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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally good
I think this is something rather special. This was an almost random selection for me on a vague recommendation and it turned out to be an outstanding album of real quality, with fine songs and excellent performances.

The album has a feel of singer-songwriter about it. Even though there is some lovely support work from a band and some other singers in places...
Published 10 months ago by Sid Nuncius

versus
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Looking inward isn't a patch on looking outwards as part of the Truckers
His latest is mediocre singer-songwriter stuff totally lacking in fire and inspiration. What a pity he's in denial about his songs with the Truckers, stating that the songs with them were when he couldn't really write, so just put down what was around him. What superb songs they were. Now, uninspired, he just puts down what he sees looking inwards, just like so very many...
Published 29 days ago by Simon Turner


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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally good, 11 Jun 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Southeastern (Audio CD)
I think this is something rather special. This was an almost random selection for me on a vague recommendation and it turned out to be an outstanding album of real quality, with fine songs and excellent performances.

The album has a feel of singer-songwriter about it. Even though there is some lovely support work from a band and some other singers in places (including the very good Kim Richey), the real impact is from Jason Isbell's fine singing and guitar work. There is a melancholy air over the album, with the songs dealing with loneliness, broken relationships, human flaws and the like. This sounds very miserable but isn't; Isbell creates lovely singable melodies with excellent arrangements and production, and a variety of tones from solo voice and guitar to full rock band sound. It is certainly often poignant and touching but somehow never depressing.

What makes this quite exceptionally good, though, is Isbell's lyrics, in my view. He tells stories and conjures emotional states with exceptional depth and it gives the songs real impact. This is at its most raw in Elephant, a stunning song about a friend dying of cancer. There are a lot of great lines in it, like "Surrounded by family, I saw that she was dying alone..." I have had far more experience of loved ones dying of cancer than any one person ought and, among the euphemism and untruth the living comfort themselves with, it is very unusual to find anyone with the perceptiveness and insight to see the truth and the courage to speak it. I think it's a remarkable song, and Isbell brings a similar level of thoughtfulness and honesty to many of the songs on this album.

It is always a joy to discover new music of this quality, and I will certainly be listening to Jason Isbell's back-catalogue very soon. For now, I'm listening to this album repeatedly and getting more out of it each time. I'd recommend this very warmly to anyone who likes beautiful, thoughtful and intelligent songs.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jason Isbell - Cleans Up, Falls in Love, Delivers Classic Album, 15 Jun 2013
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Southeastern (Audio CD)
At long last Jason Isbell has delivered that great classic album that he always threatened to make. From his days as a key component in the Deep South's best band the Drive By Truckers to his excellent debut "Sirens of the Ditch", Isbell has produced songs of the highest quality and delivery. Yet even die hard Isbell supporters began to lose faith in later albums culminating with the mixed bag of 2011's "Here we rest" which languishes on this reviewers I Pod like an abandoned prisoner with only "Alabama Pines" allowed out in the exercise yard. The new album "Southeastern" is the product of Isbell going through recovery and cleaning up his act on the Jack Daniels front. More importantly he has found a soulmate and fell in love with musician Amanda Shires who plays on this album (his previous marriage to the DBTs Shonna Tucker fell apart and contributed to his departure from the band). It appears that cupid's intervention has done him a power of good since the fog that enveloped "Here we rest" has lifted and every song on this record basks in radiant clarity. Isbell's often-underplayed strength has been his ear for a classic ballad including stunners like "Dress Blues". On "Southeastern" they populate the album in abundance, not least "Cover me up" a tough song about addictions and passion with has nice Beatles like undercurrent melody. The line "girl leave your boots by the bed, we ain't leaving this room 'til someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom." is classic. What is also noticeable is how much his voice has improved. The good ole Southern twang is still there but its now more mainstream American if that makes sense and it works. The pace picks up with the brilliant uplifting piano driven "Stockholm" where the Kim Richey backing vocals drives this lovely alt country song with a slight tinge of the music of his friend Ryan Adams. The quality barometer does not drop throughout the whole album so let us single out some songs for special attention. Firstly "Travelling alone" is classic old school country and will wear out jukebox needles in bars across the mid west. Even better is the album standout "Elephant". Honestly you should sectioned if you don't seek this one out at once. It tells a tale of a devastating tale of a couple dealing with cancer that is the elephant in the room in a relationship that is fading away. At one point Isbell sings with aching poignancy that "When she was drunk she made cancer jokes/she made up her own Doctors notes/surrounded by her family I saw she was dying alone". It is brilliant and will send Isbell's songwriting credentials to the top of the premier division.

