Jason Isbell’s music just keeps moving in a different direction from where it started. The raunchy deep-south story songs of “Decoration Day” and “TVA” are long gone and he has moved into what is really a whole different genre. The songs are now slower, the guitars are dialed back, there is more emphasis on lyrics with the songs not being so linear anymore.
This may seem like a bad thing for Isbell fans but when they hear songs like “Traveling Alone” off Southeastern it will be hard to argue with the shift. This trend really started on his last album Here We Rest where the rockers were fewer and further between. Southeastern has all but abandoned them; just the raucous rocker “Super 8” remains to appease fans.
The gem of the album is a heavy-hearted song named “Elephant” where Isbell takes on how people deal with cancer. The oddly optimistic take of the situation sucks you in and leaves a lump in your throat that burns to hear the song again. “Relatively Easy” is a great closer for the record but it helps recover from a bit of a lull in middle of the album.
Fans will probably long for Isbell to let loose like he does on “Super 8” but it really feels like those days are behind him and he is just now making the music he has always wanted to and that he has worked so hard to grow into. If he can continue to record quality songs like “Elephant” “Traveling Alone” and “Relatively Easy” he will maintain a solid fanbase as long as he wants and record a lot of great records too.
Key Tracks: “Elephant” “Traveling Alone” “Relatively Easy”