Just a few days after Jason Isbell gave a blistering performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the Alabama native returned to the small screen on Saturday for a segment on CBS This Morning. This time saw Isbell and the 400 Unit in a more thoughtful, though not exactly subdued, frame of mind as they performed a handful of songs from their new album, The Nashville Sound.
“Cumberland Gap,” the first of the three songs the band played, is also the angriest, with Isbell’s elliptical guitar work lending the heartland stomper distinctly punk rock urgency. A pointed commentary on the life of an Appalachian coal miner trapped in and let down by his world, “Cumberland Gap” hasn’t been performed during a promotional appearance for The Nashville Sound – released on June 16th – thus far, but helps set the tone here for Isbell and his wife, Amanda Shires’, sizzling chemistry on set.
The acoustic “If We Were Vampires” puts Isbell and Shires front and center for a stunning duet, a love song with a touching if bleak sentiment: “Maybe we’ll get 40 years together, one day I’ll be gone, one day you’ll be gone,” the couple sings to each other on the chorus. Shires even takes the spotlight with a fiddle solo during “If We Were Vampires,” but on the third and final song, “Hope the High Road,” her husband takes the lead once more on slide guitar. The same song that the band performed last Monday on The Late Show, “Hope the High Road” feels more unshakable than resolute, its quiet confidence a contrast to the anger of its previous television rendition.
In between Isbell’s appearances on The Late Show and CBS This Morning, he and the 400 Unit spent three nights at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. Tonight they’re back on the road with a show at College Street Music Hall in New Haven, Connecticut.