Jason Isbell trades the plodding drums and rhythm of Metallica’s “Sad But True” for nasty slide guitar played at breakneck speed. Isbell’s version of the song will appear on the heavy metal pioneers’ upcoming 30th anniversary edition of 1991’s Black Album.
Backed by his group the 400 Unit, Isbell careens through the song like a train off its tracks. He and guitarist Sadler Vaden spar with dueling slide licks, transforming “Sad But True” into some kind of blues-rock monster. Isbell throws himself into the vocals with abandon, singing in a high tenor that’s in contrast to James Hetfield’s original low rumble.
In a 2017 interview with the Village Voice, Isbell talked about expanding his guitar playing into different genres — including heavy metal. “I love the idea of playing guitar on different kinds of records, even metal records, just stuff nobody would ever expect. That’s because I get a lot of enjoyment out of playing all different styles of guitar,” he said. “Nobody probably realizes that, but I would love to play guitar on a really fast metal record at some point, or on a blues album.”
Isbell and the 400 Unit’s “Sad But True” arrives with two other versions of the song: St. Vincent and English singer Sam Fender reimagine the track for the upcoming The Metallica Blacklist tribute album. Featuring 53 different covers of Black Album songs, the LP will benefit charities chosen by the guest artists. Chris Stapleton, Jon Pardi, and Mickey Guyton are among the other country artists contributing Black Album covers. Miley Cyrus’s version of “Nothing Else Matters” was released last week. The 30th anniversary edition of the Black Album will be released September 10th.
Isbell recently released another cover song — his version of Johnny Cash’s trucker anthem “All I Do Is Drive” appears on the new soundtrack to the film Ice Road.