Jason Isbell - Live Oak Lyrics

There's a man who walks beside me he is who I used to be
And I wonder if she sees him and confuses him with me
And I wonder who she's pining for on nights I'm not around
Could it be the man who did the things I'm living down

I was rougher than the timber shipping out of Fond du Lac
When I headed south at seventeen, the sheriff on my back
I'd never held a lover in my arms or in my gaze
So I found another victim every couple days
But the night I fell in love with her, I made my weakness known
To the fighters and the farmers digging dusty fields alone
The jealous innuendos of the lonely-hearted men
Let me know what kind of country I was sleeping in
Well you couldn't stay a loner on the plains before the war
When my neighbors took to slightin' me, I had to ask what for
Rumors of my wickedness had reached our little town
Soon she'd heard about the boys I used to hang around
We'd robbed a great-lakes freighter, killed a couple men aboard
When I told her, her eyes flickered like the sharp steel of a sword
All the things that she'd suspected, I'd expected her to fear
Was the truth that drew her to me when I landed here

There's a man who walks beside me he is who I used to be
And I wonder if she sees him and confuses him with me
And I wonder who she's pining for on nights I'm not around
Could it be the man who did the things I'm living down

Well I carved her cross from live oak and her box from short-leaf pine
And buried her so deep, she'd touch the water table line
And picked up what I needed and I headed south again
To myself, I wondered, “Would I ever find another friend”

There's a man who walks beside her, he is who I used to be
And I wonder if she sees him and confuses him with me

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Jason Isbell Live Oak Comments
  1. Marija Madunić

    The Affair ❤

  2. Isaac Patterson

    Love this song any recommendations??

  3. PapaSmurf11182nd

    I saw Jason in 2014 in Bloomington, IN. At the show he explained that this song was a story about how you're not sure if someone is your friend once you've become sober.

  4. Amrit Banker

    Discovered him on Yellowstone

  5. Otto Greenleaf

    Tommy Tomlinson says he's the best writer in America right now. Good song. Cheers!

  6. hankypanky

    The first time i heard this song today I started crying and I didn't know why. This is now the tenth time I've heard it and I still can't explain why I can hardly breathe

    Dan Pacana

    Felt the exact same thing as you. I could write a novel explaining how much I appreciate this man's music but I don't have the energy. He's amazing

  7. Micah Lecourias

    Drinking by myself, drowning memories like her...

  8. Peter Cakebread

    100 thumbs down? Luke Bryan, is your thumb sore? This guy is the real deal as a musician and songwriter.

  9. T M F

    Not really known in the UK if at all. But I know him and know him well

  10. Black List

    i just heard this song on MPR, i am a fan

    Ryan Isahac

    Ditto. Just heard it, had to google it. And now have it playing on loop. Unbelievable lyrics.

  11. Aaron Smith

    This guy is a beast.

  12. Tari Akpodiete

    does he kill her?

    m v

    Tari Akpodiete yes I believe he does
    He speaks of carving her a cross and a box of shot leaf pine and he buried her so deep she’d touch the water table line , so to me yes he does.

  13. Yugan Dali

    Wow. I just wandered in here. What a song!

  14. NSEW 22

    Happy New Years Everyone 🤘🏼

  15. Sam Coon

    My gf introduced me to his music a few years back and I've seen him perform a couple of times. His talent is tremendous, song writer, singer, musician. All of the above, great.
    This song takes me to another place and time. He has captured perfectly the pain and desperation this young man in the story has caused and feels. Nothing short of perfect.


    Here are a couple of interviews where he discusses the meaning of the song:


  16. Tyler Slowiak

    I cant stop listening to this song. So damn good.

  17. Ashley H

    Jesus.... Why am I just now hearing this? In 2018?
    Amazing lyricist and musician...


    Glad ya finally caught up. ; )

    Scott Russell

    Don't feel bad. It took me till 2019, but I'm glad I finally got here.

  18. Jannie Mette Dietz Krycerick

    Love this!

