Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
Jason Isbell cemented himself in the pantheon of 21st century songwriters with his Southeastern album in 2013. Since then he’s continued to release strong records but Reunions stands as his most consistent set of songs to date. Sure it might not have the exquisite emotional songwriting peaks of Southeastern but it’s Isbell sounding his most assured and at the top of his game, right across the ten songs.
Opener ‘What’ve I Done To Help’ (featuring guest vocals from David Crosby) is little more than a mantra, a repeated chorus that buries itself deep in the memory bank of the listener with it’s infectious folk-rock and latin groove and some superb guitar soloing. Many of the songs on Reunions are about ghosts of some kind, the memories and nostalgia for past friends and experiences. ‘Only Children’ is a gorgeous lilting reflection of growing up in Alabama, Isbell’s perfectly-formed couplets and phrasing allowed the space to breathe. He’s still writing rock songs with soaring choruses. ‘Running With Our Eyes Closed’ starts like a Dire Straits track before taking flight into a beautifully melodic chorus while ‘It Gets Easier’ is a Springsteen-styled song that documents the ongoing post-sobriety struggle before hitting the Crazy Horse afterburners with a great guitar solo.
Reunions is a polished album in the hands of producer Dave Cobb, with a classic roots rock sound, but it’s the quality of songs that take centre-stage, musically framed and enhanced by the wonderful playing of the 400 Unit.