Jason Isbell: Classic Or Dud?

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His DBT tracks are better than that Rob Malone guy's was and Cooley's got bigger stinkers on The Dirty South but does anybody else think Isbell's kind of a yawn? I'm weirded out how he sounds like such a drab bump on a log compared to Hood when Isbell's, like, MY age. I know some people are nuts about "Outfit," "Never Gonna Change," etc, but I'm wondering if anybody else kinda wishes he'd go run off and be Richard Bruckner's stunt double or something. Does he have any fans who aren't gonzo for alt-country in general?

Anybody seen a solo show or heard tracks from that upcoming solo album?

miccio (miccio), Saturday, 15 January 2005 19:23 (eighteen years ago) link

also is there a difference between alt-country and y'allternative? cuz if there isn't I'm gonna say y'allternative from now on.

miccio (miccio), Saturday, 15 January 2005 19:27 (eighteen years ago) link

i wouldn't paint him with that No Depression brush at all, maybe his songs aren't as ebullient as Hood or Cooley's, but that doesn't mean he's pretending to be a lovesick coal miner either. Maybe "The Day John Henry Died" is a little too anachronistic, but "Outfit" is straight-up blue-collar genius, and even though "Decoration Day" is rooted in that Hatfied-McCoy aesthetic, it's still got a whole lot more blood and guts than most y'allternative (I *shudder* at that term myself). And don't forget "Never Gonna Change," maybe it does sound like a Tom Petty outtake, but a damn good one just the same.

Josh Love (screamapillar), Saturday, 15 January 2005 19:47 (eighteen years ago) link

He's great, but I do miss the days when more of Hood and Cooley's songs made it into the live sets.

Josh in Chicago (Josh in Chicago), Sunday, 16 January 2005 19:57 (eighteen years ago) link

Crazy talk. Nothing against the great Colley and Hood, but Isbell is the best of the bunch. His solo album will be a masterpiece, just you watch.

Roger Fidelity (Roger Fidelity), Monday, 17 January 2005 00:59 (eighteen years ago) link

His album will no doubt be great, but there is no way the band would be where they are today if it was just Cooley and Isbell in the band, and not Hood. They'd just be like a more ragged Son Volt with better songs. It's Hood that lends them their heart, humor, and outright charisma

Josh in Chicago (Josh in Chicago), Monday, 17 January 2005 21:25 (eighteen years ago) link

Patterson Hood can get too "poetic" at times (though he and Cooley do seem to rock the hardest) and Cooley's lyrics can just make me cringe. Jason Isbell is probably the best lyricist of the three. He is by far the most empathetic, smartest and in tune with the realities he sings about.

danh (danh), Monday, 17 January 2005 21:51 (eighteen years ago) link

Isbell is an amazing writer. His influences are obvious, but so what? He had two songs on Decoration day and three on The Dirty South and the'yre all GREAT!, especially "Outfit" and "Danko/Manuel." The lyrics to "Outfit" are astonishing ... they're the compass that raise DD to classic status. Hood is a consistently good, but not consistently great songwriter (Like, his stuff on disc 1 of SRO is unreal, but his stuff on Dirty South, save for "The Buford Stick," is pretty damn dull). Cooley is a lightning in a bottle guy ... 2 out of 10 seem to work with him ... for every "Marry Me" and "Get Your Ass on the Plane," there are a bunch of slow-crawling country duds.

Chris O., Monday, 17 January 2005 22:19 (eighteen years ago) link

what's a slow crawling country dud? "Daddy's Cup?" That song is the SHIT but maybe you gotta dig racing to appreciate it. I agree with you 100% about Hood on the last album, though, "The Buford Stick" is the only one I like, too. That falsetto thing he does on "Puttin' People on the Moon" and "The Sands of Iwo Jima" isn't really workin' for him.

My second favorite band of all time, though, so all is forgiven, always.

Roger Fidelity (Roger Fidelity), Monday, 17 January 2005 23:04 (eighteen years ago) link

two years pass...

Saw dude play twice recently - first at an instore, solo save for a girl on fiddle. Really amazing performance. Didn't overstay his welcome, totally commanding and great throughout.

The show later that evening though, with his new band, was another story altogether.

While Isbell again was in top form, his band just isn't anywhere near as good as DBT (an inevitable comparison - sorry Jason) and isn't doing his songs any particular favors.

Worst of all was the Conor Oberst-doppleganger on lead guitar - proficient enough on lead but completely devoid of any personality or balls on his instrument whatsoever.

