Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Grammy-winning Jason Isbell is on his eighth solo album, this one, called Weathervanes, a Southern image, but which follows the winds of our progressive times. After an impressive run with Drive By Truckers from 2001-2007, he came out strong as a solo country alternative artist with his band the 400 Unit, and hasn’t looked back. Their songs, which are chock full of literary imagery and blistering guitars, has rightfully won the hearts of many.
His latest album is an ambitious 13-track album that starts in his vicarious way with a piercing look at what it’s like to live with someone with depression. “Did you ever love a woman with a death wish? / Something in her eyes, like flippin’ off a light switch / Everybody dies, but you gotta find a reason to carry on.” Isbell admits, in many of his songs, that it is hard to carry on. Whether it is the second song, where he goes from being the “King of Oklahoma” to where he “can’t keep up with all the bills,” the song “Save the World,” which is about the bravery we must exhibit in a world rife with mass shootings, or “Cast Iron Skillet,” which is a little dig at the old Southern way of living, with its racism and sexism and dogmatism.
These are adult songs, though Isbell has long been a singer of those type of songs. They are songs that act as a companion to the hard times, and the redemption is often in a single image, like “inside fastballs” or “copper from the work site,” that let you know that he has been there before. He questions God, he questions his heritage, he questions himself. But the album ends on a positive note of faith: “There’s miles between / But boy you should have seen us / In the good old days / It was just like Disneyland / You didn’t even see the hand that turned the page.”
His music is at once resonant of the Country music that he came from and subversive and critical of much of Country musics’ trappings. But following the theme of being a “man” (or a “woman” as the case may have it), Isbell tells his piercing, compassionate, and frustrated stories, and lets the chips fall where they may. I think that’s the most compelling characteristic of Isbell’s music: that he is his own person, making his own decisions, and dealing with the consequences. And in compelling country rock n’ roll form. It’s an impressive group of songs and a great addition to his already impressive discography.
Pre-order Weathervanes by Jason Isbell HERE
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