Country-rock star Jason Isbell has been busy lately. He’s been backing up the Highwomen, his wife’s country supergroup. He’s been helping Sheryl Crow cover Bob Dylan. He’s been inspiring delightful memes about mass shootings and feral hogs. And apparently, he’s been singing with disco royalty. Recently, for reasons unknown, Isbell went into the studio with one of the biggest stars of the ’70s: Barry Gibb, from the motherfucking Bee Gees.
On Instagram yesterday, Isbell posted a picture of himself at work with Gibb. Isbell didn’t say what they might have been recording, but he did say that he and Gibb sang together — in harmony, even: “It was a great honor, and also terrifying because in order to sing with Barry Gibb, you have to sing. With Barry Gibb. At one point I had the high harmony part. He was standing right in front of me. Sir Barry Gibb.” Isbell, you may have noticed, is not a natural falsetto. It is going to be fascinating to hear what comes out of this.
Now and forever, Gibb and his late brothers will always be associated with disco. But the Bee Gees were around for years before they went disco, making soft psychedelia and folk-rock ballads. At their height, the Bee Gees — Barry in particular — reached out to work with other artists, in other genres. And Gibb had an almost shocking level of success in country. Conway Twitty had a #1 country hit with a 1981 cover of the Bee Gees’ Barry-written “Rest Your Love On Me.” And Gibb also co-produced and co-wrote every song on Kenny Rogers’ massive 1983 album Eyes That See In The Dark, including the monster-hit Dolly Parton duet “Islands In The Stream.”
It’s hard to imagine what Barry Gibb and Jason Isbell might be doing today. Maybe Gibb is making a duets album or something. But the world needs to hear what happens when he gets together with one of this generation’s finest country (or country-ish?) musicians.