Tag Archives: JasonIsbell

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

9. Elephant – Jason Isbell

How do you write a song about accompanying a close friend who is in the process of dying of cancer, yet retain a sense of humour—albeit it a dry, gallows humour—about it?

Well, if you’re Jason Isbell, this is how. It is the opinion of Threehundredsongs that Jason is among the very finest living songwriters. And it’s my site, my rules so you’ll have to deal with it.

When she was drunk, she made cancer jokes
Made up her own doctors’ notes
Surrounded by her family, I saw that she was dying alone

It’s difficult to select a lyric, let along to add many of my own words, since the song is basically perfect in every possible way from start to finish, but:

If I’d fucked her before she got sick
I’d never hear the end of it
She don’t have the spirit for that now
We just drink our drinks and laugh out loud
And bitch about the weekend crowd
And try to ignore the elephant somehow

You’ll just have to listen to it yourself I guess.

There’s one thing that’s real clear to me
No one dies with dignity
We just try to ignore the elephant somehow

Artist: Jason Isbell
Album: Southeastern
Writer: Jason Isbell
Producer: Dave Cobb
Released: 2013; Southeastern Records

All lyrics © 2013 Southeastern Records/Jason Isbell.