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coverpic flag US - Alabama - Full Moon 153 - 03/11/09

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
Lightning Rod Records

Jason Isbell used to be in the country-rocking band Drive By Truckers. If you know them, you have a good idea of what he's up to. Although, as much as I love DBT I'll claim that he's on a more refined path of rock then they are. Where they are running down the highway on full steam, Isbell might take a turn somewhere and seek out the smaller roads, which leads him into soul music and traditional folk and rock.

This is his second album after the DBT, following Sirens Of The Ditch (2007), an album that was well received with both critics and fans. Since then, the 400 Unit has been added to the name, although I can't say that has made a huge change-over. He marks that it has been a band effort, with his songs.

First thing that strikes me is how well-sounding this record is. For some reason (or reasons we won't go into here) that seem seldom these days. There is a spacious, yet tight, feel to every song. I don't believe that is a credit to the recording and mixing engineers solely, but also to confirm that it is actually a band effort.

A couple of the songs here has that quality where you feel like you've heard them before, and that also make them last for a long time. I can't say that I've recognized songs with the classic quality of some of his previous songs, such as "Danko/Manuel" or "God Damn Lonely Love", but it took some time for them to grow monumental too. "Cigarettes and Wine" might get there. "The Blue" is already a stayer with me, and "The Last Song I Will Write" is hopefully more of a title than a statement. Isbell is a craftsman and will probably only get better at it. This record is proof of his abilities and a promise of what is to come.

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