Posts Tagged ‘Amanda Shires’

Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell performed “The Problem” on `The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon’ this past Friday, January 22nd, 2021.

“The Problem,” featuring Isbell, was released last year to critical praise on International Safe Abortion Day, with proceeds benefitting The Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama. The Tonight Show performance coincided with two important events: The release of a new version of “Our Problem” featuring a variety of world-renowned female artists including Cyndi Lauper, Angie Stone, K.Flay, Lilly Hiatt, Linda Perry, Morgane Stapleton, Nona Hendryx, Peaches and Valerie June. Sheryl Crow is on bass, Isbell is on guitar, with Peter Levin on keys and Chris Powell on drums.

“I’m very grateful to have so many of my sisters joining me for ‘Our Problem.’ The issue of women’s rights and reproductive health affects us all. ‘Our Problem’ represents women of all generations, musical genres, and communities. Music has the power to bridge gaps and bring people together and I hope that ‘Our Problem’ reminds you that we are all in this world together and that we can be there for one another no matter what. You are never alone and I’m on your side.”

The other event was the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision which gives women in America the right to legal abortion. To help mark this special collaboration, Shires has created an “I’m On Your Side” filter accessible on her Instagram page. She is inviting fans to send in videos of themselves singing or lip syncing “Our Problem,” which she will cut together into a full video.

Gena Johnson: background vocals Jennifer Decilveo: additional production (vocals and synth) Musicians: Sheryl Crow – Bass Jason Isbell – Guitar Peter Levin – Keys Chris Powell – Drums

Written by: Amanda Shires

candy lunch

Following up on her highly acclaimed Trinity Lane LP (2017), singer-songwriter Lilly Hiatt drops a vivid new video for her single “Candy Lunch”. Directed and edited by Joshua Britt and Neilson Hubbard, the film uses its colour palette to carry the storyteller’s reflections. Although stunning in its brightness, for the most part, the camera’s focus remains on the raconteur. Which in turn provides the kind of intimacy the deeply personal lyrics deserve.

“Candy Lunch” is from the songwriter’s 2020 album, ‘Walking Proof’, out now via New West Records. And according to a label statement, the set is produced by one time Cage the Elephant guitarist Lincoln Parish and features a first-time collaboration with Hiatt’s father, the legendary songwriter-performer John Hiatt. As well as contributions by friends Amanda Shires (The Highwomen) and the famed Aaron Lee Tasjan.

Check out the new video and make sure to follow the links for album updates and details. And spend some time feasting your eyes on the beautiful psychedelic artwork by Kim Radford. Written by Lilly Hiatt

Last month, Amanda Shires released “The Problem” in recognition of International Safe Abortion Day. The riveting ballad, featuring her husband Jason Isbell, confronted the stigmas associated with reproductive rights, and over the weekend “The Problem” received the live video treatment from Isbell and Shires.

Shires said the song was originally written in 2016 and narrated by a group of women discussing the decision to have an abortion. “Its first incarnation was talking about another girl’s abortion. It just struck me that it’s not something we all talk about, and it should be something that we talk about,” Shires in a telephone interview. “And when you hear people talk about it, you usually hear ‘em describing somebody else — whether it’s really somebody else or ‘asking for a friend,’ you never really know.”

Instead, Shires uses a young couple’s conversation about whether to have an abortion to propel the song, echoing her own experience with abortion in her late 20s. The husband-and-wife team are gearing up to hit the road for a run of acoustic duo performances next month. On November 5th, Isbell and Shires will play a drive-in show at Maggie Valley Festival Grounds in North Carolina, as well as a two-night run of “pod” concerts at The Bend in Charleston, SC on November 6th and 7th.

The video features a familiar sight for fans of Isbell, Shires, and Peter Levin‘s “I So Lounging” series, as the power couple performs from their house just outside of Nashville, TN. While the sound of the video is markedly similar to the single released last month, the performance video provides added emotion to the already-wrenching song. Throughout Shires and Isbell’s back-and-forth vocals, they return to a refrain of “I’m on your side.” While only four simple words, this provides a backbone to the message of standing by and supporting those affected by the fight for women’s rights.

Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell perform “The Problem.” Recorded live at the barn.

jason isbell, jason isbell 400 unit, jason isbell red rocks 2017, jason isbell bandcamp, jason isbell live album, jason isbell amanda shires, jason isbell red rocks amphitheater

One of the best things to come out of this weird year is all the Jason Isbell live albums, and here’s another one. This one’s from the iconic Red Rocks amphitheatre, and as usual, you get to stream one song for free (“Anxiety”), and you have to purchase it to hear the other 18.

Fans are now able to relive Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit‘s September 2017 concert at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater, as the entire performance has been shared to their Bandcamp for streaming and digital download. Entitled, Live At Red Rocks – Morrison, CO – 9/7/17, the 20-track live album is the latest archive audio to be released to Isbell’s Bandcamp, which includes Live at the CMA Theater released last month.

The September 7th, 2017 concert at the famous outdoor amphitheater included performances of “Anxiety”, “Alabama Pines”, “White Man’s World”, “Cumberland Gap”, “Stockholm”, “Cover Me Up”, and “If We Were Vampires” to name a few. Isbell’s band for the evening included his wife and fiddle player Amanda Shires, bassist Jimbo Hart, guitarist Sadler Vaden, drummer Chad Gamble, and pianist/singer Derry de Borja.


Recorded live at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO on 9/7/17

released August 7th, 2020

The Band:
Jason Isbell – Vocals, Guitar
Amanda Shires – Fiddle, Vocals
Jimbo Hart – Bass, Vocals
Sadler Vaden – Guitar, Vocals
Chad Gamble – Drums, Vocals
Derry deBorja – Keys, Vocals

The Nashville Sound may have been Jason Isbell’s return to making 400 Unit albums (though the members did play on Southeastern and Something More Than Free), but Reunions captures the energy of the band’s live show in ways its predecessor didn’t. Reunions is populated with fiery, show-stealing guitar solos, explosive hard rock choruses, and moments where all the musicians sound like they’re feeding off of each other at once in a way that nears jam band territory. There’s still as much Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen on Reunions as there was on the last album, Reunions is full of stuff that would sound wildly out of fashion in a lesser songwriter’s hands, but Jason Isbell makes this music sound entirely relevant. He takes notes from the classic rock canon, but not in a way that comes off as reactionary to modern music. He makes familiar sounds feel fresh, he fills a void you might not’ve realized was there, and his subject matter resonates so much right now that these songs never feel like they’re from any time but the present.

This is a fantastic performance. Loved watching it, and now get to listen anywhere, anytime! Can’t wait until touring starts again!


Recorded live at Brooklyn Bowl Nashville on May 15th, 2020 to celebrate the release of ‘Reunions.’
Jason Isbell – Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Amanda Shires – Fiddle, Vocals
Released June 19th, 2020

Setlist and Full Show Video: Jason Isbell Performs Entire ‘Reunions’ LP with Amanda Shires at Crowdless Brooklyn Bowl Nashville

Jason Isbell has not let the COVID-19 outbreak get in the way of celebrating his brand new album “Reunions”. Subbing in his creative collaborator and wife Amanda Shires for his 400 Unit band, Isbell performed the entirety of Reunions at the Brooklyn Bowl Nashville on Friday night, marking the live debut of almost every track as well as the first-ever live performance at the nascent venue.

Isbell and Shires enlisted to help virtually populate the almost-empty room, as hundreds of fans tuned in via Zoom sending applause and messages to the duo,“Hey everybody I see y’all,” Isbell said waving to a screen filled with fans tuning in “…This crowd is ready.” “When people put new music out during this time it brings so much good to my life on the daily,” Shires added later in the performance, turning to Isbell. “And I know we could use more records. So I’m glad yours is out now.”

In addition to the slew of new music, Isbell used his encore to cover Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer” and look back at his own “Cover Me Up” from 2013’s Southeastern.

Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires
May 15th, 2020
Brooklyn Bowl, Nashville –  Crowdless Performance Broadcast Live by

Setlist :
What’ve I Done to Help*, Dreamsicle*, Only Children*, Overseas, Running with Our Eyes Closed*, River*, Be Afraid, St. Peter’s Autograph*, It Gets Easier*, Letting You Go*
Enc: Mutineer^, Cover Me Up

Jason Isbell Variety Magazine Feature

Can someone learn from their past without being beleaguered by it? Is change something measured in footsteps, days sober, or something less tangible? These are all questions that Jason Isbell poses, and some of which he answers, on his latest album with The 400 Unit, “Reunions”.

The Nashville-based, Alabama-native singer-songwriter has traced a long and storied path to get to this, his seventh studio record and fourth alongside The Unit. From cutting his teeth with Drive-By Truckers in the late 2000s, to his departure from that group, hitting rock bottom, and finding salvation on 2013’s Southeastern, Isbell has seen quite a bit. One of the things that made him such an attractive songwriter was his ability to bring listeners in on that arc of rise, fall, and redemption. Now, with the release of Reunions, he begins to tell a new story.

Reunions, featuring 10 new songs, is a grab bag of material from Isbell. Some of it is the tried-and-true storytelling of his turbulent past, while some looks to his bright present of family life and critical acclaim, and still more look to realities completely bereft of Isbell himself. Reunions marks the evolution of an artist uncomplacent with doing what’s easy and restless enough to risk making some mistakes.

The album’s opening track, “What’ve I Done to Help”, finds Isbell still wrestling with his past and the resulting life it has created. While this isn’t the down-and-out Isbell to which audiences are privy, this is a much more cogent singer who acknowledges that all of these long-standing problems won’t go away just because “I kept my head down and showed up to work on time.”

Then, take a song like “Dreamsicle”, which again looks to the past but goes back a little further. From a turbulent childhood filled with cross country moves and frequent goodbyes to friends, “Dreamsicle” lays the emotional groundwork for songs closer to Isbell’s present self. With lines like, “I’ll be 18 four years from now/ with different friends in a different town/ I’ll finally be free,” Isbell offers a tender glimpse into a troubled childhood paramount to his adult formation.

Obviously, the lyrics are the focal point of Isbell’s music, but Reunions sets itself apart musically as well as lyrically. Take a song like “Overseas”, for example, with an opening guitar solo that comes roaring in like it’s a Tom Petty track. Isbell even poked fun at his musical maturation on Twitter the day the album was released, revealing that he wrote and recorded all of Reunions without using a capo. “How’s that for a folksinger and songwriter?” he asked.

Then, on Reunions, there’s a mysterious song-writing element that ties itself to Isbell as well as non-literal characters. “River” focuses on a protagonist who finds his saviour in the form of a river. The river tends to Isbell, hears his secrets, “wash my head when I’ve been sinning/wash my knuckles when they bleed.” As our character is saved by the dutiful protection of the river, the final stanza ends with the line, “and last night I woke up screaming at my wife.” This is immediately proceeded by a fiddle run from none other than Amanda Shires, Isbell’s wife.

This is not the lone reference to Isbell’s better half, for the song “St. Peter’s Autograph” is about Shires grieving over the passing of friend Neal Casal. Isbell said of the song in a recent New York Times profile, “I was trying to say, ‘It’s all right to grieve the parts of your relationship you might think I’d be upset or jealous about.’”

The role that Isbell and Shires’ domestic life plays in Reunions is unavoidable and unmistakable. It also represents the side of Isbell that looks optimistically toward the future, with a wife and a child, rather than constantly back at his destructive past. While Jason Isbell is not ready to give up that past just yet, Reunions shows the progress of a man who has learned from his mistakes, but is not defined by them.

In “Mr. Tillman” the single off his 2018 LP God’s Favorite CustomerFather John Misty sings through a bizarre conversation he had with the person working the desk of his hotel. Jason Isbell makes a cameo shortly after a member of the hotel staff casually mentions Tillman has a few outstanding charges and that Tillman left his passport in his room’s mini fridge: “Did you and your guests have a pleasant stay? What a beautiful tattoo that young man had on his face / And oh, will you need a driver out to Philly? Jason Isbell’s here as well and he seemed a little worried about you.”

