Jason Isbell has risen to fame as a balladeer, and his newest release â€“ notably attributed to him as a solo artist rather than to his band, the 400 Unit â€“ is proof that he is one of the best in the business.
Southeastern covers more ground than just slow songs, but it is on these where Isbellâ€™s talents come to bear. From the delicately plucked strings that introduce the album-opening â€œCover Me Up,â€ he comes across as the weathered veteran that he is, worn down like driftwood by lifeâ€™s challenges and personal demons. â€œYvetteâ€ not only stands out, but it stands tall as arguably one of the best songs he has written. When the album does gain momentum on a few tracks, it does so with mixed results. â€œStockholm,â€ a duet with Kim Richey, brims with lush orchestration, and â€œFlying Over Waterâ€ hangs comfortably on wiry guitar. In contrast, â€œSuper 8,â€ although comprised of clever lyricism, comes across like generic honky-tonk.
In the end, it all comes back to those slow songs and the gentle sway of a songwriter who, recently sober and newly married, has seen a lot in his 34 years. Southeastern is another fine performance by Jason Isbell, whose career continues to flourish with each song he writes and album he releases.
Southeastern is out June 11 on Southeastern Records.