While Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires gear up for a March recording session with producer Dave Cobb — whose Nashville studio has helped spawn some of the decade’s best roots albums, including Isbell’s Southeastern and Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music — the Americana power couple is tossing a bone to fans who’ve waited nearly two years for follow-ups to Southeastern and Shires’ last solo effort, Down Fell the Doves. This week, they’re releasing a digital EP, Sea Songs, whose two tracks splash the duo’s harmonies against a backdrop of acoustic guitar, fiddle and maritime themes.
Sparse and lovely, Sea Songs has a lot in common with the pair’s cover of “Born in the U.S.A.,” a highlight from last year’s Bruce Springsteen tribute album Dead Man’s Town. This time, Isbell and Shires are putting their sonic stamp on Lykke Li‘s “I Follow Rivers” and Warren Zevon‘s “Mutineer,” stripping the songs free of nearly everything — including Li’s computerized bleeps and bloops, and Zevon’s swooning synths — but the melodies and chord progressions. (Watch them perform “Mutineer” at the WNRN radio station in Charlottesville, Virginia, above.)
Recently, Isbell announced a run of tour dates with the 400 Unit in April and May, presumably after wrapping up his fourth solo album with Cobb. The band’s spring tour starts on April 16th in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and wraps up May 28th in nearby Bristol.