Jason Isbell will perform six sold-out concerts at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in October, a run that will further raise his profile as the face of the Americana genre. And the singer-songwriter, who will be backed by his longtime band the 400 Unit, is using the engagement to make his own statement on the role of women in the music business – all six shows will feature a female supporting act.
Beginning October 9th, the residency at the Mother Church of Country Music, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, will include Southern-gothic sibling duo the Secret Sisters, soul singer Bettye LaVette, and Isbell’s wife and band member Amanda Shires. Julien Baker, Lydia Loveless and the McCrary Sisters round out the performances. (See the specific dates for each below.)
Isbell nodded to the tough road that women have in Nashville in his song “White Man’s World,” off his latest album The Nashville Sound. “Mama wants to change that Nashville sound / but they’re never gonna let her,” he sings.
“Some idiot country-radio guy said that women were ‘the tomatoes on the salad,’ meaning they were there to kind of decorate country radio’s actual revenue stream. That got me thinking how little value is given to women in that world,” he told Rolling Stone in July. “I’ve seen it with Amanda. She writes her own songs and tours, and through her experience I’ve seen how much harder it is for her. You don’t get the same respect. It is not a level playing field by any means.”
Isbell recently headlined a local festival in his native Alabama, delivering a cathartic gig that was heavy on local color and in-jokes. He’ll perform tonight in Akron, Ohio, with Shires opening, before heading to Chicago for two gigs with Frank Turner. Both Isbell and Shires are nominees at the September 13th Americana Honors & Awards show: Isbell is up for Artist of the Year; Shires vies for Emerging Artist.
Here are Jason Isbell’s opening acts for his Ryman Auditorium residency:
October 9th: The Secret Sisters
October 10th: Julien Baker
October 11th: Bettye LaVette
October 13th: Amanda Shires
October 14th: Lydia Loveless
October 15th: The McCrary Sisters