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Jason Isbell leaves imprint on Buffalo, features in Rolling Stone

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

If you look at just one 12-hour span, singer-songwriter Jason Isbell may have been the most popular person in Buffalo.

Rolling into Buffalo’s Waiting Room Thursday night, Isbell was intent on serenading an audience that he hadn’t performed in front of since March 2009, when he drew a crowd at the old Mohawk Place.

It turned out, however, that Isbell’s Buffalo show coincided perfectly with the running of a Rolling Stone feature —entitled “Jason Isbell: There’s just as much awe in sobriety”—highlighting Isbell’s breakout solo album “Southeastern,” his recovery from alcohol addiction, his marriage to tour partner Amanda Squires and his realization that, while life isn’t an unending adventure, there’s still fun to be had.

Rolling Stone’s James Sullivan paints a picture of a man who’s battled his demons—and in the present, has conquered them:

At age 34, he’s got the baggy eyes of a man who has spent a lot of time thinking hard late at night. But his voice is much stronger and clearer than it was in the Truckers. In Portland, he led the band (including his wife on fiddle) through charging, heartfelt songs that often sounded like the cavalry was coming.

“We try to have as much fun as possible singing a bunch of sad-ass songs,” he said from the stage with one of the few grins he’d allow himself.

We shouldn’t be too shocked, then, that Isbell’s new project—his second album since leaving the Drive-By Truckers—matched the hype, and that Buffalonians had a hunch what they were in for.

Browse through these tweets before last night’s show, and then read an excerpt from a preview post by BuffaBLOG’s Joe Speranza.

(It’s been a long week for AP’s John Wawrow—he deserved this Isbell performance).

“...to me that means that this show is going to be very personal and very honest. He’s really putting himself out there. Most of his songs are like that; there are going to be moments tonight where you’ll say to yourself “Wow, this sounds like something I’ve been through” or “Holy shit, he’s talking about my entire life,” wrote Speranza.

Needless to say, from the outcry of support on Twitter last night, Isbell sparked a sense of awe in the Waiting Room audience—perhaps the some wave of emotion he’s recently begun to feel himself.

“You can still find those adventures if you surround yourself with the right people,” Isbell tells Rolling Stone, sitting at a picnic table on the roof of the Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine, where he’ll perform in a couple of hours, a few days after his Newport set. “You can have as much fun. I never would’ve thought that before, but now I know it’s true. There’s still just as much awe.”

Crooning sad, heart-felt songs relate-able to the entire audience—from promoters to uncles to husbands and wives to radio station hosts—Isbell’s effect on the audience gave goosebumps to live-tweeters and those reflecting are the show. Here’s just a snippet of the response:


It goes without saying, then, that Isbell’s bumps in the road have molded a more stable, focused person—especially through his attempts to help other struggling with alcohol abuse, his re-marriage and his ability to still adventure in life when being Indiana Jones isn’t realistic.

(Interior pic courtesy of Twitter user EStreet (@estreetpicks)

TAGGED: buffablog, concerts, jason isbell, rolling stone, tweets, waiting room

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