The 4 Important Details About Jimmy Buffett’s Last Album
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / Youtube
Jimmy Buffett, the legendary singer-songwriter, known for his iconic ‘Margaritaville’ and a career spanning decades, graced us with his 32nd studio album, Equal Strain on All Parts, just weeks before his untimely passing on September 1, 2023.
This album, released on November 3rd, holds special significance not only as the final chapter in Buffett’s remarkable career but also as a testament to his unwavering passion for music, even in the face of personal struggles.
Jimmy’s journey was one of resilience and unwavering commitment to his craft. Privately, he fought a battle against Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. Yet, he continued to tour and write new music, proving that his love for creating and sharing music remained undiminished.
Equal Strain on All Parts is a collection of 14 tracks that not only bear witness to Buffett’s enduring spirit but also showcase his musical versatility and deep-rooted connections within the industry.
Here we dive deep into the stories, the artists, and the emotions that make this album a tribute to the enduring spirit of a musical legend.
1. Buffett’s Bob Dylan Tribute
One of the standout gems on Equal Strain on All Parts is Jimmy Buffett’s soulful rendition of Bob Dylan’s 1976 classic, “Mozambique”. This track carries a unique significance, not only for its musical prowess but also for the emotions it stirs. Buffett’s version, enlivened by the hauntingly beautiful voice of Emmylou Harris, takes the listener on a laidback escapade through the southern African nation.
The lyrics come alive as Buffett and Harris sing, “I like to spend some time in Mozambique / The sunny sky is aqua blue / And all the couples dancing cheek to cheek / It’s very nice to stay a week or two / And maybe fall in love, just me and you”.
What makes this cover even more enchanting is the history of mutual admiration between Jimmy Buffett and Bob Dylan. In 2009, Dylan expressed his appreciation for Buffett’s songwriting, considering him one of his favorite songwriters. In particular, he singled out Buffett’s “Death of an Unpopular Poet” and “He Went to Paris” as personal favorites.
Buffett’s interpretation of “Mozambique” encapsulates the heart and soul of Equal Strain on All Parts, providing a perfect starting point for diving into the other musical treasures hidden within this final masterpiece of a musical legend.
2. Exploring the Album’s Composition
Equal Strain on All Parts is a musical beachside journey that spans 14 captivating tracks, each with its own unique story to tell. The album offers a diverse soundscape, showcasing the depth of Jimmy Buffett’s artistry and his ability to draw inspiration from a variety of sources.
Recorded at Shrimpboat Sound Studios in the picturesque Key West, Florida, and with additional recording at Blackbird Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, Equal Strain on All Parts resonates with the essence of these locations. It’s a delightful blend of coastal serenity and the vibrant energy of the Music City.
Two members of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band, Mac McAnally and Michael Utley, took on the role of co-producers, infusing the album with a sense of authenticity and continuity. This collaboration with his longtime band members creates a seamless transition from his earlier works while adding a fresh perspective to the new compositions.
The album is boosted by the presence of Buffett’s notable co-writers. Among them is “Honorary Reefer” Will Kimbrough, an Americana guitarist and vocalist whose influence is unmistakable in several tracks. There’s also the collaboration with Mac McAnally, whose musical partnership with Buffett has stood the test of time. Author Carl Hiaasen’s involvement, co-writing the intriguingly titled “Fish Porn,” adds a unique dimension to the album’s storytelling.
- “University of Bourbon Street” (featuring Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
- “Bubbles Up”
- Audience of One
- “My Gummie Just Kicked In”
- “Close Calls”
- “Equal Strain On All Parts”
- “Like My Dog”
- “Ti Punch Café” (featuring Angelique Kidjo)
- “Portugul or PEI” (featuring Lennie Gallant, Will Kimbrough)
- “Nobody Works On Friday”
- “Fish Porn”
- “Johnny’s Rhum”
- “Mozambique” (featuring Emmylou Harris)
3. Paul McCartney’s Bass Magic
One of the most delightful surprises within Buffett’s album comes in the form of a distinct rhythm section. It’s the unmistakable bass groove that underscores the track “My Gummie Just Kicked In”. And the bassist? None other than the legendary Paul McCartney.
The presence of the Beatle on the bass guitar adds a layer of magic to the album. The collaboration not only speaks volumes of the unique connections that the “Margaritaville” singer fostered in his illustrious career but also a heartwarming anecdote of a shared dinner party.
The music video for “My Gummie Just Kicked In” offers a glimpse into the recording process. We witness Buffett and a group of talented artists, including McCartney, in the studio, bringing the track to life.
Following Buffett’s untimely passing, McCartney shared a heartfelt letter about his friend on his social media pages. In this letter, McCartney not only acknowledged their shared experiences but also paid homage to Buffett’s “amazing lust for life and beautiful sense of humor”.
4. The Significance of “Bubbles Up”
Amidst the diverse tracks that make up Equal Strain on All Parts, one song that stands out for its emotional depth and lyrical significance is the acoustic ballad “Bubbles Up”. Co-written with Kimbrough, this track carries a profound metaphorical message and showcases Buffett’s exceptional storytelling abilities.
“Bubbles Up” is a lyrical exploration of resilience and hope. The term “bubbles up” itself carries a nautical meaning—it refers to the technique used by sailors to find their way to the water’s surface when a boat has capsized. It’s a symbol of finding a lifeline and a path to safety even in the darkest of times.
The lyrics of “Bubbles Up” go beyond the literal interpretation of this phrase. They become a metaphor for life’s challenges and uncertainties. When faced with adversity or confusion, the song encourages us to look up to the light, to follow the metaphorical bubbles that will lead us to the surface, providing clarity and a way forward. The message is clear: no matter how deep the waters, there is always a way to rise, to find hope and direction.
McCartney had high praise for “Bubbles Up”. He described it as one of the best vocals he’d ever heard from Buffett, emphasizing not only the song’s greatness but also the vocal performance’s exceptional quality.