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(Credit: Bryan Ledgard)

Jason Isbell shares cover of R.E.M. song 'Driver 8'

Back in 2020, Jason Isbell made a promise: if the American people ended up voting Joe Biden into the White House, the country-rock troubadour would record an entire album of covers by artists from the state of Georgia. Georgia was a battleground state and a key piece to Biden’s eventual victory. A man of his word, Isbell has completed the new Georgia Blue album.

Featuring covers of legendary southern acts like Otis Redding and James Brown, the LP is also set to feature Isbell’s take on songs from the likes of Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Allman Brothers Band, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, Cat Power, The Black Crowes, Indigo Girls, Precious Bryant, Now It’s Overhead, and Vic Chesnutt. Artists joining Isbell in the undertaking include Julien Baker, Brandi Carlile, Béla Fleck, former Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, Peter Levin, Brittney Spencer, Chris Thile, and his wife, Folk-Country star Amanda Shires.

It’s a stacked lineup, and today Isbell shared the first taste of the new record with his cover of R.E.M. track ‘Driver 8’. The legendary Athens alt-rock band made copious references to the South on their third album Fables of the Reconstruction, and ‘Driver 8’ might just be the most southern-centric song of them all. Featuring shout outs to the Southern Crescent railway train and southern revivalist organisation the Go Tell Crusade, ‘Driver 8’ is about as distinctly homegrown as R.E.M. ever allowed themselves to be.

That’s probably why an alt-country singer like Isbell gravitated towards it in the first place. Isbell plays a type of country music that renegades on some of the more traditional aspects of the genre. Lying somewhere between outlaw country and southern rock, Isbell’s music always had a little more edge, a little more sadness, and a little more colour than mainstream country stars. The track also features fellow country iconoclast John Paul White, formally of the Civil Wars, to add a folky counterpoint to Isbell’s high-tenor twang.

Check out the cover of ‘Driver 8’, plus the compilation’s full tracklisting, down below. Georgia Blue is set for an October 15 release.

Georgia Blue tracklisting:

  1. “Nightswimming’ (Feat. Béla Fleck & Chris Thile) (R.E.M Cover)
  2. “Honeysuckle Blue’ (Feat. Sadler Vaden) (Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ Cover)
  3. “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ (Feat. Brittney Spencer) (James Brown Cover)
  4. ‘Cross Bones Style’ (Feat. Amanda Shires) (Cat Power Cover)
  5. ‘The Truth’ (Feat. Adia Victoria) (Precious Bryant Cover)
  6. ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ (Otis Redding Cover)
  7. ‘Sometimes Salvation’ (Feat. Steve Gorman) (The Black Crowes Cover)
  8. ‘Kid Fears’ (Feat. Julien Baker & Brandi Carlile) (Indigo Girls Cover)
  9. ‘Reverse’ (Now It’s Overhead Cover)
  10. ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ (Feat. Brittney Spencer & John Paul White) (Gladys Knight & the Pips Cover)
  11. ‘In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed’ (Feat. Peter Levin) (Allman Brothers Band Cover)
  12. ‘I’m Through’ (Vic Chesnutt Cover)
  13. ‘Driver 8’ (Feat. John Paul White) (R.E.M. Cover)

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