Isbell later joked about the instance on Twitter, but refrained from popping out for a cameo when Misty — a.k.a Josh Tillman — played “Mr. Tillman” at Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park on Wednesday night (June 19th) and was met with a round of cheers when he sang through the verse.

A year after Father John Misty unveiled God’s Favorite Customer, Isbell and his band, the superlative 400 Unit (which includes renowned fiddle player Amanda Shires, Isbell’s wife), find themselves on the road with Father Misty and Jade Bird. The trek is proving to be an ideal match-up for two of the best songwriters in American rock, and they have plenty in common — to the point where it’s shocking no one’s made the call to pair them up on a co-headlining tour before.

Pristine tenors with exceptional musical acumen aside, Tillman and Isbell share a brave propensity to stare, unblinkingly, into the churn of crisis. Disintegrating relationships, loosening grips on mental health, the pressures that come with striving to be a good partner (and father, in Isbell’s case), and facing all of the above in a world gone mad and growing madder by the minute — none of this is off-limits or too far afield for either songwriter. Isbell’s “White Man’s World” from 2017’s The Nashville Sound is a master class in this allergy to bullshit put to paper, and the song directly confronts the racism, sexism and classism that shaped the American experiment in a radical call for empathy. Even his contribution to the soundtrack for A Star Is Born, “Maybe It’s Time,” throws to this (and played over well in Brooklyn).

Tillman explores the consequences of these destructive forces across both 2017’s Pure Comedyand God’s Favorite Customer, and though he’s the one who called the planet a “godless rock that refuses to die” (on Pure Comedy’s “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution”), it could’ve been an Isbell line. On their own terms, they each unpack the scariest issues of the moment while condensing them into songs listeners can absorb and sing along to, as both artists were met with a near-constant sing-along from the crowd of 5,000 that gathered to join them in the rain in Prospect Park.

But neither Isbell nor Tillman remained fixated on the doom and gloom, and both managed to keep from overwhelming the masses by working plenty of swoon-worthy balladry and deeply funny banter into their sets. Tillman and Isbell’s love songs are just as potent as the discourse of their heaviest cuts, and those remain rapturous crowd pleasers on this current jaunt. Isbell rarely plays “Cover Me Up” if Shires isn’t present (which, given her own career and the touring it requires, can lead to weeks or months apart), but when she is, it’s a breathtaking duet and an intimate glimpse into the love they share.

The finale “If We Were Vampires” has them both considering their mortality while celebrating the eternity of their love, and was just as stunning. 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear was one long love letter to his wife, Emma, and Tillman soared through the songs off that album that directly pull from significant moments their marriage, from the moment they met (set closer “I Went to the Store One Day”) to their wedding and honeymoon (“Chateau Lobby #4 [in C for Two Virgins],” complete with mariachi interlude courtesy of his killer brass section).

In between songs, Isbell and Tillman kept their musings brief (and briefer than most would’ve liked, as one dude in the crowd actually screamed “I WANT BANTER!” five songs into Tillman’s set). Isbell praised Tillman and his band, joking that they played “songs that I can listen to where I don’t get mad” from backstage; Tillman praised Isbell and Bird in turn, but first took a few minutes to try to find a hair tie for his mane and requested a scrunchie, which one fan happily met. (He was surprised that he wasn’t met with “a blizzard of scrunchies,” which, same.)

The new material popped, too: though the well-worn gems from their catalogues were roundly applauded, both Isbell and Misty — who’ve been hard at work on the follow-ups to both The Nashville Sound and God’s Favorite Customer — played brand new material. Isbell’s “Overseas” is clearly a throw to making a relationship work across long distances (“Does your heart rest easy where you are? / Do they treat you like a star?”), while Misty’s fresh cuts (name TBD) offered a stylistic gear-shift with ‘80s synths, harmonica solos and a drum beat Ronnie Spector would covet. In spite of the dreary weather a Misty night for Misty and Co, Isbell, Tillman and the magnificent musicians that join them onstage each night proved that they should’ve circled their tour buses a long time ago. We’re all the luckier they finally did just that.

