In December, Holly Williams and Jason Isbell both earned spots on many critics’ “Best of 2013” lists. When the two artists began touring together, expectations were high. A recent performance at an atmospheric Long Island theater, The Space at Westbury, did not disappoint fans.
“Travelling and meeting people—that’s what it’s all about,” Williams remarked as she launched into the anthemic “The Highway.” Her thin frame weaved to the beat as she cradled her acoustic guitar, and her voice had enough power to shake the rafters. “Waiting On June,” Williams’ beautiful and haunting tribute to her maternal grandparents, moved the audience to stunned silence.
Jason Isbell took the stage with his band, the tightly honed 400 Unit, along with wife Amanda Shires on fiddle. The band breathed new life into old Drive-By Truckers material like “Goddamn Lonely Love” and “Outfit.” The searing minor chords and howling vocals of “Decoration Day” drew many cheers. When Isbell donned an acoustic guitar and began performing material from 2013’s Southeastern, it was clearly the evening’s high point. Raw and intensely personal songs like “Cover Me Up” and “Stockholm” lit up the room. The aching “Elephant,” performed as an acoustic duet with Shires, left the audience awestruck.
Jason Isbell and Holly Williams are two of the biggest acts in the burgeoning Americana scene. A night of stunning music at The Space proved that their acclaim is well deserved.
– Jon Kleinman