Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit blends Americana, country, and rock seamlessly on ‘The Nashville Sound.’
Alabama singer/songwriter Jason Isbell with his sixth studio album, The Nashville Sound. He’s not alone, enlisting his band, The 400 Unit. The results = awesome.
“Last of My Kind”
“Last of My Kind” kicks off The Nashville Sound superbly, with an acoustic-driven, singer/songwriter vibe. The lyrics pack a punch as Isbell imparts tales of society around him. Throughout the song, he feels out of place; Things have changed and he feels like the ‘odd man out.’ Despite the fact Isbell is uncomfortable, “Last of My Kind” is a gem.
“Cumberland Gap” embraces a rock edge, thanks to the grittiness of the electric guitars. The tempo is quicker, while the chorus is simple, yet irresistible. Here, Isbell paints a picture of living life in a box, without more variation and aspirations. Literally or metaphorically, The Cumberland Gap represents a deathtrap due to limited opportunities. On “Tupelo,” a mid-tempo, country-tinged number, escapism is the M.O. Tupelo can be viewed literally and figuratively. Despite the glamourous picture painted of escapism, realistically, trouble travels regardless.
“White Man’s World” examines the flaws of society, particularly in relation to gender and race. First, Isbell addresses inequality for women. Next, he tackles the inhabitation of Native American land and the unjust treatment of black men. By the end, he questions God, but still finds faith, thanks to “the fire in my little girl’s eyes.”
On “If We Were Vampires” Isbell discusses the fact that one day him or his wife will die and one will be left alone. On the second verse, the vampires come into play. “If [they] were vampires,” they’d have nothing to worry about after all. Obviously, Isbell realizes this isn’t realistic in the least.
“Anxiety” is epic. As the title suggests, Isbell can’t get past his anxiety. On the chorus, he passionately sings:
“Anxiety / How do you always get the best of me? / I’m out here living in a fantasy / I can’t enjoy a goddamn thing.”
What causes his anxiety is life; He worried about losing his family, and carrying “the weight of the world.” The music is awesome, particularly the instrumental at the end.
“Molotov” finds Isbell recollecting on a past relationship. Throughout the course, he reflects, asking, “Do you miss the girl you once had time to be?” “Chaos and Clothes” is among the quietest, most beautiful moments of The Nashville Sound. The folksy vibe is in full fruition. A breakup song, could Isbell be referencing Ryan Adams? Regardless, the subject of the song is on the heartbreak struggle bus.
“Hope the High Road” adopts an edgier sound thanks to gritty guitars. Isbell depicts a series of unfortunate happenings, calling the turbulent 2016 “a son of a bitch.” Despite the adversity, he ultimately “hope(s) the high road leads you home again / To a world you want to live in.” “Something to Love” closes The Nashville Sound optimistically. He reflects on pleasant memories from the past in his “tiny southern town,” as well as present, timeless memories.
Ultimately, The Nashville Sound earns a coveted spot as one of the best albums of 2017 without question. The songwriting is creative, relevant, and thoughtful. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit encompasses Americana, country, and rock, handling all magnificently. There are no misses whatsoever over the span of the ten featured tracks. Superb through and through.
Gems: “Last of My Kind,” “Cumberland Gap,” “White Man’s World,” “Anxiety,” “Chaos and Clothes” & “Hope the High Road”
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit • The Nashville Sound • Southeastern • Release: 6.16.17
Photo Credit: Southeastern
If you’d like to read the full-fledged analysis of The Nashville Sound, check out Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound | Album Review on The Musical Hype.