Jason Isbell logged nearly six years as a guitarist and songwriter for the Drive-By Truckers — in late 2001, he stepped in to replace Rob Malone, and in 2007, he stepped out to front his own band. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Isbell's second release since going solo, is crammed with all the thick, steamrolling guitar-rock you'd expect from a former Trucker. But where Isbell's old band consistently indulged (self-consciously, at times) in brash, Skynyrd-approved southern traditions — face-crumpling electric riffs, crushed cans of domestic beer, long, gnarly hair flapping in the Alabama breeze — Isbell is emblematic of a gentler, more thoughtful Dixie: Despite all the riffage, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit feels more like a folk record at heart. "Soldiers Get Strange" is about as concise of an explanation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder we're likely to see ("It ain't the liquor that burns in your mouth / Nothing around here's changed / It's just that a soldier gets strange"), while the slow, cloudy "Cigarettes and Wine" feels like a cleaned-up Tom Waits song. Isbell might still be at the southern-rock bonfire, but now he's the guy standing off to the side, alone, smoking, leaning on a truck, and taking it all in.
By Andrew Mueller on 05.16.14 in Reviews
The degree to which Eddy Arnold requires any "rediscovering" is debatable: The Country Music Hall Of Famer, who died in 2008, sold 85 million records, had 147 songs reach the Billboard country chart and saw his songs spe...
By Holly George-Warren on 06.11.13 in Reviews
The fourth solo album from former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell finds the singer-songwriter-guitarist writing and performing with new clarity, thanks in part to the one-two punch of newfound love (he recently married vio...
By Stephen M. Deusner on 11.19.12 in Reviews
When Jason Isbell left the Drive-By Truckers in 2007 to launch a solo career, he had to learn both how to sustain a full album on his own, and how to endure and outlive comparisons to his former band — who just happen to...
By Lenny Kaye on 04.01.09 in Spotlights
Whither country music - or will it wither? Most of the c&w on strut at the recent CMA awards had more to do with 80's power-rock and 00's teen-pop than the morning farm report. In recent years, an alt-country movemen...