In the space of his last two albums Jason Isbell’s status has rocketed from ex-Drive-By Trucker and respected songwriter to Grammy and Americana Association awards winner and one of the most acclaimed of this generation’s Americana/country artists, alongside Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton.
The Nashville Sound is a re-framing of Isbell, with his long-serving band The 400 Unit getting equal billing for the first time since 2011. How Isbell differentiates between a band album and a solo album is blurred and unclear as musically he still delivers a balanced mix of upbeat country rock songs and his now trademark ballads, built on sweeping melancholy and deep emotional eloquence.
‘Cumberland Gap’ is the band at their most roaring and heady with its soaring chorus a sonic release from the contained tension of the verses. ‘Anxiety’ does a similar thing though it possesses a much darker undertone akin to The Afghan Whigs as Isbell sings of the emotional and psychological fallout of dealing with modern society. ‘White Man’s World’ is a soulful funk outing, a different sound for Isbell, while ‘Chaos and Clothes’ displays his effortless and concise way with lyrics and melody, the hallmark of his songwriting. The Nashville Sound is a more relaxed album from Isbell, with a wider sound and a more communal tone. The golden run continues.