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Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

by: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Album Artwork

(Lightning Rod Records)

This CD follows up Jason Isbell's first solo venture, Sirens of the Ditch, and contains a diverse collection of songs that verifies Isbell's undeniable songcraft. After spending six years in The Drive By Truckers, Isbell struck out on his own and continues to record timeless songs; this CD serves as testimony. Produced by Isbell and 400 Unit band mate--Centro-matic's Matt Pence--this album also contains contributions from Isbell's ex-wife, Trucker bassist Shonna Tucker.

Isbell's music explores other avenues besides the gritty style of the Truckers and Pence's instincts proves a great collaborative match. These diverse songs find Isbell widening his musical scope. "Seven Mile Island" ranks as one of Isbell's strongest songs with its bluesy, organic tones. "Sunstroke" emerges as a slow R & B ditty which demonstrates Isbell's subtle lyrical prowess...a haunting sadness permeates this tune. "Good" stands as a rocking number that should transfer well to a live audience.

"Cigarettes & Wine", a piano-driven ballad counts as another example of Isbell's talent in this sad story about a good-time girl that faded away in the lines: "She still lives down inside me/Like a rolled up twenty-dollar bill". "However Long" proves a gritty rocker with a perspective on the militant folk who want to impress their beliefs on the rest of us as well as living with what we cannot change.

"Coda", an instrumental, blends pop, R & B and blues into a streamlined piece of music that fits well in this tracklist. A laid back tune--"The Blue"--provides a musical medicine to a weary soul. "No Choice In the Matter" is a soul classic...straight out of the Muscle Shoals songbook.

"Soldiers Get Strange" counts as another gem. This formidable tune tells a timeless tale of a soldier returning home from war to find homeland vacancy. "Streetlights", a melodic song with a string of vivid wordgrams fits into a finely crafted story. "The Last Song I Write" evokes a Stones-ish/STAX soundprint with a message of this is the last time around...

Isbell's gathered a solid group of players in the 400 Unit who embellish these songs in a way no other group could execute. Isbell's guitar-prowess is utilized in under-played licks that only enhance the song instead of detracting from it. The 400 Unit represent a sturdy rock and roll band supporting one of America's best young songwriters.

James Calemine


related tags

Muscle Shoals,
Mystery and Manners,


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