Jason Isbell recently tweeted that he would record a charity mixtape of songs by Georgia musicians if Joe Biden won the state. We humbly offer some suggestions.
With the election vote count still ongoing despite the best efforts of one candidate (who could have seen that coming), some people are starting to look for breezy distractions that can offer respite from the slow, grueling drip of cable news coverage.
If a 3,200-word feature on the Black lives matter movement in Canal Winchester feels too heavy to do that particular job, how about a bunch of music videos?
With the race in Georgia tightening as mail-in ballots are counted (Joe Biden most recently took a narrow lead), musician Jason Isbell logged into Twitter and posted that if Biden ultimately won the state, he would release a charity album covering songs by Georgia artists.
If Biden wins Georgia I’m gonna make a charity covers album of my favorite Georgia songs- REM, Gladys Knight, Vic Chesnutt, Allmans, Cat Power, Precious Bryant, Now It’s Overhead, etc... And damn is that gonna be fun— Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell)November 6, 2020
With that in mind, we thought we would offer up a few suggestions.
Gladys Knight: “Help Me Make It Through the Night”
Knight’s twist on the 1970 Kris Kristofferson tune manages to leave the still-great original in the dust, particularly when her voice briefly achieves lift-off around the 2:35 mark.
Cat Power: “Cross Bones Style”
Somehow both urgent and languid, this song, off of Moon Pix, from 1998, has lyrics that sound perfectly suited to the year 2020 (“Oh come, child, come and rescue me/’cause you have seen some unbelievable things”).
Otis Redding: “Shake”
Born in Dawson, Georgia, Redding, my favorite singer and one of the greatest vocalists of all time, must be an intimidating artist to cover. So rather than attempting takes on songs such as “These Arms of Mine” or “Try a Little Tenderness,” which feel uniquely imprinted with the soul man’s DNA, we’d love to hear Isbell’s twist on this 1965 hip-shaker.
Vic Chesnutt: “Everything I Say”
Taking the soft-loud-soft dynamic to its welcome extremes, this slow-building, long-burning epic would be a nice showcase for Isbell’s guitar talents, as well.
Ray Charles: “It Makes No Difference Now”
Most songs about relationships ending lean heavy into heartache, but on this measured tune, off Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, from 1965, Charles sings about letting “things happen as they will,” accepting that not everything is meant to last.
R.E.M.: “E-Bow the Letter”
One of the highlights of 1996 long-player New Adventures in Hi-Fi, an album that has only gotten better with time, and one on which we’d love to hear Isbell’s wife, songwriter and musician Amanda Shires, step in to fill the Patti Smith role.
Brenda Lee: “Break It to Me Gently”
Best known for “I’m Sorry,” we much prefer this stately tear-jerker from the gospel and rockabilly legend.
“Cool” could arguably be the Athens-based indie-rock band’s defining song, but even better is this rhythmic post-punk wonder off 1983 album Chomp, with its bleak lyrics suited to these challenging times: “Life is nothing but taxes/And all the trees that get the axes.” If you've never heard it, give it a spin below.