Maybe Jason was playing to the admittedly large contingent of visor-sporting, plastic cup hoisting frat troglodytes in the audience, but before I left halfway through, the band had already done two covers - "Do It Again" and "Psycho Killer," the latter of which featured said guitarist with the Wynona Ryder haircut on lead vocals. If I want to see a preening indie rocker bellow Talking Heads covers while winking at girls in the audience between verses, I'll go to karaoke night in Williamsburg. I was almost waiting for the inevitable "Blister In The Sun" riff, the appearance of which would have no doubt inspired a Roman orgy among the high-fiving frat brothers-in-arms squeezed in up front.

When Jason played any of his DBT songs, the lack of muscle behind him made it almost hard to watch.

For what it's worth, though, the audience were captivated throughout. Curse Bonnaroo and all it represents!

Sorry this reads like a shitty newspaper review, I'm hungover.

If Assholes Could Fly This Place Would Be An Airport, Thursday, 6 September 2007 11:20 (sixteen years ago) link

Well, if I saw that last set I'd feel hungover too. What a shame, but makes me even more thankful for the studio performances, mostly backed by other Truckers (including John Neff on steel guitar, now taking Jason's place in DBT, apparently)and Spooner Oldham, and I think David Hood's on there too. There's also a really good track on his myspace, "When The Well Runs Dry," credited to the Truckers, damn sure should have been on somebody's album, maybe that lack is a symptom of something (like the title). He's mentioned Eudora Welty's short stories in interviews, and his songs make me think of Welty times Zevon (Z collab'd with Paul Muldoon etc, so maybe could've happened, if she were a guy and younger) Not Z's "Carmelita" tearjerking but sardonic lyricism, some kind of compassion on Jason's part, at least implied by careful consideration of his characters, however crispy they be. It's really better than what he did with the Truckers. anyway, here's my review:

dow, Thursday, 6 September 2007 19:25 (sixteen years ago) link

five years pass...

Southeastern his best solo album?

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 21 June 2013 13:06 (ten years ago) link

Easily, but it's also his most start to finish consistent. Then again, to me the lyrics are the selling point. The music is largely Son Volt snoozy on the first couple listens, with an over-reliance on 3/4.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 21 June 2013 13:11 (ten years ago) link

Yes. I can't listen to the whole thing straight through – yet.

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 21 June 2013 13:13 (ten years ago) link

I keep meaning to listen to this. That NY Times profile has me interested, plus folks who saw him talk and play at EMP in New Orleans (I was in the other room checking out a zydeco and Cajun talk with archival photos)


curmudgeon, Friday, 21 June 2013 14:23 (ten years ago) link

I want to like the album a lot more than I actually do ; (

More Than a Century With the Polaris Emblem (calstars), Friday, 21 June 2013 15:04 (ten years ago) link

I really like it. It's definitely a, idk, heavy(?) listen, it's not really quite light enough to put on repeat and breeze through a few times...but all the songs really sit with you. Which is a really nice change.

set the controls for the heart of the sun (VegemiteGrrl), Friday, 21 June 2013 15:15 (ten years ago) link

He seems a bit young for the "all of these songs are about alcoholism" album, doesn't he?

kaleb h. (Everything You Like Sucks), Friday, 21 June 2013 15:48 (ten years ago) link

not too young for a (reportedly) violent alcoholic

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 21 June 2013 15:56 (ten years ago) link

He's a major talent, and this is probably his best record. It's also pretty down and not all that fun. Best news is there are no more Stax-style ballads like Cigarettes and Wine.

kornrulez6969, Friday, 21 June 2013 16:53 (ten years ago) link

i liked that >:(

set the controls for the heart of the sun (VegemiteGrrl), Friday, 21 June 2013 19:09 (ten years ago) link

"Live Oak" and "Elephant" needed to be Truckerized.

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 22 June 2013 12:26 (ten years ago) link


set the controls for the heart of the sun (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 22 June 2013 16:10 (ten years ago) link

omg SO happy he's over that 'soul singer' bullshit

Haven't heard this yet, wanna make time to really listen. Color me cautiously optimistic. I recall saying to my then-wife when we saw DBT on the DD tour, "If that kid ever goes solo, he's gonna blow the fuck up." I'd like to be vindicated, at last, because up until now, his was a case of seriously wasted talent IMO (stray songs on various solo albums notwithstanding).

