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Isbell just keeps getting better
on 23 December 2013
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.