  19. Dilan Aslan

    The Affair brought me here <3

  20. Lord Dom Snow

    The affair brought me here

  21. Isaiah wallake

    Great song. He changes from who he used to be. He was a rougher then timber, running from people and the law. He kept finding new women and living off of them. He fell in love with a girl on accident, she found out who he was in the past. She liked the sound of the old him. When she found out who he was, he knew it was time to leave. So he had to bury his feelings for her so deep it was below the water line. The man walking with her now his old self, that can never come back, just like his love for her can not come back, as he can not go back to being that person. In context it goes with his sobriety, the fear that people don't love you for who you are about to become, and the apprehension one goes through when they take the step to make large life choices. Not everyone wants you to become a better person, some people want you to be at the bottom with them.

    mark carroll


    Garrett Cook

    Yes but respectfully I must disagree on one point. I think it’s a murder ballad. When she found out what he was and he realized she liked it, he killed her. He knows he can’t change if a woman he loves loves that part of him. It’s heartbreaking cause A) he’s in love with her and B) he has to resort to his old ways to get rid of her. You might say he could have just left town but then he’d have offended a woman who loved him and he was an outlaw on the run. Might have caught up with him down the road.

    Bjjj Hgtdvh

    Great comment bud

    oo oo

    @Garrett Cook Yaaaaaaaah, he's a murder... People like The Op is why charles manson got married in jail...

    Tamara Miki

    He killed her. That’s the story the song is saying

  22. shame game

    Double thumbs up. Homies got soul

  23. vibe kayak Tim

    Love his music

  24. Stamatis Fiolas

    69 bastards think Luke Bryan is a real singer

  25. Patrick Johnson

    This song comforted me as I made my way offshore.

  26. MelodyFelixVivian


  27. john logue

    Some deep shit

  28. john logue

    Jackson brown?

  29. David Boguzes

    This is a piece of art....unreal.

  30. Rhian Scott-Thomas

    Need I say more Ikee

  31. George Cawhern

    This man it's what awesome lyricist do when they write they take you to their very sap from soul to endless sadness, from a whimper to a ball within 3 minutes or so. I'm still wiping my eyes.

  32. Richard Crawley

    The tune is very similar to Chris de Burgh's "Crusader".

  33. Gena blank

    I bleed a little bit every time I listen to this. I heal a little bit each time those notes fall on me. This one covers it all.

  34. Ann Clark

    Sufjan Stevens and John Wayne Gracy Jr anyone - Wow

  35. shifty1969

    I love how he takes you back to a time that only my uncles understood but now I understand its so personal

  36. Joanne Dunham

    it's a very thought provoking song for sure

  37. Lovely Locs

    Great song and artist! Love his music!

  38. Jo A Dale

    I love this song.

  39. Strawberry Milkshake

    love it. would love to see him live

  40. Patrick Stanlet

    Living legend!!!!!!!!!

  41. Darrell Collier

    didn't he say in an interview that this songs a metaphor for his journey into sobriety?

    Chad Riddle

    Darrell Collier yes he did

  42. JAB 619

    I don't think this is the story of Bill Munny. Instead, I think the part that was left out in the 'gap' between the second and third verse is the part where her attraction to/obsession with the bad man he used to be brought that man back. I don't think she really knew what she was bargaining for in wanting the 'bad' man, though, and I think she ended up as just another of those 'victims' he mentions near the beginning of the song. In other words, the callous, uncaring part of him came back and killed her then he just buried her and left. As he leaves, he wonders if he might ever find anyone else who actually cares about him. I also think that there is an unspoken hope that next time it might be someone who cares about the man he wants to be and not the man he used to be.

    JAB 619

    Keep in mind that in "The Unforgiven", Bill Munny's wife obviously wanted him to be better and leave his old life behind. There is no indication that she 'pined' for his old, darker self. He left that life behind for her and even tried to avoid that life after she died in order to honor her and raise their kids the way she would have wanted. Also, he didn't simply bury her and move on as did the speaker in the song.

    Tabs MacAskill

    JAB619 I reckon you are on the money here. He talks about the cross and the coffin and these are not metaphors for his "feelings" Given what we know about his previous "victims" and his "wickedness" Jason is obviously writing in the third person and that person is in a spiritual malady whereby he knows there is good in him his inner self keeps taking him back to the dark side. It's definitely a song written by a man in recovery.

