman
While touring 2017’s The Nashville Sound, Jason Isbell took a six-night victory lap at his adopted city’s famed Ryman Auditorium. The resultant 13-track live album moves through a selection culled from 2013’s Southeastern, 2015’s Something More Than Free, and his 2017 LP. Isbell’s energetic stage presence radiates throughout charging tracks like “Hope the High Road,” “Cumberland Gap,” and “Super 8,” but the project’s standouts take place in the strikingly poignant moments with his wife, violinist and singer-songwriter Amanda Shires. Across “White Man’s World” and “Elephant,” she elevates and at times escalates each song’s beating heart, infusing the latter’s ode to a dying friend with a plaintive pull. Isbell and Shires regularly produce soaring solos, but on “Flagship,” their partnership truly shines. Promising not to let their love fall prey to time or indifference or life’s hectic nature, Isbell sings, “We’ll call ourselves the flagship of the fleet,” while Shires softly harmonizes with him. Her violin’s reassuring melody line keeps pace with every pledge he makes. Isbell has proven himself to be a songwriting force, but this valedictory collection zooms out to reveal a more tender picture about what keeps him inspired.