Amanda Shires slides her chair back, its legs audibly groaning against the wooden floor, and leaps up from the table. She circles the rustic space, swinging one arm in an exaggerated fashion to mimic an elephant, while thrusting her hips as she hops forward.
“Oh, the trunk. And some Martha Graham-style interpretations,” says Jason Isbell, amused. “For ‘If We Were Vampires’, you’ll do the big teeth, like Rawr!'”
“I’ll wear a cloak,” insists Shires, drawing her arm across her face with an air of mystery, leaving only her eyes visible like Batman.
“Oh, a cloak, yes, yes!” agrees Isbell. “And release a couple of bats.”
It’s a bright, hot August day in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, a small preservationist community about 30 miles southwest of Nashville, and this production unfolding in front of me at Green’s Grocery — more funky neighborhood hangout than place to stock the pantry — is not a preview of some offbeat musical inspired by the songs of Jason Isbell (though that would be pretty amazing). Rather, Shires has chosen this moment to poke fun at her husband’s self-aware assertion that people can’t actually dance to any of his songs, which — like the cancer narrative “Elephant” and the ode to mortality “If We Were Vampires” — tend to be of the impossibly sad and heavy variety.