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What Jason Isbell now has in common with Taylor Swift, Metallica 1/31/2023 Matt Wake,

Taylor Swift did it last year. Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Iggy Pop and Pearl Jam have done it too.

Now, Jason Isbell and wife Amanda Shires join those ranks, after they were announced Jan. 30 as Record Store Day Ambassadors for 2023.

The position basically involves being the face for Record Store Day. That annual event, founded in 2008 and set for April 22 this year, celebrates and promotes independent record stores through a slew of exclusive vinyl releases.

In years past, Isbell, a Grammy winning folk/rock musician from Green Hill and Muscle Shoals, has contributed RSD releases including “Welcome to 1979,” a six-song, live-in-the-studio EP featuring Rolling Stones, John Prine and Bruce Springsteen covers.

For RSD 2023, Isbell and Shires, known for her acclaimed solo albums and the Americana supergroup Highwomen, will release a four-song split EP together called “The Sound Emporium.”

The EP will contain: new songs from both Isbell (a track called “Hired Gun”) and Shires (one titled “Old Habits”); a cover of Fairport Convention guitarist Richard Thompson’s song “Beeswing”; and an acoustic version of “Tour of Duty,” a tune from Isbell’s 2011 solo album “Here We Rest.” Sadler Vaden, guitarist in Isbell’s longtime backing band The 400 Unit, contributes to the latter song.

The Thompson cover has a special meaning for Isbell and Shires. Early in their dating, he learned “Beeswing” on guitar in an attempt to impress her. “I put it up on YouTube and she’s the only person I gave the link to,” Isbell said in an interview with Variety. “So somewhere still, lost in the catacombs of YouTube, is a video of me playing that 12 or 13 years ago.”

A complete list of 2023 RSD releases has yet to be publish. Check for updates.

Isbell’s signature solo songs include 2013′s “Cover Me Up,” which has been streamed close to 60 million times on Spotify. Shires’ 2020 collabo with country singer Luke Combs, Without You,” has been streamed more than 60 million times. Isbell’s most recent album is 2020′s “Reunions.” Shires’ is 2022′s “Take It Like A Man.”

Prior to becoming one of the most acclaimed songwriters of his generation, Isbell was a guitarist and singer with political-rock band Drive-By Truckers. By the time Texas-native Shires was a teenager, she was playing fiddle for swing-music icon Bob Wills.

Early in their respective careers, they both worked at indie record stores: Isbell at the since-shuttered Pegasus Records in Florence and Shires at Lubbock, Texas’ Ralph’s Records.

Other past Record Store Day Ambassadors include Foo Fighters/Nirvana legend Dave Grohl, Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and even actor, comedian and musician Fred Armisen.

According to Billboard, in 2022, sales of vinyl records in the U.S. rose for the 17th straight year. It was also the second year in a row and only the second year since 1991 vinyl outsold CDs in the U.S. Vinyl reigned as the go-to album format for decades before ceding to cassette tapes and then CDs, or compact discs.

Pop superstar Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” was the top-selling vinyl album last year, clocking in at around 945,000 copies, according to Billboard. All told in 2022, vinyl accounted for some 43 percent of U.S. album purchases, with 43 million of 100 million total sales across all digital and physical formats. Nearly half of all vinyl albums sold in 2022 were sold at the kind of independent (non-chain) retailers that participate in Record Store Day.

In an interview with Variety, Isbell said, “The vinyl upswing is keeping a lot of our friends in business, from record stores all the way down to artists and managers and agents and everybody in the business. It’s been a boon for all of us.”

Vinyl enthusiasts are often drawn to that audio format because of the tactile experience (the cover art, the liner notes, etc.) and an often warm, natural sound. “Vinyl sounds great, especially if you have a good system,” Isbell told Variety.

Shires added, “My return back to touring out [after the release of her 2022 album] was visiting all the record stores, and it’s just a beautiful thing. The community’s wonderful. There’s more than just records you can buy there or not buy there. You can make friendships. It’s discovery.”

Asked about their favorite record stores across the country, Isbell and Shires cited Grimey’s in Nashville, Rough Trade in New York and The Heavy Metal Shop in Salt Lake City.

In a joint statement via the RSD website, the couple, who reside in the Nashville area, said: “We’re honored to be your Record Store Day ambassadors for 2023. Record stores are gathering places. They’re rooms full of carefully curated art and entertainment where you can find a friend, take a date, start a band. We all need these gathering places now more than ever. In your local record store you find common ground and the excitement of discovery. A great new album can make a grumpy old man (like Jason) feel like a kid again. Record stores make it possible for recording artists to find their audience and their voice, and we couldn’t be more excited to help make 2023 the biggest and best Record Store Day yet.”


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