Release Date: Jun 16, 2017
Record label: Thirty Tigers
The title of the latest album by Jason Isbell and his Alabama-based wrecking crew The 400 Unit is both promise and provocation. It's partly a shot across the bow of Music City's current hitmakers, but it's also Isbell's solemn vow that he's going to do his damnedest to live up to the city's legendary songwriters and performers, the ones who put authenticity and integrity before flash and artifice. STREAM THE ALBUM VIA NPR Those forebears should be proud that they have someone like Isbell carrying on their tradition, because The Nashville Sound is another triumph in his incredible hot streak.
It's been a decade since Jason Isbell left the Drive-By Truckers amid addiction struggles and an imploding marriage. One of the most promising songwriters of his generation (just listen to his whip-smart contributions to the Truckers' Dirty South and Decoration Day LPs), we all watched with excitement as he put together a new band and dropped his first solo record -- but that anticipation turned to disappointment pretty fast. As Isbell continued to battle his addictions, his songwriting suffered.
Since the release of 2013's Southeastern, Jason Isbell has moved from alt-country troubadour to bona-fide rock star, eclipsing even the success of his alma mater, the Drive-By Truckers. On this new record, his third since that career-defining album, Isbell sings as if there's a new weight of responsibility on his shoulders, which doesn't necessarily add up to his best material. The Nashville Sound isn't a bad record by any estimation, but there are flat moments.
The title of Jason Isbell's sixth album, The Nashville Sound, could be construed as either wildly presumptive or absurdly aspirational. In truth, it's a little bit of both. The idea of a homespun artist like Isbell eclipsing any number of corporate country megastars as the public face of “the Nashville sound” is far-fetched, but it's no longer entirely laughable.