  43. kingbreaker19

    The backstory to Unforgiven, anyone?

    Brent Pope

    I think you nailed it.....

    Randy Reynolds

    wow! yea story fits..picturing Eastwood singing right now lol

  44. Caleb Anderson

    being left curious about all of it is what makes this song so great to me. amazing songwriter and performer.

  45. Chris Umfress

    What an intelligent songwriter.

  46. Luke Broadbent

    I love songs like this. A haunting story that is so vividly told that you can see it all being played out in your head but he's such a great storyteller that he doesn't he doesn't really dictate the story to us, rather he merely documents the activity and leaves enough room for our own interpretations.

    Bj Ellison

    Luke Broadbent so was he a rapist and a murderer? did he kill her? sort of what i got from it. sounds like he ran with the outlaws a man that took what he wanted. im also assuming before the war we are talking early 20s or 30s maybe depression era. its a hell of a story

    Dan Pacana

    Bj Ellison. He was a murderer. When he moved to a new town and met the girl he sings about in this song, she starts hearing about his past and the things he did. But instead of her being scared and fearing him, she is attracted to him bc of it. Then the last line of the song is the chorus. He basically is saying that she likes him for the person he used to be when he was troubled but he has become a changed man. Honestly I had to listen to it 3 times to get it. Once I finally did, it took my breath away bc of how amazing the lyrics and delivery of the story he tells is. This man is talented.

    msm Mm

    No, he was breaking free from addiction, and the female is a metaphor for how people see him, now and before.


    @msm Mm Exactly. Jason literally explained that that's what it was about.

  47. Felipe Barbieri

    This song instantly makes me think of Red Dead Redemption.

  48. Danny Stultz

    not since Bob Dylan has there been a song writer and singer with such talent and He's hasn't even broke the ice yet you can tell from his lyrics every song is a part of him we haven't heard the Best of him and I for one can't wait for his next album!!!!!!

    brandon g

    ^^^^^ true^^^^^

    Ran White

    I've been saying the same thing, tho many don't know him. Dylan, Springsteen, Isbell...

    Aaron Bindrum

    Would say Tyler Childers is up there with him.

    Casey Walker

    That sounds crazy

  49. Tim brown

    the word victim is meant as that a victim of the insecurities this pwrson has. being content with the fakeness and control of each and every situation or relationship he finds him self with every human. he can control the happiness and sadness and length of time of both. it is about lovinf someone so much and being so paralyzed with the fear of pain and loss and having to deal with emotions that he never thought he'd feel or have to deal with. just my perspective maybe one day jason isbell will chime in.

  50. Jazzbo's Paradox

    I've worked this song into my live set too, it always gets a great reaction from the crowd.. Jason Isbell puts on an epic show! if you ever get the chance to see him, do it! Its well worth the $40

  51. Rob Burke

    Did he really love her or was he possibly a serial killer who only thought he was in love as evidenced by the line, "I never held a lover in my arms or in my gaze/so I found another victim every couple days." Aside from the opening line which is truly brilliant, I was struck powerfully by the last line of the song, "To myself I wondered would I ever find another friend." Jason is awesome.

    Rob Burke

    @***** What is the meaning of the word victim though? Is she a victim because he can't ever give her a good relationship? I know we can never come to a conclusive answer (unless we are lucky enough to hang with Jason someday) but I love talking about it. Brings back my English Lit days, only more fun. 

    Bj Ellison

    Rob Burke at first i took it as a virgin drunk on lust. but the more i listen to the lyrics im thinking a serial rapist murderer. and how did his love die? was it by his hands to keep his freedom?

    Scott Vogler

    I think that's just him saying he was rough and wild that he couldn't fall in love in that state so he kept victimizing people until he met "her."

  52. Hearsticles

    An absolutely mesmerizing piece of songwriting. The narrative pulls you right in and the emotional power of the story knocks you flat on your back. Even though (hopefully) none of us are murderers, we can still identify with the way the main character sort of lost his identity, or was forced to give it up by the circumstances of the world he lived in, but still managed to cling longingly to that brief sense of contentment he'd discovered in love. Many of us have been there, that's for sure.