More songs which have immediate appeal include the sauntering guitar acoustics of the lovely "Different Day", the blustery rocker "Flying over water" that features guitar solo so stinging it almost hurts and the punchy Southern honky tonk rock of "Super 8" which would have fitted nicely into "Exile on Main Street". But again it is an acoustic song that demands attention namely "Song she sang in the shower" which references Pink Floyd's "Wish you were here" and will break hearts when played across the radio waves of country music stations. Somehow he matches it with "New south Wales" with Shires adding an plaintive fiddle backdrop melting together with in Isbell's precise guitar picking. The serious business album concludes with the bluesy "Yvette" with a great Isbell's vocal and the gorgeous closer "Relatively Easy" gives the album an optimistic acoustic ending

Jason Isbell's solo albums to date have occasionally touched the highs of his Drive By Truckers songs where at a precocious age he was writing unimpeachable songs like "Goddamn lonely love" and the great Southern anthem "Oufit". With "Southeastern" he moves from solid to brilliant. It is a redemptive album full of catharsis and pain but with some fun along way. It is a bit like life in that regard but predominantly a soundtrack to everyday heartaches. Isbell is now 34 and ruefully reflected in a recent interview to the New York Times that fame came far too early in Drive by Truckers days and he wasn't ready for it. With the release of "Southeastern" there is a growing vibe in the US at the moment that this album may represent a significant turning point that demands 50 states attention. How many country singers get a full-blown profile in the Wall Street Journal? Thus perhaps Isbell's new found maturity has arrived at precisely the right time since it looks like fame is about to knock loudly at his door again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't see that coming, 12 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Southeastern (Audio CD)
Having admired (rather than loved) much of DBT's records and some of the solo work that emanates from the band I was swayed to try out the new album by metacritic's rating. I was prepared to be disappointed. I was wrong. This is a flawless record with honest emotional connection throughout. A triumph.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Isbell just keeps getting better, 23 Dec 2013
By 
Steve Keen "therealus" (Herts, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Southeastern (Audio CD)
Although I'm sorry Jason Isbell left Drive By Truckers - I think both parties lost something on that deal - it's perfectly understandable when his subsequent output is considered. He must have been positively bursting with all the songs he had waiting to be let out when at best he only managed three or four per album with the Truckers. Since they released their last album, Isbell has released at least three, and his latest, Southeastern, is about his best.

The songs and music cover a variety of subjects and run the gamut of emotions from sad to totally desolate, Isbell apparently channeling Leonard Cohen in that respect, with some quiet and contemplative ballads alongside more lively rockers, though there's no AC/DC here.

Traveling Alone opens with the most plaintive fiddle ever, Amanda Shires apparently strangling the notes out of her instrument, and as she continues to squeeze melancholy from its pores Isbell's voice and words match the ongoing mood. Elephant, the following track, hardly lifts the veil, being about the big C, and features the bitter line "No one dies with dignity".

Songs That She Sang In The Shower, one of a number of songs in a pleasing 3/4 time, is the first of a couple of songs where the singer is on the wrong end of a beating, opening with a smack in the eye which requires application of a steak, and progressing to his significant other walking out as a consequence, prompting his reflection on her musical repertoire whilst showering. The second song in which he receives a beating is Super 8, the chorus of which, "Don't want to die in a Super 8 motel", reminded me of a stay in Lafayette.

The collection ends with Relatively Easy, in which Simon and Garfunkel meet the E Street Band for another contemplation of loneliness.

Since buying the record I've played it constantly, and it's one that rewards repeated listening, with something new noticed every time, about the music or the words. Really, really excellent.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jason Isbell tops the lot!, 16 Jun 2013
By 
F Arnold "sweet fa" (London England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Southeastern (Audio CD)
Jason Isbell is fast becoming the songwriter's songwriter and now stands comparison with the best of Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark or Steve Earle. The lead up to this outstanding album has been a series of increasingly good solo albums which followed some star turns with The Drive-By Truckers (Goddamn Lonely Love, Decoration Day) Last year in a pub in North London he played the best solo acoustic live gig I have ever seen and not far short of the being the most enjoyable of any I have seen in 45 years of concert going. He is that good - amazingly strong voice (all the better for giving up booze which he had done not long before the London gig), phenomenal guitarist (if you want a flavour of how good, listen to his solo on Justin Townes Earle's 'Harlem River Blues')and songwriting of the highest order

