“We’re gonna bring out a good friend,” Isbell told the crowd toward the end his late-afternoon set, on the same stage where Adams was scheduled to perform his own show 30 minutes later. “He’s gonna join us on this rock & roll number.”
With that, Adams took the stage a half-hour early, joining Isbell and the 400 Unit – minus fiddle player Amanda Shires, who spent the weekend debuting songs from her upcoming solo release My Piece of Land at the Open Highway Festival in St. Louis – on a loose cover of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers deep cut “Sway.” Isbell, Adams and guitarist Sadler Vaden all traded solos throughout the five-minute tune, with the entire band chiming in on harmonies during the chorus. An hour or so later, Isbell returned the favor, strapping on his Telecaster and joining Adams for a gorgeous take on the Heartbreaker ballad “Oh My Sweet Carolina.”
Close friends for years, Adams and Isbell shared three different tours during the 18 months leading up to Isbell’s breakthrough album, Southeastern. They’ve teamed up for one-off performances several times since then, with Isbell and Shires mostly recently joining Adams during his 2015 performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Together, the two men represent pillars of Americana’s past and present, with Adams’ solo debut Heartbreaker playing a role in kickstarting the genre back in 2000, and Isbell’s most recent release Something More Than Free standing tall as the Grammy Awards’ reigning Best Americana Album.
Watch the pair’s take on “Sway” in the video above. Below, Adams performs “Let it Ride” and “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” before welcoming Isbell and kicking into “Oh My Sweet Carolina” around the 7:20 mark.