Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit
The Nashville Sound
Southeastern Records/Sony Music
“The past is never dead.It’s not even past.”…William Faulkner
Writers from the American south have always had a special voice, and a special relationship with their complicated, turbulent and sometimes dark history. With their new album The Nashville Sound, Grammy award winners Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (the 400 Unit was a slang name for the lock down rooms at the local hospital) have drawn deeply from the well of American music to explore life in America today.
Produced by Dave Cobb, The Nashville Sound manages to combine a modern pop/country sound with a solid musical underpinning from the past. This is a sound we’ve heard before but recorded with a freshness and verve that uplifts the listener.
A beautiful example of this is the song “Cumberland Gap”. Referencing a Woody Guthrie song about the pass long used by native Americans to travel through the Cumberland mountains, Isbell reflects on the community of people once reliant on coal, now adrift in a baffling,changing world. “In White Mans World”, he looks at the unsettling mix of feelings that come with the legacy of the frontier myth.
The intoxicating thing about this album is that the songs are able to transcend the painful realities of race, class and personal politics with an honest and hopeful faith in the goodness of people,the people he knows so well.
Another standout is “If We Were Vampires”, a stunningly beautiful acoustic song about the fragility of love, the uncertainty of events…’if we were vampires, and death was a joke, we’d go out on the sidewalk and smoke’.
‘In this world the only certain things are love and family,community and friends…so if you’re looking’ for some bad news,you can find it somewhere else’ , he sings in “Hope The High Road” addressing that demographic that seems lost in the partisan culture wars, searching for a balance, a reckoning with the real past of the South and looking into the future with hope….’to a world you want to live in’.
The album closes with ‘Something To Love”, a touching tribute to all the little things that make life precious, home,music , the little pieces of life.…’I hope you find something to love…something to love it will serve you well’.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit are the freshest sound to emerge from the nexus of folk and country in many years. Their music is articulate and rocking, simple and yet able to present complex ideas; rooted in the past with their eyes and hearts fixed firmly on the future.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT – THE NASHVILLE SOUND