And now he has trumped all that with the songs of redemption, love, dying, rock and roll lifestyle and so on, on the majestic 'Southeastern', an album to savour, to wallow or rejoice in. It will make you cry and make you laugh and will stir the senses unlike few others. What joy to have the three best albums of the year released within a month or so of one another. This is as good a male singer songwriter album as Patty Griffin's 'American Kid' is a female one (and Lori McKenna's 'Massachusetts' is the third one. If Jason Isbell gets any better we will run out of superlatives - this is a great album! Beautifully produced, well-paced, brilliantly played.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What's not to like?, 1 April 2014
By 
Mark Powell (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Southeastern (Audio CD)
Another former member of one of my favourite bands (Drive-By Truckers), this album is a little different from Jason's earlier solo efforts. I get the impression it's something of an autobiography - I don't know Jason Isbell obviously - and contains real heart felt - and heart wrenching songs. The opening track 'Cover Me Up' comes straight from the soul, someone who's turned his life around and found true comfort. The song 'Elephant' tells of a man's relationship with a terminally ill woman, and doing almost everything to avoid the inevitable. As a counterbalance, there's 'Super 8', someone spending a lot of time on the road and pleading not to 'die in a Super 8 motel'. A similar theme is 'Traveling Alone' with accompaniment from Amanda Shires.
If you know Jason Isbell from DBT or his previous albums, this is a must. If you don't know him, get this. You won't be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars surely a breakthrough record, 10 Mar 2014
By 
C. U. Usher (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Southeastern (Audio CD)
Isbell doesn't put a foot wrong here. This seems like a classic in the making. If the opening track doesn't convince you; well, your heart must be a hard place...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great album, and even better live, 17 Feb 2014
By 
Paul Allaer (Cincinnati) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Southeastern (Audio CD)
Jason Isbell has been steadily climbing both the critical and commercial ranks ever since he left the Drive-By Truckers and struck out on his own (with or without his backup band The 400 Unit). Last year, it all came together and culminated on this album.

"Southeaster" (12 tracks; 48 min.) starts off with an intimate and acoustic "Cover me Up", but on "Stockholm", Isbell unleashes his electric guitar and his energy. "Traveling Alone" finds Isbell asking himself (and us) 'I've grown tired of traveling alone/ Won't you ride with me?' "Flying Over Water" is one of the hardest rocking tracks on here, although "Motel 8" isn't far behind, and with a great chorus that goes 'Don't want to die in a Super 8 Motel / Just because somebody's evening didn't go so well/ If I ever get back to Bristol/ I'm better off sleeping in a county jail', ha! In between those two, there is a beautiful pensive track called "Songs That She Sang In the Shower". The album closer "Relatively Easy" is an open-ended yet optimistic reflection on life, with these final lines: 'The evenings now are relatively easy/Here with you there's always/Something to look forward to/My lonely heart beats relatively easy'. Very nice. While certainly there are differences between Jason Isbell and Ryan Adams, this album to me feels like it's on par with the heydays of Adams. Keeping in mind they only differ about 4 years in age, it's funny how their careers have unfolded. Adams broke very big in the early 2000s, and now has all but disappeared. Isbell on the contrary has waited years and years for his big moment. Now that it's finally here, I hope he enjoys it.

I had the good fortune of seeing Jason Isbell (with the 400 Unit) again in concert just recently at the Taft Theatre here in Cincinnati, before a sell-out crowd. Isbell was in great form throughout, playing heavily from "Southeaster" of course (I think 8 or 9 songs from it), and then mixing some earlier solo career tunes and of course a handful of Drive-By Truckers tuness. What a delightful evening that was, and as great as the album sounds, you just can't beat the live experience. If you have a chance to see Jason Isbell in concert, do not miss him!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Album, 15 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Southeastern (Audio CD)
I read review in the American Songwriter magazine and took a chance. Great songwriting , singing and style. I'll be buying more by him.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking but wonderful, 14 Jan 2014
By 
A. D. Littlejohn (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Southeastern (Audio CD)
My first Jason Isbell album having enjoyed his songs when in Drive-By Truckers. This is the best album I have heard released in 2013. Great songs that I'm enjoying more with each hearing. Not the easiest of subject matter; recovering from alcoholism, suicide, cancer, a man with a murderous past, bereavement and so on but lyrically beautiful and poignant all the same. Rocks out a wee bit on Super 8 but generally a more gentle and restrained album. Wonderful.
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Southeastern
Southeastern by Jason Isbell (Audio CD - 2013)
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