It's always good to know that the art of singer/songwriting isn't dead. Look at former Drive-By Tuckers member, Jason Isbell
, and his prestigious solo career; with many solitary albums under his belt, he's become one of the quintessential folk songwriters of our time. Traveling the country playing with his signature band, which includes his wife Amanda Shires a prolific violinist, Isbell has been maintaining his sort of ritualistic americana well into the 21st century. On his newest album Something More than Free
, Isbell recycles the beauty of folk instrumentation and reestablishes a traditional lyrical narrative that feels undeniably authentic. Like a wise elder, he laments about his hardships, childhood, and sorrowful ideologies to create a symphonic remembrance of a distant America.
When Isbell speaks, his voice produces a a calm, southern accent, emanating a familiarity of the American south and his hometown in Alabama. The son of a painter and an interior designer, it's no wonder he grew up with an attraction to a more artistic vocation. With a confidence in a myriad of instruments commenced by his grandparents when he was only kid, Isbell displays all of this developed talent on the newest album. From the implementation of classic folk paragons like harmonica and mandolin, to dreary acoustic ballads churning with the deep timbre of Isbell's vocals, the album rings with a diversity and a conventionality that intertwines elegantly.
Opener "If it Takes a Lifetime" starts almost predictably, with a little bit of essential guitar finger-picking. Emitting a irrefutable likeness to the branded sound of John Denver, Isbell sings optimistically about a time when his conscience will be cleared and his identity ultimately solidified. Calling this track a vestigial accent of the 1930's and 40's blues is definitely not fallacious; with lyrics describing the incessant nature of working and a yearning for happiness, Isbell brilliantly captures, and is obviously inspired by, an imperative part of American 20th century music.
While every song consists of the archetypal Jason Isbell lyrics, vocality, and southern folk influence, it's the lead single "24 Frames" that stands out among the eleven tracks. A beautiful montage of familial events and cultivated instructions, Isbell goes through the pain and the relatable nature of the human condition and of its standard mortality. The words "twenty-four frames" repeated every chorus evokes not only a cinematic knowledge, but the despairing speediness of ones livelihood. It's a message that's been retold throughout artistic history, but within Isbell's unique depiction, the message is brought to life with lyrical motifs and his keen, vibrant imagery.
Whether it's the reverberating, desolate vocals on the beginning of "Children of Children" or the bluesy, melodic essence of "Palmetto Rose, Jason Isbell" has defiantly administered the new decade in prime singer/songwriter composition upon every release. The album, going through forty-three minutes of unrelenting sorrow and anguish, doesn't just get the listener to wallow in the content but to understand Isbell as a lyrical protagonist. Even through all of the depressing components, his ultimate goal is comfort; with the warmness of the fiddles and the familiarity of his southern sound, Isbell constructs a completed edition of something complex yet indubitably classic.
Get Jason Isbell's new album, Something More Than Free
, out now.