“Last year was a son of a bitch,” Jason Isbell hollers in “Hope the High Road,” the first release from this summer’s The Nashville Sound.
A guitar-charged tribute to those feeling disenchanted by today’s divisive politics and social issues, the song fires twin blasts of electrified empathy and resolute optimism. Isbell, an outspoken liberal who isn’t afraid to get political on Twitter, isn’t ready to make peace with his aggressors. Instead, he’s taking the high road, refusing to be bullied into despair.
Produced by Dave Cobb, who also co-captained Isbell’s career-making Southeastern and Something More Than Free, “Hope the High Road” doubles as a showcase for Isbell’s band, the 400 Unit. It’s a fiery, full-throttle rock anthem, shot through with slide guitar solos and vocal harmonies. All six bandmates make appearances in the lyric video above, which shows Isbell, Cobb and company tracking the song in Nashville’s famous RCA Studio A. The grainy footage brings to mind an old home movie, as though some distant relative showed up to the Nashville Sound sessions with a camcorder, looking to document the process. The takeaway: this is the work of a family riding out the storm together, finding hope and camaraderie in an age filled with dividing lines.
Isbell and the 400 Unit will support The Nashville Sound with an extensive summer tour, which gets underway June 17th at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, North Carolina, and includes a five-night engagement at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.