Jason Isbell cedes the spotlight to rising star Brittney Spencer on a joint cover of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia,” released on Friday. The track appears on Isbell’s upcoming covers album Georgia Blue, which will be released October 15th.
With Isbell’s 400 Unit laying down a piano-driven groove and a brass section adding bright accents, their version doesn’t make any radical alterations to Knight’s classic 1973 interpretation, penned by the late Jim Weatherly. The revelation here is Spencer, who easily makes the leap to country-soul diva with her lovely tone and impressive-but-unflashy runs that don’t try to mimic the original. In the background, John Paul White and members of the 400 Unit provide the Pips’ answer vocals.
White also appears on the previous release from Georgia Blue, a cover of R.E.M.’s “Driver 8.” Elsewhere on the album, Julien Baker and Brandi Carlile guest on Indigo Girls’ “Kid Fears,” Béla Fleck and Chris Thile join for R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming,” and Amanda Shires puts her spin on Cat Power’s “Cross Bones Style.”
This weekend, Isbell hosts and performs at ShoalsFest in Florence, Alabama, with artists on the bill including Candi Staton, Lucinda Williams, and Isbell’s former bandmates Drive-By Truckers. Beginning October 15th, Isbell and the 400 Unit will play eight nights at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, with supporting artists including Allison Russell, Adia Victoria, and Brittney Spencer.