Jimmywine Dyspeptic, Saturday, 22 June 2013 19:37 (ten years ago) link

This is good if staid in that singer-songwriterly way.

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 22 June 2013 19:42 (ten years ago) link

seven months pass...


But as earnest as he sounded Tuesday, Isbell’s performance still registered somewhere between excellent and just fine. He was undislikable.

The undislikables occupy a unique space in pop music. Their songs are filled with personality and emotion, but never too much. They experiment, but not without safety goggles. They put a premium on craftsmanship and confidence, often stamping out any whiffs of danger or weirdness. And their music seems unimpeachable, leaving you with an in-the-middle feeling that makes you wonder whether these people have achieved a state of enlightenment or have been trapped in purgatory.

curmudgeon, Thursday, 30 January 2014 16:57 (nine years ago) link

Commenters on that review are outraged by Chris Richard's stance. I understand what he means.

curmudgeon, Thursday, 30 January 2014 20:55 (nine years ago) link

p sure the word is 'nice'

set the controls for the heart of the sun (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 30 January 2014 21:30 (nine years ago) link

Is he really lopping together all singer songwriters? Honestly, guys with guitars who bare their souls are so unhip they might as well be weirdo outliers. If Steve Earle and John prine are his play it safe peeps, isbell should be pretty cool with this.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 30 January 2014 21:39 (nine years ago) link

He calls the Roots undislikeable as well. I think he means NPR-friendly

curmudgeon, Friday, 31 January 2014 04:23 (nine years ago) link

"Elephant" was probably my favorite song of last year, and "Relatively Easy" wasn't far behind. If he ever writes a whole album that good...

Simon H., Friday, 31 January 2014 04:42 (nine years ago) link

He is an obvious talent. The problem is, anybody's songs are going to sound better when they're played by DBT.

kornrulez6969, Friday, 31 January 2014 04:49 (nine years ago) link

Which is doubly frustrating because the actual DBT songwriters have been churning out less and less interesting material over the last few albums (imo).

Simon H., Friday, 31 January 2014 04:57 (nine years ago) link

Southeastern goes way beyond nice. And it's not just about the lyrics. From my Nashville Scene ballot, "In The Shadows of the Warm Red Comments" http://thefreelancementalists.blogspot.com/2014/01/14th-annual-etc-in-shadows-of-warm-red.html
Jason Isbell's Here We Rest often relied on the words, and some live versions were even shakier, but on Southeastern he's got his tuneful tightness back (playing a lot of the mostly acoustic instruments himself; the 400 Unit plug in on cue and on point, but don't get co-billing). Time to put the spotlight and the pressure back on himself--the voice was never a problem, which was a problem. No matter how wasted and/or woolgathering he got, could always release a few more of those high lonesome sweet bluesy Lowell George notes, and tell himself everything was still okay and not okay, in that alone-together way.
The words are better too, deep and horizontally active enough, back and forth in time and space--the richest lode is the opener, "Cover Me Up", with some kind of imaginative but not imaginary although certainly motorvatingly metaphorical invalid, with strong lungs, calling for "medical assistance, or a magnolia breeze", while he and significant other are riding a flood in a cold house "I ain't chopping no wood...hang up your wet dress" and get that cover workin'. This is also very tender-sounding, since the lonesome monster is now ready to face whatever reality may and will surely bring--whole album's known knowns wed to known unknowns: very family values, very commuting-community-minded, very country in its way (so this only looks like a Paste list, see?)

dow, Friday, 31 January 2014 14:36 (nine years ago) link

Which is doubly frustrating because the actual DBT songwriters have been churning out less and less interesting material over the last few albums (imo).

Ironically, it's been more and more "interesting," imo - in terms of ideas and surprising detours - just less and less strong. They were such a great outlet for Isbell, because he can always be counted on a for a couple of absolutely outstanding tracks per effort, just not quite an entire outstanding album yet. He's young, though. 15 years younger than Hood, I think.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 31 January 2014 15:06 (nine years ago) link

I read xchuckx E. being harsh on Jason's vocals

curmudgeon, Saturday, 1 February 2014 16:30 (nine years ago) link

Which is doubly frustrating because the actual DBT songwriters have been churning out less and less interesting material over the last few albums (imo).

― Simon H., Thursday, January 30, 2014 11:57 PM (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

So wrong

Jimmywine Dyspeptic, Saturday, 1 February 2014 20:37 (nine years ago) link

DBT's new album is a bore though.

Bryan Fairy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 1 February 2014 20:48 (nine years ago) link

three months pass...

"Super 8" is the song that needed the Truckers the worst - songwriting as strong as "Elephant" but such painfully boring country-rock.

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Wednesday, 14 May 2014 04:04 (nine years ago) link

i saw the Truckers live last month

- new bass player is distractingly goofy. he's fine as a player but he's like this grinning jackolantern all the time, it's SO weird

- setllist was suuuper uneven, going from blistering rock into pensive cooley so much it was giving me whiplash

- i've seen them four times before this show, and this is the first time i was almost completely bored. they were fine, but fine aint a dbt show


they seem to be focusing on sounding cleaner, singing better etc but their rawness was the appeal for me. i love them but idk who this band is now?

set the controls for the heart of the sun (VegemiteGrrl), Wednesday, 14 May 2014 05:04 (nine years ago) link

six months pass...


'The Voice' producer reportedly asks Jason Isbell to audition for the NBC show

Johnny Fever, Wednesday, 19 November 2014 22:35 (nine years ago) link

He was great last week at this Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute show i went to last week at the Fox Theater (great venue by the way)


Prince Kajuku (Bill Magill), Wednesday, 19 November 2014 22:49 (nine years ago) link

xpost loooooooool that is hilarious and sad

difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 20 November 2014 02:48 (nine years ago) link

Sad for the producer's cred, happy otherwise: he scanned the invite into his twitter feed (so that's the basis of "reportedly," from the hoss's mouth) and considered what his audition material might consist of (I suggested he hold out for Dancing With The Stars). Would love to see Blake Shelton's big ol' half-bright face if he did come out there on The Voice (that's the one Shelton's on, right?)

dow, Thursday, 20 November 2014 06:15 (nine years ago) link

("lemon-difficult": excellent, especially if related to #DonLemonReporting, but either way.)

dow, Thursday, 20 November 2014 06:17 (nine years ago) link


difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 20 November 2014 06:19 (nine years ago) link

seven months pass...

The new record is streaming on NPR right now. It's very good, similar in sound to Southeastern. He'll never rock like he did with DBT but he'll probably end up the more popular act.

kornrulez6969, Monday, 13 July 2015 16:37 (eight years ago) link

From Rolling Country, my initial impressions:

Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free: doesn't travel with the more sustained undertone of excitement found in Southeastern---recorded sober, apparently!---but "Are you takin' the grown-up dose?" is still the question, or one of 'em, and it's often remarkable what can sprout from dry, quiet starting over, especially when the past gets out of bed and comes cruising through one's present-day/night of carefully worked out details, brushing them just a hair or three from conventional alignment. Or not, in which case it's conspicuous by etc., but always the singer's cue.
"Children of Children" and "24 Frames" will be the relatively big (npr) radio cuts, if any are, but most tunes as well as words tend to take fetching turns.

― dow, Friday, July 10, 2015 4:38 PM (3 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Not to say this 'un doesn't *also* sound like it was written and recorded sober---it does, and it also sounds like that's what it's about: dealing with the unfiltered, or differently filtered---but Southeastern seemed like more of an adventure.

― dow, Friday, July 10, 2015 4:42 PM (3 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post PermalinkMaybe it's just subtle for me---diggin it tho!

dow, Monday, 13 July 2015 22:51 (eight years ago) link

"Children of Children" is fucking brutal -

I was riding on my mother's hip, she was shorter than the corn
All the years I took from her, just by being born.

Didn't mean to break the cycle

You were riding on your mother's hip she was shorter than the corn
All the years you took from her, just by being born.

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Saturday, 18 July 2015 17:43 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

Is any of his solo stuff better than "outfit?"

calstars, Saturday, 3 December 2016 00:13 (seven years ago) link

shit, white beretta too
and miles

wowee wow

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 10 June 2023 04:04 (five months ago) link

Reminds me---why did this have to wait for The Fine Print? Too blunt, mebbe:


dow, Monday, 12 June 2023 03:42 (five months ago) link

"cast iron skillet," that's peak isbell right there. "when we were close" is devastating too, the guitar solo is short but possibly my favorite on the album. also love the two crazy horse jams that close out the record

ludicrously capacious bag (voodoo chili), Monday, 12 June 2023 17:08 (five months ago) link

Iirc Isbell said JTE either bought or lent him the suit he wore at his wedding, so they must have been pretty close.

― Josh in Chicago, Friday, June 9, 2023 6:04 PM (three days ago) bookmarkflaglink

Random fan story: about 13 or 14 years ago give or take some friends and I got tix to see Isbell and JTE (opening) at the Double Door (RIP), and on the day of the concert went to grab lunch. We were walking down Milwaukee past the venue and I casually ask one of them, "What time is the show tonight?," and Isbell sticks his head out of the back of his van next to me and yells, "Justin, the show's at 8 tonight, right?," and there's Justin on my right carrying an amp or something, "Yep." We said a quick thank you and shuffled on, then had a blast that night.

Isbell's become quite the legend in Americana, getting tweeted by Zach Bryan as his songwriting idol and the like; weird to remember that just a little over a decade ago he was doing miles and unloading his own gear with JTE.

Indexed, Monday, 12 June 2023 18:02 (five months ago) link

I also love that he continues doubling down on actively chasing the bigots, homophobes and transphobes out of his audience. I know this isn't easy for every artist to do, but goddamn it gives me hope to see him not give one flying fuck about losing that kind of "fan".

Maxmillion D. Boosted (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Monday, 12 June 2023 18:04 (five months ago) link

yeah i love that too

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 12 June 2023 18:38 (five months ago) link

One of the many things I love about Isbell is that, like the Truckers, he has put in the miles. He's played here everywhere from the Beat Kitchen to minor league fields. And yeah, he does not give a fuck about losing fans. Not that he seems to be doing so. Like Springsteen or Rage Against the Machine, clearly the assholes just hold their collective noses and grumble online.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 12 June 2023 19:20 (five months ago) link

I haven't listened to the last few albums all that much, but whenever one of his songs comes on WXPN I'm like "Holy shit."

INDEPENDENTS DAY BY STEVEN SPILBERG (President Keyes), Monday, 12 June 2023 19:26 (five months ago) link

If you check out his Twitter account, maybe yesterday he was answering fan questions more or less in real time about what equipment was used on each song. That dude has an incredible array of vintage apps and instruments, and unlike most collectors, I suspect, he knows exactly what to do with it all.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 12 June 2023 23:55 (five months ago) link

He posted a new Dumble on Instagram recently - no idea what those are going for these days but he's definitely living the middle-aged guitar nerd dream.

papal hotwife (milo z), Tuesday, 13 June 2023 01:22 (five months ago) link

somebody should tell him about the ILX thread

budo jeru, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 01:40 (five months ago) link

Nah, he doesn't appear to own a single Jazzmaster or Jaguar.

papal hotwife (milo z), Tuesday, 13 June 2023 01:52 (five months ago) link

To my ears he reminds me of John Mellencamp: "good" politics, excellent bandleader, tunes that clunk along in their sincerity. I like this album, but I can't imagine listening to "Save the World" again despite agreeing with every comma.

the dreaded dependent claus (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 13 June 2023 14:01 (five months ago) link

Coming from one of the biggest ILX Mellencamp boosters, that's high praise!

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 14:09 (five months ago) link

“save the world” is definitely the weakest track on here, his strengths lie in self-reflection and interpersonal things, his songs don’t have the same specificity when he turns his lens towards society

ludicrously capacious bag (voodoo chili), Tuesday, 13 June 2023 15:08 (five months ago) link

Good section of an interview I saw in Variety:

You have different kinds of songs on this record, as on all of them. There are kind of message songs that get at how we should behave, and taking responsibility for our actions. And then you have objective songs, like, OK, here’s what happens to people in life, without necessarily putting the value judgment on it.

JI: And the heavier the subject matter is, the more objective I tend to be. Because that makes it hard to argue, you know? Ultimately, I do have a point to make, and I don’t know if that is “This is what you should do or how you should behave,” but I think if anything, it is “There are consequences to our actions. There are not consequences to our thoughts or to our desires, but there are consequences to our actions. And you’re not your thoughts; you are your behavior. You’re not what you believe. Nobody cares what you believe. How you behave is all that really matters.”

Taking that into account, once you start writing about extremely emotional topics, like in “Save the World,” with that song… Because I’ve not been in a school shooting, I’m not gonna start writing about what it’s like to be in a mass shooting, or any sort of big violent event. But I always feel qualified to say “This is how I feel.” And if you stick to that — like in the song “White Man’s World” from a few records back —I’m not qualified to say “This is how you should feel,” but I can very easily say, “This is how I feel.”

“Save the World,” which touches on the school shootings, is something you’ve said was the hardest song on the album for you to write.

JI: Yeah, it was really difficult. I went through a couple different versions of that before I finally landed on the right one.

What made the difference in getting that song right?

JI: Detail. Usually that’s what it is. The more concrete details I put into a song, the better it is most of the time. Because when you get so angry and so worked up about something, you want to yell nonsense into the void — “This is bad, this is wrong.” But “I’m scared, I feel bad” doesn’t really work in the framework of a song, and what people need, I think — and what I need as a communicator — is to give concrete details. So I started thinking, “OK, what is it like to be in the grocery store with a kid and you hear a balloon pop and wonder for a second if something’s going to happen?” And, “What’s it like to send your kid off to school knowing that you can’t be there to protect him?” This idea of sending a child out into the world when our world is as dangerous as it is, how exactly does that feel? And how does that feeling manifest itself in your everyday life? And when I started getting more specific, the song got a lot better.

That’s a good example of a song that is topical and deals with stuff that matters to the world, but also ends up being kind of a personal relationship song. The feeling that comes across from the song is, “I don’t deal well with evil in the world, and I might crack up, so keep an eye on me, or I’ll keep an eye on you.”

JI: All these things are important because I love you — that’s really what it boils down to. These issues wouldn’t matter so much to us if we were all just wandering around in the world on our own and fending for ourselves. And sometimes the stress of the everyday world can lead people away from those kind of connections, because it’s safer and easier to make yourself less vulnerable as time goes on. The only way to really make yourself less vulnerable is to not love as many people, and that’s tough. I don’t want to live that way. I would rather be in a situation where I have a whole lot to lose. And that’s what the character in this song is talking about: He’s talking about how much he has to lose and why these things are so important to him.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 15:26 (five months ago) link

But I always feel qualified to say “This is how I feel.” And if you stick to that — like in the song “White Man’s World” from a few records back —I’m not qualified to say “This is how you should feel,” but I can very easily say, “This is how I feel.”

Right on.

dow, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 16:46 (five months ago) link

Also, I like the character's POV in songs like "Sirens of the Ditch" and others on the album of that title---the waitress-actress who challenges Phil Spector, the scared politician who confides "The Devil is My Running Mate"(no shit), the personal experience of "Dress Blues:: hungover or anyway about to puke/dry heave at the funeral of a friend who died in a shit war, other songs on subsequent albums swirling through definable sense---a good range on this one, from my Scene ballot comments:

nder pressure of atmosphere, memories, incl. of present and future, spooky and urgent----music more varied after "Running With Our Eyes Closed," calmer but still insidious, words finding their way in---"St. Peter's Autograph,", hmmm--but I get some of 'em right away, esp the one about sober life incl. dreams about drinking, a couple nights a week now, like, "I had one glass of wine, woke up feelin' fine,and that's how I knew it was a dream," but some are rougher, like the even realer-seeming dream of calling in sick to treat yourself down town--you deserve it, self, you been real good for so long---"It gets easier, but never easy, "why have I never heard a song about this must-be-fairly-common experience before? So far, Reunions seems like one of his most sustained achievements in quite a while:

dow, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 16:59 (five months ago) link

But yeah, the tracks can clunk along quite a bit, with his sonic basis in 70s-80s roots rock, though the words bring something more (in a show preview, I mentioned his "studies in Southern Rock and Southern Lit," and he's mentioned liking George Saunders).

dow, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 17:05 (five months ago) link

middle of the morning seems to me to obliquely deal with the struggles of sobriety but couched in the day to day of married life; idk that for certain but it gives me that vibe

white berreta is so specific, like lasered in on the minute details; that one has stayed with me

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 13 June 2023 17:40 (five months ago) link

Yes! That's what I had in mind, that he can create a vibe via dealing obliquely, and/or go to lasered in on the minute details thx

dow, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 18:13 (five months ago) link

I believe Isbell got a scholarship to study creative writing at the University of Memphis. And I believe Amanda has a masters in creative writing. Good training!

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 18:27 (five months ago) link

I’ll make sure we get one for the Wolf Trap show and look into doing it everywhere https://t.co/vuw6Z4l6pb

— Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell) June 13, 2023

alpine static, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 21:54 (five months ago) link

Sitting near ASL interpreters at shows is one of my favorite experiences. The integration of both figurative and literal lyrical interpretation, conveyance of rhythm and dynamics, and just straight up dancing is incredible to watch.

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Monday, 19 June 2023 16:55 (five months ago) link

i like "Save the World" ... this is a highly, highly relatable handful of lines, and sometimes that's all i need:

Something's changing inside my head
Something's drowning out the light
Swear you'll save the world when I lose my grip

alpine static, Monday, 26 June 2023 23:02 (five months ago) link

ok it’s driving me crazy enough to take a momentary timeout from not posting: this song White Beretta is unbelievably reminiscent of Red Rag Top. obvs the [color/car] title and the subject matter (dude reflecting wistfully on a former partner’s long-ago abortion), but also—most strikingly to me—the central metaphor of the red light.

personally I prefer the ambivalence of the older song to the tragic air of the new one, but the new one is fine, too. they’re just so strikingly similar that I might feel obligated to mention it if I were him.

dc, Monday, 26 June 2023 23:43 (five months ago) link

I'll be that guy I guess. I've been on board since decoration day but reunions and the new one just don't do a lot for me.

poster of sparks (rogermexico.), Tuesday, 4 July 2023 05:16 (five months ago) link

same, it's been downhill since Southeastern IMO. Good songs hear and there but the mid-tempo country rockiness is often plodding.

papal hotwife (milo z), Tuesday, 4 July 2023 06:20 (five months ago) link

Thanks for recommending this album, I have a lot of 10-12yo guitar students strumming away at a bunch of these songs now. White beretta is a killer intro-to-acoustic-guitar song. King of Oklahoma really stands out on this album. Have a 12yo singing along to death wish while playing; a little off putting

hrep (H.P), Tuesday, 4 July 2023 11:06 (five months ago) link

great interview w Jason on yasi salek’s podcast today - freewheeling & very fun, lots of good stuff here

Today on 24 Question Party People I talk to @JasonIsbell about his gut health, The Cure, how hard it is to make a song that slaps, bangs AND makes someone cry, his nascent acting career, and whether or not I am a better podcaster than Bill Clinton:https://t.co/Kt6hB1Gnbj

— yasi salek (@yasisalek) July 11, 2023

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Wednesday, 12 July 2023 03:46 (four months ago) link

two months pass...

Jason Isbell buried fudge round boy in such a Jason Isbell way. pic.twitter.com/qeO9EgD2ra

— Dave Guido (@Devoguido) October 10, 2023

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 10 October 2023 22:55 (one month ago) link

one month passes...

Kudos to @JasonIsbell for using the right "wrong" guitar! Jason Isbell plays Johnny B. Goode at Michael J. Fox Foundation gig – and makes sure to choose the right guitar for the job https://t.co/rsSvplABdO

— Phil Peters (@faivy) November 15, 2023

Also, I believe Isbell finally got new teeth:

Finally I can tell you all- the teeth were in preparation for my role in Killers of The Flower Moon. I prepared for 40 years. These my real teeth pic.twitter.com/wEAUBfyrK7

— Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell) November 9, 2023

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 15 November 2023 13:22 (three weeks ago) link

Yeah, he went on to say they were affecting his breathing, etc. As a fellow bad teeth haver, I can confirm there are many side-effects to having a mouthful of junk.

ⓓⓡ (Johnny Fever), Thursday, 16 November 2023 05:35 (three weeks ago) link

Just now saw this New West sale through 27th---incl ltd. ed. color vinyl expanded Sirens, reg $32.00, now $19.20, with 4 bonus tracks, which I haven't heard (good?) I think there's a non-ltd., black vinyl expanded, but it's out of stock. As for this 'un:

12", 2-LP
The debut album from accomplished guitarist and songwriter
Jason Isbell, formerly of Drive-By Truckers (DBT), is reissued with 4 unreleased tracks from the original recording sessions. The addition of those 4 extra songs finds Sirens Of The Ditch clocking in at 15 total tracks.

Sirens Of The Ditch’s mystical quality can be partially attributed to the
FAME recording studio (Aretha Franklin, Duane Allman, Otis Redding) in
Isbell’s hometown of Muscle Shoals, AL where the album was recorded.
Co-produced by Isbell and Patterson Hood (DBT), Sirens Of The Ditch features Isbell singing lead vocals and playing guitar throughout, joined by Shonna Tucker (Formerly of DBT) on Bass and Brad Morgan (DBT) on drums. Several musicians pop in for cameos including Spooner Oldham and David Hood (Patterson’s father) on “Down In A Hole”, John Neff (Formerly of DBT) on “Dress Blues” and Patterson himself guests on “Shotgun Wedding”.


