The house band for Friday night’s kickoff concert celebrating the new Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was one for the books. Led and assembled by Shooter Jennings and Dave Cobb, the all-star players included Amanda Shires, Robby Turner and Chris Hennessee, along with a power guitar trio of Charlie Worsham, Chris Shiflett and Jason Isbell.
Isbell also took his own turn in the spotlight, performing Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty.” Backed by his wife and musical partner Shires on fiddle and harmony vocals, Isbell delivered a faithful reading of Van Zandt’s bandit opus, taken to Number One by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard in 1983. Turner’s mournful pedal steel and Hennessee’s subtle harmonica accented the rendition, but it was Isbell’s slide guitar solo that brought it to its rousing denouement, as Isbell sang the final verse – handled by the late Jody Payne when Nelson performed it on tour – about Lefty living in that cheap hotel.
The Outlaws & Armadillos concert also included performances by Billy Joe Shaver, Bobby Bare, Tanya Tucker and Jessi Colter and celebrated the Nashville museum’s centerpiece exhibit. Spotlighting one of country music’s most romanticized eras, Outlaws & Armadillos features artifacts from Guy Clark, Waylon Jennings, Nelson and more, and runs through February 2021.