25. Danko/Manuel – Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit

Poor old Richard Manuel. Not content with him being dead, songwriters keep rubbing it in by writing songs about how dead he is:

Richard Manuel is dead

“If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead)” – Counting Crows

Richard Manuel is dead

“Danko/Manuel” – Jason Isbell

There are probably more, but you get the point. At least Elton John didn’t name a kid after him, so there’s that.

Danko/Manuel is obviously Isbell’s tribute to Richard Manuel and Rick Danko—the latter also dead—of The Band. Jason wrote this during his tenure as one of the three writer-vocalist-guitarists in the mighty Drive By Truckers. That band were, and remain, a Southern Rock behemoth, but I guess that along the way, Jason felt a need to spread his wings, personally and professionally.

Jason opted out of the rock n’ roll lifestyle…

I ain’t living like I should
A little rest might do me good

…instead finding love and happiness sharing a nice big house in Nashville with the magnificent Amanda Shires, a beautiful baby girl named Mercy, and one of the most expensive guitars on the planet. And honing his art to become arguably the very finest living songwriter. But I’m repeating myself.

You can’t begrudge a man his sobriety, success and happiness, not least when he’s evidently worked so damn hard for it. But I can’t help missing the angry, sweaty, bloated, loud Jason giving it blood sweat and tears, if not more bodily fluids, on some of the earlier stuff.

Can you hear that singing, sounds like gold?
Maybe I can hear poor Richard from the grave
Singin’ where to reap and when to sow
When you found another home you have to leave

I’ve opted for this version, from a super-rare EP recorded live at Twist & Shout Records in Denver back in 2007, as it seems to hit a sweet spot between those two eras.

Related Posts

Artist: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
Album: Live at Twist & Shout 11.16.07
Writer: Jason Isbell
Producer: Ian Hlatky
Released: 2008; New West Records

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *