CD Review – Jason Isbell “Southeastern”
Jason Isbell is quickly becoming the next prolific singer/songwriter of this generation with the upcoming release Southeastern which will be hitting the record racks on June 11th. Although this is considered his first solo release since 2007′s Sirens of the Ditch, Isbell has been cranking out work with his band The 400 Unit since 2009. Isbell received my coveted “Album of The Year” award for the first Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit self-titled album and scored a nomination for 2011′s Here We Rest that included the Americana Music Association Song of the Year “Alabama Pines”.
Isbell speaks lyrically with his soul wide open on the twelve tracks of self-reflection produced by Dave Cobb and engineered/mixed by Mark Petaccia after the positive changes of sobriety and getting married to Amanda Shires. Isbell knew of Cobb’s work from of all things a Squidbillies theme song recording session with George Jones and trusted the gifted producer with his material. 400 Unit members Derry deBorja (keyboards) and Chad Gamble(drums) help out along with Brian Allen (bass) and Cobb (percussion). Although Isbell took his time writing out the songs, it was a pretty crazy finish on the project. He and Shires got married and went on their honeymoon immediately after finishing recording, so approval of the masters had to wait upon their return.
Isbell made Southeastern for folks like himself that like to listen to entire albums. The songs common thread is discovery, personal growth, and repentance. The record opens with the haunting “Cover Me Up”. Giving a nod to some classic songs connects listeners to the chorus of “Songs That She Sang In The Shower”. Shires plays beautiful fiddle and adds her lovely vocals to the path of loneliness outlined in “Traveling Alone”. Kim Richey returns the favor of having Isbell singing on “Breakaway Speed” from her latest release to add vocals to tracks “Stockholm” and “Relatively Easy”. “Live Oaks” is one of the more intimate tracks with the a cappella opening verse which is deeply moving. Two songs that are more southern rock kickers with blaring electric guitar reminiscent of his Drive-By Trucker days are “Flying Over Water” and “Super 8″.
Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit will be hitting the road this summer showcasing what could be another winner when the ballots get tabulated at year’s end. For those of you not familiar with his work, I recommend you listen to his back catalog as well as picking up the new disc.