WATCH: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Play a Countrified Metallica Cover at the Ryman

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit finished their eight-night Ryman residency last night. Isbell and the band have been playing fan favorites and dusting off a few gems this time around. Songs like “If We Were Vampires”, “24 Frames”, “Overseas”, “Hope the High Road” and others were nightly fixtures. However, they weren’t content with playing the same set for more than a week straight. So, they decided to spice things up. On Saturday, they dusted off “Molotov” for the Ryman crowd. Sunday, they ended the night with a Metallica cover.

After burning through a killer set, Jason Isbell and the band returned to the stage for an encore. Instead of diving deep into Isbell’s solo catalog or performing a Drive-By Truckers song, they went with something a little different. The band played a countrified version of Metallica’s “Sad but True” from Metallica’s 1991 self-titled album, commonly called The Black Album.

After taking the stage, Isbell introduced the song. “The next song, we have recorded but we have never played it live before,” he told the crowd to a round of cheers. “We’re just gonna try it out for y’all.” You can see them “try out” the cover below.

Performing a cover like this is akin to walking a tightrope. Artists have to find the balance between sticking to the original and bringing something new to the table. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit did that here. Obviously, they kept the original lyrics. More than that, they kept the snarling spirit of the original song. Sonically, however, this cover is completely different than Metallica’s version. Isbell and the band replaced the monolithic guitar riffs with a tight country arrangement that fits their sound and the song like a glove.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Record “Sad but True”

You can hear Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit cover “Sad but True” on The Metallica Blacklist.

When Metallica released their self-titled album thrash purists scoffed at their new look and drastically-changed sound. However, the album introduced the Bay Area band to a massive new audience. Today, that The Black Album is one of the best-selling heavy metal records of all time. Last year, the band celebrated the 30th anniversary of that record with The Metallica Blacklist. The album features 50 covers of the songs on The Black Album by 50 different artists.

Jason Isbell wasn’t the only country/Americana artist featured in that collection. For instance, Chris Stapleton, Jon Pardi, and Goodnight, Texas all recorded covers for Blacklist. Stapleton covered “Nothing Else Matters,” Pardi took on “Wherever I May Roam,” and Goodnight, Texas did a great rendition of “Of Wolf and Man.”

The best part about The Metallica Blacklist is that proceeds from the album went to charity. The money went to Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation and all of the artists involved chose a charity to support.