The reigning kings of Americana crossed paths in Alabama last night, with home state hero Jason Isbell joining Sturgill Simpson for a performance at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. The two songwriters have shared shows in the past, but last night’s bill felt different, arriving at the tail end of a highly-celebrated touring cycle for Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music album and three months after the release of Isbell’s multi-chart-topping Something More Than Free. The guys have never been bigger. To celebrate, Simpson welcomed Isbell onstage for a cover of Terry Allen’s “Amarillo Highway,” turning the late-Seventies country tune — which Simpson often plays live — into a guitar-heavy victory lap for both frontmen.
In the video above, Isbell trades lead vocals with Simpson throughout the song’s first half, then swaps riffs with guitarist Laur Joamets as “Amarillo Highway” winds to a close. The pair’s chemistry brings to mind a modern version of Waylon & Willie, the 1978 album that found two of country music’s biggest outlaws riding up the Billboard charts together. Isbell and Simpson put their own stamp on the country-duet formula, though, driving “Amarillo Highway” forward not just vocally, but instrumentally, too.