Earlier this month, Fader published a list of the 100 best songs about sex. Subtlety wasn’t a virtue, as Tear Da Club Up Thugs’ “Slob on My Knob” clocked in at No. 5, while Snoop’s “Sexual Eruption” was the top Dogg.
These tunes are about sex, sure, but they’re far from sexy. That probably explains why Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up” didn’t make the list. It might well be the sexiest song ever recorded.
“Cover Me Up” is the lead track off Isbell’s stunning 2013 album, Southeastern. When the record came out, the former Drive-By Trucker was a newly sober newlywed. The song is quite clearly about his wife and frequent musical collaborator, the fine fiddler and vocalist Amanda Shires. From the lyrics, you gather that there are a man and a woman holed up in a secluded Tennessee abode. It’s cold outside, and as Isbell pointedly explains, he “ain’t goin’ out to chop wood,” having previously told his cohabitant, “Girl, leave your boots by the bed, we ain't leaving this room. Till someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom.”
The song ends right there in that room, but life goes on. The carnal buffet gets picked over as you’re made aware of its consequences. (Isbell and Shires, a native Texan, have a 2-year-old daughter, Mercy Rose.) But throw a human hemorrhoid in the White House and you may want to beat a path back to that room, lock the door and pull the covers up over your face for four years.
Yet Isbell presents a path out of the wilderness on his latest album, The Nashville Sound, promoting civil discourse on “Hope the High Road,” while acknowledging the cultural barriers that have been reinforced by President Trump’s election on the deeply personal “White Man’s World.”
A proud Democrat who’s spent all of his 38 years living in the South, Isbell thinks working-class southerners voted for Trump for “the same reason working-class northerners voted for him: Popular culture has convinced people that we’re all gonna wind up with a ton of money someday.” He adds, “It’s easy to sell snake oil to people who don’t feel like they’re being represented by their government. They vote with a part of themselves that’s desperate.”
Isbell, who’s been openly critical of mainstream country radio’s preference for playing beer-and-cutoff tunes churned out by ballcap-wearing bros, was recently nominated for a Country Music Association Award for Best Album for The Nashville Sound, an experience he calls “weird.”
Isbell will be touring Europe when the CMA ceremony takes place, so you won’t find him in the audience seated next to Florida Georgia Line and The Backstreet Boys. Nevertheless, he calls the nomination “flattering,” adding, “I’m happy when anybody likes the music I’m making. You feel like you’ve communicated with somebody that otherwise you might not be able to communicate with.”
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit will play Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels on Friday, September 22 at 8 p.m., with Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls opening. Tickets are $25-$872. Follow the author on Twitter @mdseely.