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, playing a musical instrument and night

“It’s all rock & roll – no golf!” is how singer/songwriter/violinist Amanda Shires describes her electrifying album, To The Sunset. She’s borrowed a lyric from the track “Break Out the Champagne,” one of ten deftly crafted songs that comprise her powerful new recording.

The seventh full-length from this fiddle-playing singer-songwriter is also her first as a mother,  “if anyone expected sentimentality, her writing’s just gotten bolder, with arrangements that stretch the definition of ‘Americana’ to the point of meaninglessness. ‘Parking Lot Pirouette’ opens the set like an aerial shot, zooming in on a romantic moment outside a bar, framing it in cosmic terms against a 3/4 waltz pulse, with shivering organ clouds and trippy electric guitar from [husband Jason] Isbell. It’s more Pink Floyd than Floyd Tillman.”

It’s been a jam-packed since the release of Shires’ critically hailed My Piece of Land: constant touring with her band and as a member of husband Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit; winning the Americana Association’s 2017 Emerging Artist award. Armed with stacks of journals, she wrote a batch of new songs in a flurry of focus and solitude – in a closet at the Shires/Isbell abode. “With a two-year-old running around, there’s nowhere to hide,” Shires explains. While Isbell watched their daughter, she wrote all night: “I just started writing and tearing apart my journals and taping the parts I liked to the wall, and shredding the rest and putting it into my compost, which I then feed to my garden.”


Released August 3rd, 2018

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When you’re an artist like Jason Isbell, the bar gets set higher and higher with each and every new album release, creating a tough hurdle for his album The Nashville Sound. Though he has established himself as one of the all-time greats in the world of songwriting during his time with the band Drive-By Truckers and over the course of three solo albums to date, it didn’t seem like a broader fanbase opened up to him until his 2013 LP, Southeastern. Isbell ripped his heart right out of his chest and slapped it on your turntable so you could hear every ounce of pain and sorrow, every ounce of joy and happiness, that he had experienced up until that point. The grooves of his arteries showcased a delicate artist, one who could capture the story of falling in love in a matter of minutes, or highlight the depths of pain that cancer brings to a relationship.

The Nashville Sound finds a recharged Isbell waving the flag for his adopted hometown’s left-of-center roots musicians. The city has changed markedly since his arrival, with exports like Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price challenging the public’s perception of what Nashville – a town whose very name remains synonymous with mainstream country music – actually sounds like. His roots sunk deep into the Tennessee ground, Isbell digs in for his biggest, boldest album to date, one that skirts the tired trends of Top 40 twang and, instead, sets a new watermark for accessible, articulate Americana.

Once again, the songs were written at home – this time in a modest place somewhere south of the city limits – with Amanda Shires pulling triple duty as muse, editor and bandmate. Also contributing to the album’s pointed punch are the 400 Unit’s Sadler Vaden, Chad Gamble, Derry DeBorja and Jimbo Hart, all of them whittled into sharp shape after touring in support of Southeastern and its chart-topping follow-up, Something More Than Free. For the first time since 2011’s Here We Rest, Isbell’s backing band receives co-billing on the album – a move that’s well-deserved.

There was something about his songwriting on Southeastern that perhaps felt more accessible than ever before with new and old fans alike, and since 2013, the expectations for Isbell have continued to rise to seemingly unachievable levels. Yet, a couple of years following Southeastern he met and exceeded those expectations with the Grammy-winning album, Something More Than Free. And now, in 2017, Isbell is facing the most anticipation he has likely ever faced in his career with the release of The Nashville Sound.

Isbell is a master storyteller, he’s also a master autobiographer, and opening The Nashville Sound is a pensive look at, potentially, his own career and life. As he sings “Am I the last of my kind?” over and over, he’s asking an honest question, one that could easily be applied to the musical world in which he lives. But it’s also a question that he could be applying vicariously to the working class across the country, those who convinced themselves that they were the forgotten minority leading up to last year’s election cycle. And still, it could simply be an homage to the great John Prine, a living legend whom Isbell (and his wife and member of the 400 Unit, Amanda Shires) has grown closer and closer with over the last few years.

