Jason Isbell can be a real goofball. You might not realize it, given the serious, probing nature of his songwriting. But the Grammy winner’s sense of humor was on full display on the latest episode of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, where he and his band, the 400 Unit, showed up to play a few songs off their new LP, The Nashville Sound.
The ensemble’s trio of songs – “Chaos and Clothes,” “Molotov,” and “Last of My Kind,” all from Isbell’s latest album – were as beautiful as would be expected, performed in their stripped-down, (mostly) acoustic arrangements, as the tight confines of the performance space would dictate. The confines were so tight, in fact, that Isbell got a pencil stuck in his guitar cable at one point, which was by no means the only slapstick moment from the Alabama native during the 20-minute performance.
Along the way, Isbell had a false start on one of the songs (“It’s good because I didn’t do the best either,” wife and violinist Amanda Shires reassured him following his mix-up with a lyric), inspected Shires for boogers, and teased band member Jimbo Hart over his miniature bass, each one peppered with dad jokes. He even brought up a member of the audience, Ashwin Wadekar, to play guitar on “Last of My Kind.” “I always wanted somebody to do this when I was a younger man,” Isbell said of Wadekar’s cameo. “I was like, ‘I could play that song. I wish they’d just ask if I would come up and play.'”
Isbell has made several television appearances since The Nashville Sound dropped in June and went to Number One on the Billboard 200 chart, including playing The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and CBS This Morning. His next show with the 400 Unit is August 29th at Massey Hall in Toronto, Ontario.