Last week, we learned the vaguely disturbing news that the legendary Van Morrison was planning to release a few songs in protest against the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown measures. Morrison is mad about the “pseudo-science” of anti-pandemic efforts, so he’s about to come out with some songs with titles like “No More Lockdown.” That sucks! And so now anyone who covers a Van Morrison song has to first say a few words about how Van Morrison is being dumb.
Take, for instance, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. In recent months, Isbell and Shires have been having some fun on Shires’ weekly YouTube show I So Lounging. Once a week, they get together with keyboardist Peter Levin and play a few songs in their attic. A few weeks ago, for instance, they played Aerosmith’s “Cryin'” with Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford. And on this past weekend’s episode, they sang a Van Morrison song, but only before saying a few words about Morrison.
On the show, Isbell had this to say:
There was a time in the past when our dear Van Morrison had such beautiful music, such beautiful songs, that everyone paid attention to him. Now that time has passed, and I fear that our dear Van Morrison is still desirous of the attention that he once received. So now he likes to say things, like the government asking you to not give everyone the COVID-19 virus is akin to slavery. I disagree with that statement very much.
Also, Isbell puts on a mask and says, “I don’t know that this’ll protect me from the virus, but I’d like for it to protect me from Van.” And Shires offers this: “He was rude to John Prine. That was John Prine’s hero, and John Prine died loving Van Morrison — or, you know, loving his music.”
The two of them then sing a killer take on Morrison’s 1970 song “Into The Mystic,” with Isbell singing lead. After the cover, they trade off impressions of Morrison on “Moondance.” The whole vibe of I So Lounging is very chill and rambly, but they lock in hard when they play music. Most of this week’s show is the two of them playing Shires own songs — “Eve’s Daughter,” “Pale Fire,” “Charms” — and that Morrison song arrives right in the middle. The Morrison clowning starts at 19:45, and the “Into The Mystic” cover starts at 21:53. Watch it below.
Isbell and the 400 Unit’s new album Reunions is out now on Isbell’s own Southeastern label, while Shire’s 2018 album To The Sunset is out on Silver Knife. Isbell and Shires also recently recorded a cover of Gillian Welch’s “Wrecking Ball” as a surprise addition to our Save Stereogum compilation.