Jason Isbell’s last great Drive-by Truckers song was so strong they had it close out The Dirty South.
After the all of the folklore and Southern mythos that covered the album like so much kudzu, it felt fitting to close it all out with a melancholy love song written by one member of the band to another. Like a reminder of what’s truly important.
Dominated by a guitar hook that’s goddamn lonely in and of itself and an organ — played by Isbell — hovering on the horizon, “Goddamn Lonely Love” kinda drifts slowly along, like somebody wandering through a bar looking for a friend to talk to.
So I’ll take two of what you’re having and I’ll take all of what you got
To kill this goddamn lonely, goddamn lonely love.
Isbell sings it with a world-weariness that makes the whole song sound like the musical expression of the “I never thought I’d be so tired at 22” line from St. Elmo’s Fire. And of course, the rest of DBT help that illusion by keeping it slow and sparse, all the better to concentrate on the gorgeous melody line Isbell came up with.
My favorite part is when Isbell reaches the bridge, and practically jumps off of it, while pleading:
Stop meeeeeee if you’ve heard this one before..
A man walks into a bar and leaves before his ashes hit the floor
Stop meeeeeee if I ever get that far
The sun’s a desperate star that burns like every single one before
“The sun’s a desperate star” is such a great anthropomorphism.
For most of the song, Jason Isbell is singing all by himself, but at the very very end, someone — Patterson Hood, I think — joins him singing the title over and over again. Just to remind him — and us — that love doesn’t have to be goddamn lonely.
“Goddamn Lonely Love” performed live in 2006