Jason Isbell is probably as close to a superstar as you’ll find in Americana, and rightfully so. He’s an absolutely stellar songwriter with the vocal chops and conviction to pull off the masterful stories he tells. Part of that may be due to Isbell’s history as a former alcoholic, which he recently overcame. But among all of Isbell’s brilliant cuts, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better one than “Elephant.” For those of you who haven’t heard it, go listen to it. Right now. Your life will be better off for it.
“Elephant” is an absolutely heartbreaking song about a woman battling cancer and a man by the name of Andy helping her through it. Andy appears to have a poor reputation, as the opening line goes “Andy you’re better than your past,” but wholeheartedly helps this woman through her hard times and tries to help her “ignore the elephant somehow.” At the end of the song, Andy comes to the stark realization that “no one dies with dignity.”
Isbell’s writing goes further than concepts and lines, it’s the outstanding narrative that really makes the song. With little details like “cross-legged on the bar stool like nobody sits anymore,” you can visualize the story as a listener. It’s also boundary pushing lines like “if I f****d her before she got sick, I’d never hear the end of it” and “b***h about the weekend crowd” that add a whole new element of realism to the lyrics.
“Elephant” is easily among the best, most well-written, beautiful, heartbreaking songs I have ever heard, and it’s absolutely criminal that it hasn’t found a bigger audience. In case you haven’t heard this masterpiece, check out the link below.