  53. Roger Williams

    Jason is great. real country

  54. Roger Williams

    Jason is great. real country

  55. MrKrwillis72

    Why did he kill her? Or am I missing something somewhere?

    Luke Broadbent

    +MrKrwillis72 I've always thought it was because after hearing the stories she liked the old version him which is what he was trying to leave behind. Although, he may not have killed her and just "killed" her figuratively in his mind by leaving her to find someone who likes him for the man he currently is rather than the man he was before.


    Damn! That was deep Luke Broadbent! That's an excellent interpretation. Thank you.

    Kelly K

    Nothing glamorous about murder. Imagine you lost a loved one to murder. What people do not realize that songs like this add to their already unbearable burden. I wont listen to this song again because of that fact I just described.

    Caden Chambers

    I always thought she had killed herself

  56. WhyTheHorseface

    Live Oak = "Behind The Wall of Sleep" by Smithereens + "Mercy Street" by Peter Gabriel


    +buck fever Sorry, but yeah, the verse melodies of "Live Oak" and "Behind The Wall of Sleep" are almost identical, and the verse melodies of "Live Oak" and "Mercy Street" are similar but less so, but the feel is closer. Do you know what a melody is? That's the arrangement and progression of musical notes the words are sung to. Do you know what "feel" is? "Feel" is the rhythmic and emotional stylistic expression of the performer. But to you, probably just a non-musician listener, take from it what you will. Jason Isbell is one of the best there is.

    David Boguzes

    Are you serious? You think Isbell down and said to himself..." it's time to combine 2 very obscure songs"...your reaching man. Always got to be someone trying to put down a truly great piece of work.


    +David Boguzes no no no, please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying anything more than there are similarities. Like saying, "wow your sister really looks like your grandmother when she was young". Just an observation, based on my frame of reference. Jason is the one of my favorites. And it's certainly not an insult to be compared to those great songs and songwriters.

  57. john capone

    Good Lord(or should I praise the devil?), what a great fucking song!

  58. Ethan Wells

    I dare you to find an album with songwriting as near as good as this one in the past 10 years.


    Ethan Wells Brother Hawk's first EP, check'em out!

    Naia Berges

    Jeffrey Lewis is a bit of an acquired taste, but City and Eastern Songs, Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror Story, in particular, is masterfully written and among one of the best albums of the 2000's in my opinion.

    Husia Cat

    He's coming to the UK in October, I'm flying 1000 miles from Spain to see him and Amanda play in Brighton.

    In my opinion he's the most talented singer songwriter of this generation.

    But like art, music is very personal.

    He's unknown in the UK really. Not discussed by the public.

    I think that may change come October, am presuming the usual chat show appearances, radio interviews and live performances will change that.

    Do I want to share him? Hell no, but I hope he takes that island by storm.

    angus whitaker

    Ethan Wells agreed brother

    Harrison VanDeWalle

    Nashville Sound

  59. badbadkingjohn

    does he kill her?

    Rob Burke

    +badbadkingjohn Also, the fact that he buried her so deep suggests the desire not to be found out and, therefore, guilt.


    +Rob Burke I enjoy your replies; like he has this piece of fruit dangling from a branch but you can't quite grasp it; some movies do the same, give the viewer a chance to come up with the ending; I will say your take on his song is a good one

    Mark McCleary

    There are two versions of him. Before he met her, he was "rough" and "killed a couple men or more." When he was with her, he was reformed, though she was impressed with the old, rough him. After he buries her, the last verse explains there are two versions of him, the man who walked beside her (that was the reformed version) and the man he is now. He's regressed back into the "rough", murderous version who buried her deep and again heads south, presumably to again avoid the "ol' sheriff." So yes, he killed her. Some people try to reform, but it's just not in their nature.

    Matt Lowery

    There was no murder. The song is a metaphor for Jason's sobriety. The first man is his life in addiction. Thats the life he left behind. The second is him sober and his fear for those close to him preferring the old him. The burying her and leaving her behind is metaphorical for leaving the ones that only liked the old him and moving on.

