Jason Isbell Makes Pandemic Jokes, Asks Wilco for New Version of ‘Handshake Drugs’

by Madison Miller
Photo by: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Country artist Jason Isbell is using his humor to get through this pandemic. It seems a lot better than other alternatives people are using out there.

The joke has to do with the fear that he won’t be able to shake hands with his friends from Wilco ever again.

Jason Isbell Jokes on Twitter

He tweeted, “Hey @Wilco we need an ‘Elbow Bump Drugs’ now since we won’t ever shake hands again.”

Verified photographer, Rob Hoffman, replied “They just need to make sure ‘Shot In The Arm’ comes first on the set list.”

The song seems like an ode to the world before 2020, from mentions of people playing live music to taxis to some handshake drugs.

“Saxophones started blowing me down / I was buried in sound / Taxicabs were driving me around / To the handshake drugs I bought downtown / To the handshake drugs I bought downtown.”

If you thought the joke was going to end there with Wilco, then you don’t know Isbell very well. He then made yet another joke, this time centered around a Cleveland sports team.

“How about they call the team the Cleveland Vaccines,” Jason Isbell tweeted.

Someone get this man a Netflix comedy stand-up show.

During the pandemic him and his wife, Amanda Shires, have been just staying home and being safe.

In The Boot article, Jason Isbell said that he thinks some artists will not be able to afford to be in the industry after this. Some artists have a hard time making ends meet as it is.

Handshake Drugs

So, in all seriousness, what is the Wilco song Isbell is referencing here?

The song “Handshake Drugs” is from the album “A Ghost Is Born.” This just so happens to be the album that earned the group a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.

The alternative rock group is based out of Chicago, Illinois. The members include Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Mikael Jorgensen, Nels Cline, and Pat Sanson.

When “Handshake Drugs” came out in 2004, it was pretty well-known that Tweedy had a drug problem.

The singer had a problem with painkillers for his migraines right around the time the song was being made. However, this may not be exactly what the song is about. The lyrics are considered “non-specific” so it’s hard to determine what this hit was about exactly.

“I don’t know if anybody else noticed. They were aware that I was unhappy and struggling with depression, but they had no idea how serious my drug use had become. I wasn’t staying up all night partying or doing anything that would make them say, ‘Hey, man, you have to cut it out,'” Tweedy wrote in his memoir “Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back).

Tweedy and the group most recently performed the song on stage at the Solid Sound Festival in 2019, before COVID-19 wiped out concerts. It happened while the band was having “Wilco Karaoke,” where people could sing with the band.

Courtney Barnett ended up taking the stage with Wilco for the song.

It would be interesting to hear Jason Isbell’s version with the words “Elbow Bump Drugs” instead.