There’s a great, if devastating, Louis C.K. joke where he observes that: Even in the best case scenario of a relationship, where you meet someone who you love “infinitely” and they love you “infinitely,” where you both grow together, the ending is still that someone will have to watch the other one die and then they’ll just be alone. As C.K. says at the end of the joke: “That’s the best case scenario; that you’re gonna lose your best friend and then just walk home from D’Agostino’s with heavy bags every day and wait for your turn to be nothing also.”
While not nearly as blunt, that’s effectively the conceit of Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s moving new song “If We Were Vampires.” The third single from the forthcoming The Nashville Sound, following “Hope the High Road” and the absolute rock monster “Cumberland Gap,” “If We Were Vampires” partners Isbell and his wife Amanda Shires together to sing about “Knowing this can’t go on forever. Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone.” It’s a gutting hook not simply because it’s husband and wife recognizing the mortality of their own relationship but because there’s nothing in the music masking such a naked admission. There’s just a winsome guitar figure and some elegiac strings keeping “If We Were Vampires” together. That’s it. And eventually those fade into the distance as well because everything has to go at some point. And while you can kinda control arrivals and first meetings you can’t really control departures and exits. So, knowing that, wring every last damn second out of the time in between.
[The Nashville Sound is out June 16 on Jason Isbell’s Southeastern Records. Check out “If We Were Vampires,” and the aforementioned “Cumberland Gap,” below.]