    Such a beautiful song.

  60. Kevin King


  61. audrey rozell

    His music never gets old no matter how many times you hear it and even if you know all the lyrics. It is truly classic as is he. Something so soothing and motivating about his music.

  62. Select Media

    No One today is writing like he is;  maybe ed sheeran from UK but as a lyricist Jason Isbell  is untouchable .. the best since Dylan

    Bearded Dawg

    @Select Media Joshua James is writing like he is... look up Mystic by Joshua James... my mind was blown when i heard his lyrics... all his songs are amazing


    @Select Media I like the shout out to Fon du lac, had family in prison there.

    Eddie Padilla

    There's still a bunch of great artist out there-have you listen to 'city and colour'?

    Mathis Philip

    Well there's a lot of great artists, I like John Moreland, one of the best around

  63. sandra sword


  64. cricket61161

    This album was released on my birthday which is a cool coincidence.  For me it has everything, passion, honesty, happiness and heartbreak.  If you don't feel these songs in your heart and/or gut then that's your thing.  Glad I'm not like you.  

  65. Timothy Clarke

    I moved to Sweden last year and it was a hard time. I felt so far from home and at times everything felt overwhelming and alien. Through the bitter and dark winter I found a home in this song. Thank you Jason. 

  66. Franky Layne

    Wow! Can this guy write a song or what hey?

  67. WhiteRussianrock

    I was seriously bummed when Jason didn't play this when I saw him in Michigan this past July. He was third on the bill with Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss and Union Station, so his set was woefully short. I need to see him again in a headlining gig.

  68. Nor Wester

    ... The lyrics to this song are simply BRILLIANT and chillingly beautiful (Is it a cover???)...  His lyrics/singing are haunting and I absolutely LOVE he and his wife and their band... everything about him is just what I've been looking for lately.  Guys like Jason, Ray Lamontagne, Dallas Green and Darrell Scott are making me happy to know that brilliant lyricism and music from the heart still exists in this bubble-gum pop world we're living in.   

    Bad Tux

    Not a cover. It's Jason's own song. Jason Isbell was always a talented young man, there's a reason why the Drive By Truckers named an entire album after one of his songs. But now that he's sober and matured somewhat, it's like he turned the volume up to 11 on that talent. 

    Nor Wester

    @Bad Tux Very cool... makes this song even MORE impressive IMO, and thanks for the info mate.  It's just so  BRILLIANT, the lyrics are just... it's BRILLIANT. You can just feel the raw emotion and passion coming out of every single note of his voice and every tasteful note of the guitar (he has GREAT feel/touch for playing and singing and complimenting himself perfectly).  I love his even more because this is the kind of music I've been wanting to hear a lot lately and when i "discovered him" (for myself), he just struck a chord with me and seeing as my wife plays fiddle, his music and these vids with his wife have helped me coax her into pulling it out again and playing with me... Makes me fall in love with her all over again.

    best to ya aye. 


    Bad Tux

    @D King You're welcome. I've covered Jason's career for some years, but for a while there it seemed he'd gotten into a bit of a rut. He'd have one or two good songs on an album, the rest would be okay, but not great. But this album, Southeastern... there are songs on this album that are so emotionally honest that they hit home like a lightning bolt. Being sober and being very much in love with his wife seem to have brought out the talent full force that I always suspected Jason had, but which only occasionally peered out in songs like "Decoration Day" or "Dress Blues" before.

    Jeremy Goetzke

    @Bad Tux aye, he's amazing

  69. Anthony Favaro

    There is not a bad song on this entire record. Amazing is an understatement. 

  70. Ron McIntyre

    Just saw Jason open for Ray Lamontagne in Portland Maine- I prefer Jason ! Great music! I am now a fan!

    Hughie Gibson

    Wow lucky you. I would love to see both those guys and you got them in one show! Isbell I think is one of the greatest songwriters today

    Nor Wester

    You lucky bastard... Wish they'd both come to Portland OR!!!!   Ray is another favorite of mine and to see the two of them in one show... WOW, that would be something I'd drive cross the country to see. 

