A Love Song & Some Stubbornness
“So girl leave your boots by the bed, we ain’t leavin’ this room ’til someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom.”_Jason Isbell, “Cover Me Up.”
The New York Times called “Cover Me Up” a flat-out love song and I agree. I love a flat-out love song. “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran? Flat-out love song and I love it. “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton. “Baby Love” by The Supremes and “I Hear A Symphony” too. “I Hear A Symphony” is one of my favorites. So dreamy. Whenever I hear that song, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I wanna find my husband and smush him to me. “Sparks Fly” by Taylor Swift. “At Last” by Etta James. “Breathe” by Faith Hill. So many to list, too many. But oh oh “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison. And! “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
“Cover Me Up” opens Jason Isbell’s album Southeastern and I heard it live when he was in town, opening for Ryan Adams. And I can’t tell you exactly what it is about this song that I love so much or what warrants my listening to it on repeat for an hour, but it’s Something. It’s earnestness and sweetness and romance and sexiness and honesty. It’s country. It’s a prayer.
“So girl hang your dress up to dry we ain’t leavin’ this room. Til Percy Priest breaks open wide and the river runs through.”
It’s deciding to do something and doing it. It’s stubbornness. Stubborn as a Mississippi Mule as my daddy likes to say. This idea that I’m gonna fight for this, let’s fight for this. It’s effed up, let’s fix it. This is worth it. You’re worth it. I’m sorry. Please. Don’t leave.
And I write a lot about men telling women what to do and how not-cool that is because I’m talking about a guy who doesn’t even know a girl telling her on the street that she should smile or do this or that. But when I’m talking about this kinda thing…I’m talking about a man who loves a woman, a woman who loves a man, these grown people who have consented and agreed to be in this relationship together and when that happens and the man is all like we ain’t leaving this room? THAT’S HOT. Forrealsies.
Also, I love it when people sing about boots and beds and magnolias. So Southern! I also really love totally normal things in my song lyrics.“It’s cold in this house and I ain’t going out to chop wood.” It’s like when Ryan Adams sings “I wish you’d make up my bed so I could make up my mind” in his song “Come Pick Me Up” and I think Isbell is writing the kind of songs Ryan Adams used to write. Those bared, simple songs about towns and rooms and love and not-love. Like when Jewel sings “I brush my teeth and put the cap back on. I know you hate it when I leave the light on.” And Swift singing “Lights are off, he’s taking off his coat.” And “his hands are in my hair, his clothes are in my room.” And “he’s so tall and handsome as hell.” It’s domesticity and those pedestrian things that make up a whole life. The tiny littles I always come back to.
“A heart on the run keeps a hand on a gun. It can’t trust anyone.”
And how tightly love and trust are tied together. It’s plain.
“But I made it through ’cause somebody knew I was meant for someone.”
And hope and sobering up and letting yourself love someone and be loved. It’s simple.
“So cover me up and know you’re enough to use me for good.”
When we reach the end, I want it to start all over again. That’s love that’s sex that’s food that’s anything I’ve enjoyed—wanting to go back to the beginning and do it all over again. Even though I know it won’t be exactly the same. Things will always be different but using those things for good, allowing yourself to be used for good...getting back 2 good (Matchbox Twenty shoutout).
Jason is a damn good songwriter and it’s a damn good song. Everyone loves it and if they don’t, they should. All of it. A guy and a lonesome guitar, one voice. We met, we fell in love, here are my guts, here is my heart, can you believe it here we are and I’m not giving up I’ll never give up on you don’t give up on me…this is why humans exist…to love—the same story told over and over again until the end of time. And repeat, even then. Love echoes.