The same interpretive trajectory could be placed on any of the songs found on The Nashville Sound. The flat-out rocker, “Cumberland Gap,” has one of the greatest lines of any Isbell tune—“As soon as the sun goes done / I find my way to the Mustang Lounge / And if you don’t sit facing the window, you could be in any town” — and while one fan might interpret that as a nod to the indistinguishable similarities found in Small Town U.S.A., another may go deeper and look at the overall theme of the song as one that follows the struggles of an alcoholic, something Isbell knows a thing or two about.

That’s the beauty of a Jason Isbell tune, and even more, the beauty of a Jason Isbell album. In a recent interview, he said, “I have learned that the process of trying to figure out what my album is about is better suited to critics and listeners than to me,” and he leaves that door wide open on his latest effort.

The one thing that is not left to interpretation, though, is the completeness of The Nashville Sound. Never has Isbell constructed a more unabridged record than this; though fans and critics may enjoy jumping on one individual track and heralding it as Isbell’s crowning achievement, the real story with The Nashville Sound is simply how perfect it is as one cohesive, full LP.

The opening trio of songs includes the aforementioned “Last of My Kind” and “Cumberland Gap,” neatly wrapped up with “Tupelo,” a track that starts out by continuing the “struggles of an alcoholic” interpretation that preceded it. The most powerful movement on The Nashville Sound is found in the next few tracks, though, as Isbell and company — keyboardist Derry deBorja, drummer Chad Gamble, bassist Jimbo Hart, guitarist Sadler Vaden, and fiddler Amanda Shires — shine on “White Man’s World,” “If We Were Vampires,” and the magnum opus, “Anxiety.”

The former two tracks have been unveiled to fans prior to the album’s release, and both have been examined ever so closely. In “White Man’s World,” Isbell is clearly stating where he’s at in both the current political landscape and the music industry. The title itself beckons the listener to consider the results of the presidential election of 2016, but the lyric, “Momma wants to change that Nashville sound / But they’re never gonna let her,” seems to take aim at Music City.

That song is followed with what many are proclaiming to be one of Isbell’s most beautiful and heartbreaking tunes ever, “If We Were Vampires.” A reflective look at life, death, and love, “Vampires” is an emotional reminder of both Isbell’s and Shires’ staggering talent, being able to shift from a politically- and professionally-motivated track like “White Man’s World” to a crushing song like this, one that reveals more and more poignant depth with every spin.

“Anxiety,” though, is the song that will be discussed and praised by fans and critics a hundred years from now. It is Isbell’s masterpiece, and the most dynamic, well-rounded song on The Nashville Sound, not because it merely showcases the frontman’s talents (though it does), but because it highlights all of the powerful and moving aspects of the 400 Unit. From start to finish, every single instrument and note, every single lyric, joins together to create an achievement that serves as a reminder of the power of Americana music, and Isbell’s place in the genre’s history books.

As that second movement wraps up, the rest of the record flows smoothly into “Molotov,” the quintessential “song of the summer” if Isbell ever wrote one, and “Chaos and Clothes,” a song that we think was inspired by Isbell’s good friend, Ryan Adams. (We’re serious. Spend some time with the lyrics and compare it to the heartbreak that Adams has experienced over the last few years, coupled with the themes in “I See Monsters” from 2004’s Love Is Hell—not to mention the “black metal T-shirt” reference.)

From there, Isbell gives fans the final two tracks, “Hope the High Road” and “Something to Love,” the former highlighting his rock and roll personality and the latter his softer, singer-songwriter edge. That last track takes the thoughts of the opening tune and, though it doesn’t answer the question “Am I the last of my kind?,” it does provide the listener with a bit of guidance as the record comes to a close: “I hope you find something to love / Something to do when you feel like giving up / A song to sing or a tale to tell / Something to love, it’ll serve you well.”

If Isbell ever pondered giving up — if he ever truly questioned whether he is the last of his kind — he has found hope in singing songs and telling tales, and he has never told a more complete tale than that of The Nashville Sound. As the needle runs out on side B, you won’t be putting the record back in its sleeve; you’ll flip it back and start listening all over again as you try to determine what exactly that Nashville sound is, and why it’s so damn important.

