Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
Fairly or not, Jason Isbell may never live down his three-album stint in the Drive-By Truckers, during which he proved himself a keen observer of Southern life. However, on his 2007 solo debut Sirens of the Ditch, he struggled to produce an album of similarly compelling story-songs, most of the tracks sounding too burnished to capture the spontaneity of his former band. For his new album, recorded in Muscle Shoals, Isbell has assembled a tight, nuanced group to breathe life into his songwriting—he still has his sharp eye for narrative details (as the final verses of “Seven-Mile Island” make clear). The 400 Unit—named for a mental facility in Isbell’s current hometown of Florence, Ala.—lays out blistering riffs on “Good” and “However Long,” but slower songs like the maudlin “Cigarettes and Wine” and the zitar- and horns-laden “No Choice in the Matter” are overlong and languid, lacking energy and urgency.
Listen to Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's "Good":