Cover Songs Celebrating the State of Georgia on Double LP!
Featuring Julien Baker, Brandi Carlile, Béla Fleck, Chris Thile & More!
Covering R.E.M., The Black Crowes, James Brown, Cat Power & More!
Georgia Blue is a labor of love. On election day 2020, when I saw that there was a good chance the state of Georgia might go blue, I came up with an idea: to record an album of Georgia-related songs as a thank you to the state and donate the money to a Georgia based non-profit organization.
I will admit my motivations were a bit selfish. For years, I've been looking for an excuse to record these songs with my band and some friends. The songs on this album are some of my favorite Georgia-related songs, but the tracklist is not meant to be comprehensive. I would love to cover Outkast and 2 Chainz, but I don't think the finished product would be very good. We're a rock band, so we covered rock songs. We have roots in blues and R&B, so we enlisted some brilliant artists to help us pull off songs by Precious Bryant, James Brown, and Gladys Knight.
My favorite part of the Georgia Blue recording process was having the opportunity to work with these very special artists, and I thank them: Amanda Shires, Brittney Spencer, Adia Victoria, Brandi Carlile, Julien Baker, Béla Fleck, Chris Thile, Steve Gorman, Peter Levin, and John Paul White.
I hope you enjoy listening to these recordings as much as we enjoyed making them. Keep listening to good music and fighting the good fight.
- Jason Isbell
Threaded through the alt-rock covers are songs that feel closer to the traditional definition of Southern music: blues, R&B, soul, and Southern rock. Here, the 400 Unit get to flex their muscles, sounding equally at ease with soulful grooves and jazz-inflected jams... the shifts in tone and style on Georgia Blue reflect a wide range of human feeling. At its heart, Georgia Blue is a joyful affair but there's sadness lurking in the shadows. Somehow, that's appropriate for an album conceived as a celebration during a time of crisis.
Isbell has long shown an appreciation for music that stretches even beyond the loose boundaries of Americana. That genre-free approach, even when restricted to the artists of a single state, shows up in both his song choices and the friends he's invited to the party.
The covers album is usually a tricky prospect for an artist, especially one best known for their songwriting, but Georgia Blue is one that succeeds because these are tunes Jason Isbell clearly cares about as much as anything that came from his own pen. The love and fire on display here confirm what his best work has always shown - he's not just a fine songwriter, he's a top-shelf musician who lives for this stuff, and it's a pleasure to hear him dig into this material.
...an album that succeeds on all fronts, both as an artistic endeavor and as an expression of conscience and clarity. With Georgia Blue, Isbell and company have made an album for the ages.
While Isbell may be the driver here, he is more than generous, putting the spotlight on his various guests, and giving his band the opportunity to show their potency and versatility.
What's striking beyond the excellent song choices is Isbell's choice to sit in the background for much of the record, singing lead vocal on only six of the album's 13 songs. Elsewhere, Amanda Shires brings a mystery, intrigue, and an eerie fiddle hook to Cat Power's 'Cross Bones Style.' And while Brittney Spencer's take on the Gladys Knight classic 'Midnight Train to Georgia' is played pretty safe, her soulful control on James Brown's 'It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World' is transformative. As the song progresses, Isbell appropriately follows her lead, echoing her powerful vocal riffs with his yearning guitar. It's here that the album's battle cry - made in joy, melody, and harmony - resounds and hopes to tip the scales ever so slightly toward a world beyond this present 'White Man's World.'
It'd be easy to rattle off each track and sing their praises. It's easier to note that the baker's dozen tracks on Georgia Blue, in their entirety, are treated with the same meticulous care and attention to detail Isbell provides his own material. In doing so, he delivers a record that's arguably the most fun listening experience in his discography.
- Double LP
- Black Vinyl
- Gatefold Jacket
- Cover art by Amanda Shires
- All proceeds of the release will be donated to Black Voters Matter, Georgia Stand-Up, & Fair Fight
- Nightswimming (R.E.M.) - feat. Béla Fleck and Chris Thile
- Honeysuckle Blue (Drivin' N Cryin') - feat. Sadler Vaden
- It's A Man's Man's Man's World (James Brown) - feat. Brittney Spencer
- Cross Bones Style (Cat Power) - feat. Amanda Shires
- The Truth (Precious Bryant) - feat. Adia Victoria
- I've Been Loving You Too Long (Otis Redding)
- Sometimes Salvation (The Black Crowes) - feat. Steve Gorman
- Kid Fears (Indigo Girls) - feat. Julien Baker and Brandi Carlile
- Reverse (Now It's Overhead)
- Midnight Train To Georgia (Gladys Knight & The Pips) - feat. Brittney Spencer and John Paul White
- In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (The Allman Brothers Band) - feat. Peter Levin
- I'm Through (Vic Chesnutt)
- Driver 8 (R.E.M.) - feat. John Paul White