Posts Tagged ‘Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’

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“Georgia Blue” is a labour of love. On election day 2020, when I saw that there was a good chance the state of Georgia might go blue, I came up with an idea: to record an album of Georgia-related songs as a thank you to the state and donate the money to a Georgia based non-profit organization.

I will admit my motivations were a bit selfish. For years, I’ve been looking for an excuse to record these songs with my band and some friends. The songs on this album are some of my favorite Georgia-related songs, but the track-list is not meant to be comprehensive. I would love to cover Outkast and 2 Chainz, but I don’t think the finished product would be very good. We’re a rock band, so we covered rock songs. We have roots in blues and R&B, so we enlisted some brilliant artists to help us pull off songs by Precious Bryant, James Brown, and Gladys Knight.

My favorite part of the Georgia Blue recording process was having the opportunity to work with these very special artists, and I thank them: Amanda Shires, Brittney Spencer, Adia Victoria, Brandi Carlile, Julien Baker, Béla Fleck, Chris Thile, Steve Gorman, Peter Levin, and John Paul White.

I hope you enjoy listening to these recordings as much as we enjoyed making them. Keep listening to good music and fighting the good fight. Jason Isbell 

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

Releases October 15th, 2021

jason Isbell continued to stake his claim as Nashville’s most empathetic wordsmith with his seventh album. A slightly more subdued production than 2018’s stormy The Nashville Sound, the LP still cuts deep lyrically with ballads like “Only Children” and “Dreamsicle” — “New sneakers on a high school court/And you swore you’d be there,” he sings in the latter. The impassioned “Be Afraid” takes aim at silence in the wake of injustice, with Isbell proclaiming, “If your words add up to nothing, then you’re making a choice.” Isbell’s keen self-awareness has always been a core component of his work, and like the hard-fought sobriety he chronicled in “It Gets Easier,” he doesn’t always have the answers.

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires have spent most of 2020 in their Nashville attic, playing half-improvised cover songs and telling charmingly rambling stories to their webcam. This isn’t how things were supposed to go. Isbell, along with Shires and the rest of his 400 Unit band, had just come out with Reunions, one more album of crowd-pleasing country-rockers and quietly devastating laments. They should be playing big outdoor amphitheaters, where they thrive. But maybe it’s better this way. This way, you can sob to yourself while hearing a wrenching fatherhood song like “Letting You Go” without worrying about anyone else in the crowd seeing you.

On “Reunions”, he is willing to keep pushing forward anyway. Reunions, the seventh studio album from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit is a powerful and reflective release. Whereas the album was created on the heels of the anxiety caused by commercial and audience expectations, Reunions lacks any notes of trepidation. Rather, Isbell and the 400 Unit revel in strength and collectivity.

That album is fueled by explosive solos and back-and-forths, finding the musicians garnering inspiration in each other’s talents. This sense of unity is also channelled outward. “What’ve I Done to Help” ponders the role of the individual, especially as guilt and hopelessness seem so overpowering. More so, on “Be Afraid” he defends the use of his cultural platform and music to trumpet his political beliefs. For Isbell, the strength he demonstrates now is the result of his struggles. Contending with sobriety, parenthood, and childhood trauma, Isbell delivers his lyrics as a testament affirming that trials often lead to empowerment. The message is universal and a poignant rumination in 2020’s wake.

His winning streak continues. whether solo or with the fantastic 400 unit, Jason Isbell puts out fantastic music.

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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.

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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

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.

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In addition to his new album, Jason Isbell unveiled the lead single, “Be Afraid,” as well as a tour with dates that run from February until September. and span headlining shows to festivals. Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and musician Jason Isbell and his band the 400 Unit will release their highly anticipated new album, “Reunions”, May 15th via Spunk Records. Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb and recorded at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, the album features 10 new songs written by Isbell including album track, “Be Afraid,”.

Reunions is Isbell’s seventh full-length studio album and the fourth released with his band, the 400 UnitDerry deBorja (piano, keyboard, organ, omnichord), Chad Gamble (drums, tambourine), Jimbo Hart (bass), Amanda Shires (fiddle) and Sadler Vaden (acoustic guitar, electric guitar). The new album also includes background vocals from special guests David Crosby (Crosby, Stills & Nashthe Byrds) and Jay Buchanan (Rival Sons)..

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit have shared a new song from their forthcoming album Reunions which is out May 15. “Only Children” is spare and somber and quite lovely.

“There are a lot of ghosts on this album,” Isbell said in a press release. “Sometimes the songs are about the ghosts of people who aren’t around anymore, but they’re also about who I used to be, the ghost of myself. I found myself writing songs that I wanted to write 15 years ago, but in those days, I hadn’t written enough songs to know how to do it yet. Just now have I been able to pull it off to my own satisfaction. In that sense, it’s a reunion with the me I was back then.”

Of the release, Isbell shares, “There are a lot of ghosts on this album. Sometimes the songs are about the ghosts of people who aren’t around anymore, but they’re also about who I used to be, the ghost of myself. I found myself writing songs that I wanted to write fifteen years ago, but in those days, I hadn’t written enough songs to know how to do it yet. Just now have I been able to pull it off to my own satisfaction. In that sense it’s a reunion with the me I was back then.”

Originally from Green Hill, Alabama and now based in Nashville, Isbell is widely renowned as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. Since the release of his breakthrough solo album, Southeastern, in 2013,

NPR Music calls him, “one of the finest singer-songwriters working at the intersection of folk, country and rock today,” and continues, “his songs have an exquisite, rawboned realism and deeply embedded class consciousness,” while American Songwriter declares, “There’s no better songwriter on the planet at this moment, no one operating with the same depth, eloquence or feeling” and USA Today proclaims, “he has developed into one o the great American songwriters…in a world where most pop songs are lies, Isbell is determined to find truth.”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit “Be Afraid” Southeastern Records marketed and distributed by Thirty Tigers

Jason Isbell’s seventh solo album, “Reunions”, will be released on May 15th.

jason isbell the nashville sound

Jason Isbell and his band The 400 Unit performed a pair of tracks from their forthcoming album “The Nashville Sound” exclusively for a Kansas City, Mo., radio station in preparation for the album’s June release.

Among the songs performed are “Cumberland Gap” and “If We Were Vampires” two very different tracks that still manage to capture the same amount of raw emotion. “Cumberland Gap” bears similarities to “Hope The High Road” which was the first track released from the record, while “If We Were Vampires” is a more somber tune.

The former Drive By Trucker member broke through with his 2013 release “Southeastern” which we described as “grounded throughout in brittle acoustics and modest, winning melodies.” Isbell’s next effort—the marvelous “Something More Than Free” was equally captivating. We can only assume that his next record will be as carefully crafted as his these past releases.

Muscle Shoals, Alabama band Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit performs ‘Cumberland Gap’ in TV Studio A at KCPT in Kansas City, Missouri. for the 90.9 FM The Bridge

The Nashville Sound is set to be released on June 16th.