“The Last of my Kind”
Opening the album on a mellow note, “The Last of my Kind” spins the sad story of an Arkansas native who loses himself – geographically, emotionally, mentally – within the big city. “Nobody here can dance like me / Everybody clapping on the one and three,” Isbell laments during the initial 30 seconds, delivering the album’s first of many killer lines. Behind him, the 400 Unit fades in and out, waiting until the song’s second half to make a proper entrance.

“Cumberland Gap”
File this pissed-off rocker beside “Decoration Day” and “Go It Alone.” Recasting himself as a boozehound in an Appalachian coal-mining town, Isbell feels angry and spiteful, his horizons filled with mountains whose peaks have been blasted away in search of cheapening coal. He funnels that fury through distorted guitars and an epic chorus, nodding to his days with the Drive-By Truckers along the way.

Isbell is on the move once again. This time, he’s driving back home, reeling from a bad breakup and a hard fall off the wagon. His plan? Finish the last of his “plastic cup of real good wine,” sober up and relocate to northern Mississippi, where “the summer is blistering, so there ain’t no one from here that’ll follow me there.” Punctuated by some swooning slide guitar, “Tupelo” is equal parts Southern soul and sad-eyed folk, the soundtrack for slow Sunday afternoons.

“White Man’s World”
Taking a hard look at his place in Trump’s America, Isbell tackles social privilege, gender politics and the desire to shield his daughter from the harsh realities of a country that remains divided along cultural lines. The anger is pointed and palpable here, hitting a high mark during the song’s solo section, where Isbell’s electric guitar and Amanda Shires‘ fiddle chase each other in fuming circles.

“If We Were Vampires”
The Nashville Sound’s stunning standout, “If We Were Vampires” shatters the love song’s familiar mold, focusing not on the never-ending power of Isbell’s affection for Shires, but the pair’s limited time together. “This can’t go on forever / Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone,” the two sing during the song’s chorus, acknowledging their own mortality. The real gut punch arrives during the second verse, though, where Isbell’s voice briefly falters, a sign of an emotional recording session.

A mid-tempo pop/rock song at its core, “Anxiety” is bookended by two sections of dramatic, guitar-driven crunch, like the musical manifestations of the unease that gives the song its name. On a track dominated by first-rate lyrics, it’s those instrumental breaks – particularly Sadler Vaden’s chromatic guitar riffs, which could’ve found a home on Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s Mojo – that steal the show.

Caught halfway between Tom Petty’s poppy punch, Bruce Springsteen’s anthemic nostalgia and R.E.M.’s ringing guitars, “Molotov” takes a look backward, setting its scene “in the year of the tiger, 19something.” “I hope you still see fire inside of me,” Isbell sings to a former flame, seconds after rhyming “three wishes” with “being facetious.” Well played.

“Chaos and Clothes”
“Chaos and Clothes” roots itself in the double-tracked vocals and fragile beauty of Elliott Smith’s bedroom recordings. It’s like nothing Isbell has ever made before, with soft, woozy textures replacing the bombast of the two songs that flank it. “You’re in the fight to the death, my friend,” he sings to the song’s narrator, a heartbroken single man struggling to forget the woman who’s left a trail of memories in his mind and the occasional garment in his apartment.

“Hope the High Road”
With a disappointing election behind them and an uncertain future on the horizon, Isbell and the 400 Unit mix politics with benevolence on this optimistic heartland rocker. “Wherever you are, I hope the high road leads you home again to a world you want to live in,” goes the final chorus, addressing the marginalized, the left out and the pissed-off.

“Something to Love”
A close cousin to Something More Than Free opener “If It Takes a Lifetime,” “Something to Love” unfolds like a front-porch folk song, mixing coed harmonies with brushed percussion and understated guitar. Here, Isbell sings to his toddler daughter, willing her the resolve, patience and curiosity needed to survive in modern times. “I don’t quite recognize the world you’ll call home,” he admits, urging her to “find what makes you happy, girl, and do it ’til you’re gone.” That’s good advice.