Anniston, Please Welcome To The Stage ... Jason Isbell

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Shovels & Rope pass the time, Jason Isbell lays down the law and So Brown sets a date (Just Coasting, Lawrence Specker)

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Shovels & Rope 2.jpgCary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope. (Courtesy photo/Leslie Ryan McKellar)

Welcome to my new Just Coasting column, which will be published four days a week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday). My goal is to provide a snapshot of what's happening on Mobile's entertainment scene.

So, Tuesday night’s Shovels & Rope show at the Alabama Music Box was on, then it looked like it might be off (because of some issues raised by the Health Department). Then it was back on. Then it was back off (because the police said the venue still couldn’t reopen). Then it was back on (because a judge granted an injunction).

For the moment, we’re left with a couple of salient notes on the AMB Facebook page. One promises that “We will update everyone on the future of AMB shortly. Thanks for the overflow of support and patience.” The other advises, “Any will call/pre sale tickets not redeemed at the door will be fully refunded. Please contact us at with your name and order number from ticket biscuit and we will email them those names Friday. Please have us your info by then. Thank you and so very sorry about what happened. We will make this up somehow to all shovels and rope ticket holders as soon as we get back on our feet.”

Shovels & Rope kept busy while everybody waited for the legal wheels to turn. At the duo's Facebook page you can find a clip of them getting together with opener Shakey Graves, on The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” At the end of the clip, you’ll hear someone say it’s time to hit the stage, because they have to be done by midnight. Click here to see it.

Here's a different clip from less troubled times: A 2012 Mod Mobilian interview with Emily Hayes, when the duo took time to talk about their ongoing relationship with Mobile.

Now, speaking of interesting video artifacts from performers, the next clip is one concerning Jason Isbell that’s been making the rounds lately. Seems at a recent gig, Isbell was just getting into a performance of “Never Gonna Change,” a magnificent song he wrote back when he was still with the Drive-By Truckers, when someone started causing trouble near the stage.

There was a time when Isbell might have just waded in. But he cleaned up his act on the way to producing his latest and most highly acclaimed album, “Southeastern,” and he’s gained a new ability to contend with interruptions – as some of us saw firsthand during a performance a while back at Callaghan’s.

In this case, he calls a halt to the music and lays down the law. Be advised that this clip does contain some salty language. Sorry if it offends, but I think it passes the Mark Twain test. (“The idea that no gentleman ever swears is all wrong. He can swear and still be a gentleman if he does it in a nice and benevolent and affectionate way.”)

From one adage to another: I wish to draw your attention to the January/February issue of American Songwriter magazine. It’s the “Legends Issue,” with Elvis Costello on the cover. It’s chock-full of good stuff, including a story about Costello’s collaboration with The Roots, a retrospective on Uncle Tupelo and a great story on Todd Snider’s latest project, the Hard Working Americans.

But I want to zero in on the Editor’s Note from Caine O’Rear, which retells an intriguing story. It goes like this: The artistic freedom displayed on the Velvet Underground’s first album inspired an underground Czechoslovakian group, the Plastic People of the Universe. When the Communist authorities suppressed the group, the backlash fueled the work of dissidents such as Vaclav Havel. When Communist rule ended in 1989, the peaceful transition became known as the Velvet Revolution. As a Rolling Stone take on the same story notes, it just might be overly simplistic to assume that the revolution literally took its name from the band. But O’Rear concludes his version with a real nugget:

“(Lou) Reed once interviewed Havel during his presidency and asked him if art had the ability to change things. Havel said ‘No,’ but countered that it could change people. And it was up to people to take it from there.”

Words to live by.

For more from the magazine, visit The March/April edition, with a cover story on New Orleans group Hurray for the Riff Raff, is available digitally, with print release coming soon. That means you probably can still find the January/February edition at newsstands, or you can swipe a copy from Callaghan’s like I did.

I should include some real news in with all this neat stuff. Songwriter So Brown has now set an official release date for “Point Legere,” a beautiful album inspired by time she spent on Dog River, getting in touch with her family’s coastal Alabama roots. I’ve written about the project before: Our first taste of it was when Grammy winner Norah Jones surprised a Mobile audience with a cover of Brown’s song “Dauphin Island.” And yes, you will hear Jones’ voice on this album.

Here’s the song:

According to promotional information: Produced by Bryce Goggin (Anthony and the Johnsons, Joan as Policewoman) and recorded live to analog tape, Point LeGere includes an all-star cast of 14 musicians appearing on the album. Friends Norah Jones and Sasha Dobson appear alongside legends of the NY country (Jim Campilongo of the Little Willies), jazz (Adam Levy and Tony Scherr) and art rock world (Doug Wieselman). The stars aligned and every one was in town, and they spent one week recording at Trout Studios in Park Slope, Brooklyn.”

Brown has set her sights on an April 22 release for Earth Day. She’ll play an album release show in Manhattan on April 24, and promises and extensive tour. No word yet on when that will bring her to Mobile; keep an eye on this column (and, of course, on for updates.

Lawrence Specker covers entertainment on the Gulf Coast. If you have fun stuff you think should be included, send an e-mail to

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