“Do Nothing” Day is in full swing (and swig).
Now I’m moving onto the newest album By Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, ‘The Nashville Sound‘.
‘The Nashville Sound‘ is the follow up to 2015’s critically acclaimed ‘Something More Than Free‘, which won two Grammy Awards (Best Americana Album & Best American Roots Song, ‘24 Frames‘) and two Americana Music Association Awards (Album of the Year & Song of the Year, ‘24 Frames‘).
It was easily the best thing I listened to back in 2015.
Without exaggeration, Isbell has become one of the most respected and celebrated songwriters of his generation with no equivalent aside from, maybe, Patterson Hood.
Okay, so maybe I’m a bit biased here.
Anyway, he possesses an incredible penchant for identifying and articulation some of the deepest, yet simplest, human emotions, and turning them into beautiful poetry though song. Isbell sings of the everyday human condition with thoughtful, heartfelt, and sometimes brutal honesty, and this new album is no exception.
Musically, the album hints at Isbell’s bar band roots on up-tempo rockers like ‘Cumberland Gap‘ and ‘Hope the High Road‘. Nevertheless, bursts of loud release from his band the 400 Unit are still far and few between on an album that ultimately hews closely to the laid-back roots-country palette Isbell has honed over his past several albums with producer Dave Cobb. It’s a less explicitly autobiographical album than Isbell’s earlier releases, and the more varied tone of the ten tracks helps to emphasize the thematic strength of Isbell’s storytelling, with the electric guitar work of Isbell and Sadler Vaden, the keyboards of Derry Deborja, and the violin of Amanda Shires lending these numbers a wide range of tones and moods.
From the crashing orchestral dynamics of ‘Anxiety‘, the understated dread of ‘White Man’s World‘, and the spare acoustic approach of ‘If We Were Vampires‘ to the guitar-fueled fury of ‘Hope the High Road‘, the New South vs. Old South rock of ‘The Cumberland Gap‘, and the bittersweet bluegrass-styled confessions of ‘Something to Love‘, this is a set of outstanding songs that registers as the work of a great band, as well as the craft of a world-class tunesmith. Personally, I love ‘Mototov‘.
Isbell was already a gifted artist when he first gained public visibility with the Drive-By Truckers, but ‘The Nashville Sound‘ finds him growing from strength to strength, and it reaffirms his place as one of the best and most emotionally affecting artists working in roots music today.