Posts Tagged ‘Reunions’

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!

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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 FANS.com 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 FANS.com

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.

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We could all use a little Jason Isbell right now. Thankfully, the Alabama-bred/Nashville-based country singer and beloved songwriter is right on time with a new album. His next project with his ace country-rock band the 400 Unit, “Reunions”, arrives next month, the follow-up to 2017’s critically adored The Nashville Sound. That album garnered them new attention in corners where they may have been previously unknown, but Isbell’s longtime fans have been lapping up his music for the better part of 20 years.

He’s never really made a bad album, either with his band or solo, so the bar is high for Reunions. So far, the singles have been both thoughtful and delicate (“Dreamsicle” and “Only Children” are introspective and nostalgic) as well as powerful and politically forthcoming in the vein of “White Man’s World” (“What’ve I Done To Help” and “Be Afraid” both examine our current moment with criticism and bite). Isbell is one of the most consistent songwriters of his day, and his music always has a lot of heart. Indeed, the hopes are high for this new album, but I have faith in Jason Isbell. He knows his way around a country song.

Southeastern Records. Released on:  27th March 2020.

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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.