It’s festival season, and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit have been busy. During the first half of July alone, the Grammy winners crisscrossed nearly half the country, co-headlining annual events like Summerfest, Sloss Fest and Forecastle along the way.
Before performing at Minneapolis’ Basilica Block Party on July 6th, a slimmed-down version of the group played a warm-up gig for the city’s public radio station, the Current. Flanked by guitarist Sadler Vaden and fiddle player Amanda Shires, Isbell delivered a handful of songs from his last two albums, kicking off the acoustic set with the topical “White Man’s World” and, three tunes later, bringing it to a close with The Nashville Sound‘s gentle opener, “Last of my Kind.”
The husband-and-wife chemistry between Isbell and Shires is evident throughout the intimate performance, with the two musicians sharing plenty of sideways glances during “If We Were Vampires.” Meanwhile, Shires and Vaden team up during the set’s second song, “24 Frames,” re-envisioning the song’s main riff – which was originally tracked by Isbell – as a folky melody performed in unison on fiddle and acoustic guitar. At 18 minutes, the group’s performance is both short and stunning – a reminder that Isbell and the 400 Unit don’t need the wide timespan of a festival slot to pack a punch.