    @Hughie Gibson Couldn't agree more.  I've only recently "discovered" him, but he is just AMAZING and guys like he and Ray make me happy to know that beautiful song-craft is still alive.  

    Hughie Gibson

    Check out Drive By Truckers, he was a member for years and after listening to Southeastern you can tell songs are his. God Damn Lonely Love is one of my favorites by him.

    sandra sword

    @Hughie Gibson my favorite also..

    Brian Beasley

    where'd they play? The state?? That is my favorite venue by far

  71. GunGuru

    Kind of morose, dark subject, but good vocal and guitar.

    M E

    morose: excellent word.

  72. scottied2003

    So dark it isn't even funny.  This is country to me :)

  73. mark hagen

    Funny how honest and "real" country music evokes images of dirt roads, pickup trucks, old dogs and honest people...  all without mentioning any of those things specifically.  God bless the real deal and honesty in music.  Amazing singer songwriter... Beautiful stuff! :)


    Your very subjective experience.

  74. Kandace Rodgers

    So honest and real.  Very nice.

  75. Willy James Williams

    Love it!

  76. jmfm0911

    If i could only bury her so deep.  
    Too much granite. 

    BK Williamson

    Yeah... LOL  Too much Limestone here.

  77. RMFTideFan

    This song can only be described with one word... Haunting.

  78. Nila Atkins

    Heard Jason Isbell, sing this on Austin City Limits. And fell in love with it.

  79. CZWRulz85

    It's so great to find a genuine song writer when so much music these days seems to be processed and pre-packaged for a certain market or demographic. I stopped listening to country music years ago because what gets played on the radio seems so stereotypical and inauthentic to me. Though this song is somewhat stereotypical in its material, there is certainly an authenticity in its story of wrong-doing, remorse, and need for redemption. Every song on this album transcends lines of genre and demographic to talk about things that lay at the core of human experience. The album this song comes from really is one of the best albums I've ever heard.

  80. larry pryce

    Absolutely fantastic!

  81. Brian Odegaard

    Album of the year hands down.

  82. Goatllama

    Saw him on some morning talk show and immediately thought "oh great another boring artist"....... then I heard him sing and play and I cried a little at how wonderful it was.


    Goatllama he’s made me tear up on regular occasion

    Johnny Parker

    him and tyler childress is def. the shit !

    Johnny Parker

    thank god for the creek for playin him or i wouldnt have ever heard him

  83. Summer Sun

    Minus the crime, so reminds me of my husband

  84. Timothy Clarke

    classic country lyrics usually covers having to move across the country because your a bandit, hanging with the wrong bunch of guys and burying a women. this song covers all bases.

  85. Matthew Berryessa

    love his talent

  86. Justin Lyons

    Radio Station. the best there is.

  87. Trowa Barton

    +1 my friend, DBT's best album IMO. this is amazing too.

  88. gvrome

    Good stuff!

  89. J Cz

    What's NPR? He's as good as ever, still love The Dirty South DBT days...

  90. poorboyprince

    THANK GOD THERE IS STILL REAL MUSIC OUT THERE!!! And thank you, Mr. Isbell, for being an agent of that real music: it's gotta be hard to ply a career in the face of all the fakery, but this music is true and honest and inspiring and I can't get enough of it. Bravo, sir!

  91. Lauren Stottmann

    I have so much respect for a good vocalist, but more for a song-writer. This guy is a poet/great writer. Not many like him anymore. Love love love!

  92. Mikeg198477

    Such haunting yet beautiful words. This song accomplishes what music should do.

  93. casey

    drive by truckers got me here, he was in the band for a bit

  94. SafderRaza

    thanks NPR!

  95. Jeff Curtis

    I also heard him tonight on NPR, must have been a repeat. Congrats on his recovery and yours also Megan. I also am in recovery, seven years. He sure has a way with his music. I'll have to share it with my recovery friends.

  96. Jason Rash

    COUNTRY IS BACK!!!! THANK YOU JASON ISBELL. Please continue onward, you are doing it right sir, very right indeed.

  97. Jason Rash

    same here, fell in love via NPR hahah