Jason Isbell is one of my favorite contemporary American songwriters, capable of both evocative abstract mood pieces and incredibly transportive narrative ballads, a master both with sparse instrumentation and a great building blend of instruments like his song “The Last Song I Will Write”. He’s got a new album called Southeastern coming out next Tuesday, and you can stream it now here: http://www.mtvhive.com/2013/06/03/jason-isbell-southeastern/, I highly recommend checking him out.
After a single listen & reading the background on the struggles he’s overcome in the past year and how he poured that directly into the lyrics contained, Southeastern makes me respect him even more, as someone who uses songwriting as almost a form of expressive therapy vapid pop songwriting or writing from a perspective that isn’t yours really grates me, so the kind of honesty and personal perspective he’s willing to share and create from here really endears him to me. Sound-wise it’s a bid more straight-forward and hews closer to rock than a lot of his output on the early tracks, but on some of its tracks I can hear the influence of his friend Ryan Adams, which is fine by me as Adams is one of my favorite musicians.
Sadly the public notice of his career mostly only extends to the contributions he made to Drive-By Truckers with songs like “Outfit”, “Goddamn Lonely Love” and “Never Gonna Change” during a turbulent few years with that seminal band of the modern South, great songs to be sure but he deserves to be noticed on his own (and it should be sad his melodic approach to vocals and personal approach to lyric writing contrasted the broken-glass throatiness & literary deconstruction and mythmaking of the south of Patterson Hood quite well and the band isn’t as strong as it was with him), here’s hoping this is his chance to break out of that rut, it seems he’s been getting a lot of press lately, including a revealing portrait in the New York Times, so the odds could be in his favor.