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on 11 April 2011
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Here We Rest (Lightning Rod Records)
The third album from ex-Drive By Trucker Jason Isbell and his second with The 400 Unit, the writing and recording of "Here We Rest" followed a period of recuperation in his home state of Alabama. Indeed, the album's title is the old state motto, before they changed it a century ago to something fancy and Latin.

Much of the material on the record reflects Southern life, some of it peculiar to the region ("Alabama Pines"), but many of the songs touch universal themes - the economy, marital strife, and war, though seen through a Southern perspective. The best songs here, the fore-mentioned "Alabama Pines", the loping "Codeine" and the gentle "Daisy Mae" all demonstrate a warmth, intimacy and authenticity that can't help but draw the listener in. 8/10.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 January 2014
After "rediscovering" Jason Isbell via Live From Alabama and Southeastern, I decided I needed to rectify the oversight of not procuring Here We Rest when it was released back in 2011.

Sometimes it's difficult doing that for someone who, as I said in my review of Southeastern, is progressively getting better by the record, but this one does not disappoint.

One of Isbell's strengths is his ability to move between styles effortlessly and turn in a stellar performance each time. So it is he moves from the country of Alabama Pines to the folk of Daisy Mae (a beautiful song, without a doubt) and the soul of Candy Staton's Heart On A String, without missing a beat. The latter is such a fantastic evocation of the Muscle Shoals sound, appropriate as that was where it was recorded, that I half expected Otis Redding to join in.

In between there's some humour in We've Met, the slightly more rock-inflected Stopping By and the quirky insertion of harmonium-based The Ballad Of Nobeard.

The catchiest tune is probably that for Codeine, again imbued with a measure of sorrow, leavened with humour, and made even better by the violin of Amanda Pearl Shires, who I assume also provides the country backing vocals.

The set rounds off with the excellent Tour Of Duty, another of Isbell's tales of the soldier's life post-demobilisation.

Combined with the other two records mentioned at the top of the review, this is going to keep me happy for quite some time.
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on 18 April 2011
Clocking in at a smidge under 40 minutes, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit's latest offering is economical to say the least. It is also an album of two halves, starting off extremely promisingly with some of the best songs he has written since leaving the Drive-By Truckers. 'Alabama Pines', 'Go It Alone' and 'Daisy Mae' are all excellent, understated and subtly done, luring the listener into the false hope that this may turn out be Isbell's best yet.

Thereafter, it all becomes a bit underwhelming and predictable, with the second half of the album straining to rise above the accusation of 'filler'. 'Tour Of Duty' rescues things a little at the end, but not by much. Downhome and honest music this may be, competently delivered, but ultimately lacking in the sparkle that marks out Isbell's best material. Without the obvious benefits of bouncing off the Truckers' competetive quality control edge, Here We Rest, lopes and shuffles towards an end that can't come quickly enough to save this album from acute disappointment. Isbell's voice sounds weedy at the best of times; here a distinct lack of punch to the musicianship does it no favours at all.

Three albums in, and Jason Isbell has still produced nothing of consistency and quality to match songs like 'Outfit' and 'When The Well Runs Dry'. If it's any consolation, the album cover features a nice piece of artwork by Browan Lollar, but it's scant consolation for promise unfulfilled. Try the excellent Barn Doors And Concrete Floors from Israel Nash Gripka instead.
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on 1 January 2015
I admit a total bias with this review. I've loved Jason's work from his days (years) with the Drive By Truckers (another of my all time favourite bands), so I was always going to rate this album highly. The song writing of this young(ish) man is outstanding in my view, and recent awards have proven others feel the same way. This 'brand' of music is referred to as Americana these days, which is far more appropriate than 'country and western'. That said, there is a country sound which i've appreciated more as i've aged(!) and that's reflected in my favourite song from this album 'Codeine'
If you know Jason's work from the DBT's you'll know that he's also adept at hard-driven Rock songs as well as gentle ballads, and his work with The 400 Unit continues in that vein. This album is a nice example of all of these things, but with a strong emphasis on the southern country sound.
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on 13 June 2011
All the 3* reviews here are too harsh, this is a really good album (ok, with maybe two weaker songs). But at its best (the first four songs, the cover of Candi Staton's 'Heart on a String', the final song, 'Tour of Duty') this is great, superb songwriting and a seriously good band. I saw them play live in London recently (as a 3-piece) and despite amp and guitar problems, they were fantastic, and Jason clearly really happy with this set up. This and Go Go Boots are my two favourite albums of the year so far, so nice one Jason.
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on 28 April 2011
I agree for the most part with the comments of the first reviewer, I have bought all Jason Isbell's albums based on my respect for him in Drive by Truckers (which is now seriously lacking in DBT's output since he left, he provided the melody for DBT, that has gone).

Anyway back to his solo albums - yes it does feel like they have all been rushed in a way as every album has 2 or 3 great songs, 2 or 3 ok songs and 3 or 4 awful fillers which you could hear any pub rock/blues/soul band play in a Lancaster pub on a Friday night! Jason Isbell needs to steer away from this type of mechanical blues/soul dirge and focus more on the country type songs which he is crafted at doing.

You could take the best tracks off all the three albums and put them onto one cd and then realise what a fantastic song writer and melodic guitar player he really is. I would rather wait 2 years and he deliver a brilliant album than rush out a host of songs just for the sake of it. Therefore I have given it three stars, I really hope next time I can say five!
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on 19 April 2011
Im afraid this cd is nothing special, I was really looking forward to this release, But it is a disapointment to say the least. I have no problem with the short running time(Under 40 Minutes)But there is really only half a good album in those 40 minutes.Jason Isbells last offering is still one of my favourite albums,And i still listen to it at regular intervals,There is nothing on this cd to compare to the last release.My other major gripe is the record company/artist seem to want to put this cd out as cheap as possible -There is no booklet/lyrics, If you want lyrics you have to download them from the bands website.Overall must do better.
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on 3 June 2011
Jason isbell strongest album yet,a lot more relaxed, mellower than he's know for but very rewarding,i think the change of sound is a welcome one ,him and drive by truckers have both got stronger since he left,every truckers album has bettered the last one he played on! Be great if he was still with them but sadly he ain't.
An amazing songwriter, with truly great songs already at the back of him. At just 32.
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on 27 March 2014
Not as good as the later Southeastern but has its moments.

Alabama Pines and Go it Alone are fantastic songs and there are 3 or 4 really good other tracks, and a few fillers.
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on 10 March 2016
The burgeoning talent, that would later give us Something More Than Free, shines through here on this collection of songs.
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