Posts Tagged ‘Southeastern Records’

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One thing that Jason Isbell doesn’t always get to do is just rock the hell out. As a former member of Drive-By Truckers, and now as a solo artist, one picture of Isbell is as a thoughtful and introspective dude who documents the whole “Southern thing” as well as anyone going, while kind of keeping the amps dialed down.

That couldn’t be further from the truth on “Cumberland Gap,” the second single from his soon-to-be-released sixth album. With his former band The 400 Unit backing him up, Isbell blazes through the dusty and abandoned trails of the titular Appalachian pass. The song’s character at every turn and every squall of guitar is just trying to get out of Dodge. A small town’s bars are no longer an escape but another form of oppression. There’s not much wealth to be spread around. The mines have shut down, and one of the few opportunities for employment is to go fight in some bullshit war. It’s as though the man of “Outfit” has stuck around for too long and the realization has hit him like a ‘69 Chevy with a 396 going 80 mph. The Cumberland Gap swallowed his daddy up, and now it’s doing the same to him. It’s certainly one of the more darkly affective tunes Isbell has crafted, and absolutely one of this year’s best rock songs.

The Nashville Sound is out June 16th on Southeastern Records.

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This former Drive-By Trucker has been steadily and quietly improving since he first went solo in 2007, and we’re now to the point where he completely overshadows his old band. This album does a great job showing why. Isbell’s lyrics are warm and incisive and empathetic — quick, economical sketches of people in go-nowhere towns who rarely get to hear themselves depicted with this level of real-talk dignity. And his music is intuitive and lived-in. Isbell’s miles-deep baritone can be conversationally pleasant on the verses, but when he hits the chorus, it always wells up into something huge.

Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free (July 10th, Southeastern Records)

Former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell is one of alt-country’s most reliable voices, particularly in light of his modern classic SoutheasternTo follow-up that 2013 LP, Isbell reunited with its producer, Dave Cobb, for a collection of songs that examine life’s small details and big questions with the same level of astounding sincerity and humble wisdom. Isbell oftentimes sounds like frequent tourmate Ryan Adams during his Cardinals era, particularly when Isbell strips down his sound and lets himself get real blue in the spirit of the Southern literary tradition (see “Speed Trap Town,” then have a good cry). But he also sounds quite different (and traditional, in a classic country sense) when backed by a full band, oftentimes topped off by a piano, a fiddle, and strings.