Jason Isbell – Elephant / Relatively Easy

Jason Isbell wrote one of the best albums of 2013. It’s called Southeastern, and it recently turned one year old.

After years of alcoholism and drug abuse, Isbell got married, sobered up, and released an absolute gut-punch of a record. Country radio ignored it, and many people would probably write it off as a generic sad bastard album, but there’s a lot more going on than that. There are songs about bar fights, Sweden, cheap motels, recovery, companionship, and acrophobia. There’s also some cancer and death and heartbreak –plenty of sad bastard stuff– but that’s beside the point.

This song is called “Elephant”. Spoiler alert: it’s not actually about pachyderms. It’s the one about cancer, and it’s best enjoyed alone. I’m not going to say you’ll be a snotty, teary-eyed mess by the end of it… but I’m not gonna say you won’t be, either.

This album deserves more than one song, so here’s another one. The record ends with a song called “Relatively Easy”, which has a pervasive theme of appreciation and resolution, as if to say, “Despite all this bad stuff I’ve sung about for the past 40 minutes, we’ve all still got it pretty damn good compared to most other people in the world, and we should appreciate that.”

It’s the perfect ending to a great album.

If you don’t own Southeastern, you should consider buying it. Your record collection will be better for it.

RIYL: timeless songwriting, rehabilitation, acoustic guitars, good music, Kleenex

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