Posts Tagged ‘The 400 Unit’

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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.

Fever Breaks Cover

Last fall, I went to Nashville and made a record. My friend Jason Isbell produced it and the 400 Unit backed me up. It was a blast to work on.

It’s a rainy November evening in Nashville and Josh Ritter and Jason Isbell are huddled in front of the console at Sound Emporium Studios, an historic space located in an otherwise nondescript building in the city’s Belmont neighborhood. It’s the last recording session for Ritter’s new album, which Isbell is producing and playing on as part of the 400 Unit, and they’re in the thick of adding fiddle to one of the album’s tracks.

The song, an optimistic, mid-tempo rambler called “In Passing,” is the group’s penultimate to finish after a week in the studio, following initial sessions held back in August. “In Passing” is anchored by the acoustic warmth and unpretentious erudition (“Love the thorn and hate the rose,” Ritter sings in the hook) endemic to Ritter’s earlier work, with a gently twangy, studiously meaty heft lent by the 400 Unit. It’s classic Ritter on Muscle Shoals-bred steroids.

Jason’s Wife Amanda Shires layers three fiddle parts atop one another, the second and third layers played ever-so-slightly more loosely than the first, making for a sound that’s at once fat and chiming, stretching across the backing music like thick, lustrous strands of taffy. Shires isn’t hearing what she’s wanting after the first couple of takes and has a few choice words for her fiddle in the interim.

The album is called ‘Fever Breaks’ and it comes out April 26th. I’m so excited to share it! You can listen to “Old Black Magic” now.

‘Fever Breaks’ – new album out April 26, 2019.

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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.

“Something More Than Free” is available on the 17th July through Southeastern Records How does a song move from a notebook to your headphones? This behind-the-scenes video of Jason Isbell perfecting the song “24 Frames” — the first single from the new album “Something More Than Free”,  sits the viewer right inside that process. After a bare-bones delivery from the songwriter, he and producer Dave Cobb work with Isbell’s band, the 400 Unit, to add in colours  some guitar delay, a “Leonard Cohen ‘Hallelujah'” style bass line — to turn a contemplative moment into an inspirational one. “I’m gonna let your inner ’90s dude come out,” someone says offscreen, supporting Isbell’s claim that this follow-up to the universally acclaimed Southeastern will capture “the way indie rock sounded when I was 15.” It’s the way rock sounds now, too, in these good hands.

Returning with his fifth full-length, Something More Than Free, just a week ago, and now, the singer-songwriter has premiered a music video for the album’s title track, please check it out above.

The new James Weems-directed visual is reflective of the message Isbell relays in “Something More Than Free.” The clip follows three characters as they make their way through the work that defines their days, as the former Drive-By Trucker sings, “I don’t think on why I’m here or where it hurts / I’m just lucky to have the work.” It’s a moving clip fitting of the rich and thoughtful songwriting that earned Jason Isbell’s  release a place on our list of 2015’s best albums thus far.

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell and his band, the 400 Unit, are currently on tour, they have dates scheduled through mid-October, plus a four-night residency at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium from Oct. 23rd-26th.

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Earlier this year, Isbell was nominated for the Americana Music Association’s award for Artist of the Year. It’s a stacked category that also includes Rhiannon Giddens, Sturgill Simpson, Lucinda Williams and Lee Ann Womack; winners will be announced during the ceremony on Sept. 16th.