The sight of Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires sharing the mic together became a familiar one throughout 2017, as the husband-and-wife Americana power couple solidified their musical bond while touring behind Isbell and the 400 Unit’s chart-topping The Nashville Sound. This weekend’s episode of Austin City Limits catches them in peak form for a double-billed performance that includes an online exclusive of a John Prine cover.
Taped last summer on the day of the solar eclipse, Shires takes the lead on Prine’s lunar-themed “Clocks and Spoons,” from his 1972 LP Diamonds in the Rough. Isbell picks up a verse himself and contributes an understated slide guitar solo, but Shires is the star, from her brittle-but-soaring vocal to her own solo on violin. The waltzing arrangement stays true to Prine’s original, with brush-stroked drumming and a gently wheezing accordion fleshing things out.
In another web exclusive clip from the ACL taping, Isbell amps up the energy with a rousing rendition of “The Life You Chose” from Something More Than Free. Driven by Isbell’s furiously strummed acoustic guitar, it’s an equally apt snapshot of the band’s live show.
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Shires is currently recording a new album of her own in Nashville with Dave Cobb, while Prine has his own album due out this spring, his first LP of new material since 2005.
Isbell and Shires’ ACL episode airs Saturday night, January 13th, on PBS. Next week, Isbell and the 400 Unit play a three-night stand at Alabama Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama, from January 18th to 20th.