Side A -

Brand New Kind Of Actress
Down In A Hole
Chicago Promenade
Side B -

Dress Blues
Hurricanes And Hand Grenades
In A Razor Town
Side C -

Shotgun Wedding
The Magician
The Devil Is My Running Mate
Side D -

Crystal Clear*
The Assassin*
Racetrack Romeo*
*Previously Unreleased

They've got a lotta other stuff on sale too.

dow, Sunday, 26 November 2023 01:51 (one week ago) link

That's always been a fave, one of his most consistent. My review is copied here, because Voice links can get pretty wonky:

dow, Sunday, 26 November 2023 01:56 (one week ago) link

Don't really know why this is a video of a TV screen, and this clip could have been posted on a number of different threads, but I guess last night he sat in with Dinosaur Jr. for a cover of "Cortez the Killer:"


— kyle (@kyle_matteson) December 7, 2023

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 7 December 2023 13:39 (yesterday) link

His DBT songs are some of the best DBT songs, but his solo career leaves me cold. What exactly is a 'brand new kind of actress?'

calstars, Thursday, 7 December 2023 15:13 (yesterday) link

I 100% agree with that assessment

Heez, Thursday, 7 December 2023 17:44 (yesterday) link

I've only recently come around to him as a solo artist, tbh, despite being an OG DBT fan. But I've really grown to appreciate his taste, in terms of his songwriting (subject matter, attention to detail, lyrics) but also in terms of his playing/arranging, etc.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 7 December 2023 17:46 (yesterday) link

Proper YouTube of that "Cortez"


an icon of a worried-looking, long-haired, bespectacled man (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 8 December 2023 00:30 (eleven hours ago) link

Most of my neighborhood friends think this guy is the greatest living songwriter. I dunno. I heard "Volunteer" without knowing who it was, thought it was really, really good, listened to the rest of the album and . . . hmm. Too much of it sounds like a guy putting on a Southern suit. Maybe I need to give it more time.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 8 December 2023 00:51 (eleven hours ago) link

I just wish he he sounded more like skynyrd but maybe that’s not fair

Heez, Friday, 8 December 2023 01:12 (ten hours ago) link

This guy played the Grand Ole Opry when he was 16. I think the Southern suit fits well.

Beyond Goo and Evol (President Keyes), Friday, 8 December 2023 01:15 (ten hours ago) link

He's never topped "Goddamn Lonely Love" and a couple other DBT tracks, but I recognize him as a force for good, particularly when he plays guitar on Amanda Shires' and her associates' songs.

Not necessarily saying it applies here, but there a number of southerners with deep bonafides who still come off like they're wearing the "Southern Suit"--it's just the beats they hit.

Southeastern is still great but I’ve never really gone back to the later solo albums after a listen or two. They just don’t sound that great, kind of midtempo and safe.

papal hotwife (milo z), Friday, 8 December 2023 02:48 (nine hours ago) link

y’all are a bunch of grinches lol

personally i love his songwriting
& i think he’s only gotten better over the years, something like “Cast Iron Skillet” or “White Beretta” to me is proof of that.

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Friday, 8 December 2023 03:06 (eight hours ago) link

Jason was a great addition to DBT back in the day but his solo career mostly feels like Music Your Boss Likes

zacata, Friday, 8 December 2023 03:27 (eight hours ago) link

yeah, Goddamn Lonely Love is great, but he has, imo, topped or equaled it several times now, which is just proof of how great he is.

Outfit (I guess this was before GLL, but it's still my favorite of his)
Dress Blues
Alabama Pines
24 Frames
Speed Trap Town
Cumberland Gap
If We Were Vampires
Cast Iron Skillet
When We Were Close

I mean, I'm a bit bored with Jason, too, and I am a truly staunch believer that art isn't objectively good or bad, but a bunch of those are about as close to objectively great as it gets. I don't know how you can listen to those and not believe this dude isn't firmly at the very top songwriting tier.

With that said, his albums *have* been a bit too midtempo and Music Your Boss Likes for a decade, though I really like The Nashville Sound and Weathervanes is better than I expected it to be. Something More Than Free and Reunions are snoozers, though. Again, imo.

alpine static, Friday, 8 December 2023 07:26 (four hours ago) link

"Relatively Easy" and "It Gets Easier" also work.

stuffing your suit pockets with cold, stale chicken tende (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 8 December 2023 11:18 (thirty-nine minutes ago) link

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