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JASON ISBELL And The 400 UNIT —the Nashville Sound (South Eastern Records / Thirty Tigers)


Americana singer-songwriter Jason Isbell’s (formerly of the band, Drive-By-Truckers) music is presently at a peak you don’t want him to lose sight of. If a change were to take place it would only be for him to sound even better. On the rocking “Cumberland Gap” he gives the band its head, and though on first hearing I wasn’t too sure I have since taken to it. Big time. The song speaks of the hold of the Cumberland Gap has on people and in dictating lives. It follows the killer tune “Last Of My Kind”, the simplicity and plaintive feel buries itself into ones subconscious as he tells a few stories of how the road of life can be hard. He tackles more than just a few problems on life during the course of the album, and they real truths!  

You can’t help but be impressed by the beauty of his slow paced ballads, as a series of heavenly nuances ensue. Dave Cobb is the producer, and the album was recorded at RCA’s “Nashville Sound” studio. Both Isbell and the producer put their notable experience to good use as a wealth of good stuff to savour spill forth. As in “Tupelo”, “White Man’s World” and, with his wife, fiddle playing vocalist Amanda Shires lending her sweet voice to his “If We Were Vampires”. The song speaks of growing old, and how one of them will inevitably spend some time alone. Since one will leave this world before the other.


Going back to “White Man’s World”, here you have a song reflecting on him living in one, and how despite the relatively short history the mould seems to have been made. Gritty ode “Anxiety” is a relentless hard edged piece, and with lyrics and instrumental input stout and unbending it speaks of how it can be hard to live with. “Molotov” is another that has Isbell reflect on (troubled) days past. Remember he has seen some tough times(and lost the tread), and lost his job with the Drive-By-Truckers when he strayed. “Chaos And Clothes” opens like it was something Simon and Garfunkle might have once done, so simple and gentle you have little but acoustic guitar and a coercing rhythm. On picking up the tempo and giving his music and players Derry de Borja (keyboards), Chad Gamble (drums), Jimbo Hart (bass), Sadler Vaden (electric guitar) and Shires (strings, harmony vocals) plus his own electric, acoustic guitar lay down a strong tune. On closing with “Something To Love” he ensures the listener is left with a beautiful sound and pleasing set of story-telling in their ears when the needle lifts to place itself on its place of rest. Not only is the melody beautiful one but also his voice and that of Shires are as near to perfection as you will get. The Nashville Sound is set to be one of my top five albums of the year, and possibly yours too. 


                                                      Maurice Hope 

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March 2018

Mary Gauthier
95 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
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Ed Romanoff
89 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
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Dead Oceans
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39 pts.
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Time is Everything
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The Lynnes
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Heartbreak Song For The Radio
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Fear Not
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