Photo: Danny Clinch

Jason Isbell kicked off his December residency at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Tuesday, Dec. 6 with the first of three special performances. The Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter joined a select list as this year’s artist-in-residence, an annual honor for reserved for artists who have made significant contributions to American music. As Artist-in-Residence, Isbell is performing three shows in the month of December, each one a personal and unique performance.

For the first of Isbell’s three performances, he delivered an all-acoustic evening featuring only himself and his wife and musical collaborator Amanda Shires. From the moment Isbell and Shires took the stage, the deep artistic and emotional rapport shared by the couple was apparent, both in their musical performances and their lively and entertaining stage patter.

Isbell began the evening speaking about how honored he was to be chosen as the artist-in-residence, humbly noting that he was the least accomplished of the select group that has included Cowboy Jack Clement, Earl Scruggs, Tom T. Hall, Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Douglas, Vince Gill, Buddy Miller, Connie Smith, Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson, and Rosanne Cash. When a cry of “No!” came from the audience, Isbell jovially replied, “Well, who then?”

The evening set list including many of Isbell’s best-known songs, including “Alabama Pines,” “24 Frames,” “Cover Me Up,” and “Traveling Alone,” along with selections from his most recent album, The Nashville Sound, including “Last of My Kind,” “Something to Love” and “If We Were Vampires.” He and Shires spiced the set with stories about the songs, Isbell’s encounters with some of his musical heroes including John Prine and Bruce Springsteen, jokes, and personal anecdotes.

Isbell will return to the CMA Theater on Dec. 12 for another acoustic show accompanied by his band the 400 Unit. The final performance on Dec. 19 will feature several special guests. To learn more about the museum’s artist-in-residence program, visit countrymusichalloffame.org.

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