Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Here We Rest Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Here We Rest

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Here We Rest

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Here We Rest

During his stint with the Drive By Truckers, Jason Isbell wrote some of my favorite songs produced by the band. With the ability to tell an engaging, complex story in just a few short minutes, his voice was the perfect fit for the Hood/Cooley songwriting team. After his departure in 2007 to pursue a solo career, the Truckers began to explore different directions. Isbell’s first two solo efforts found the songwriter exploring some new directions as well, yet with much less pressure. That’s the point of someone leaving a band: to go on a new path.

Interestingly, that path seems to have led him closer to where he began, musically speaking.. In a recent review of the Drive By Trucker’s latest album, I tried to avoid a comparison with their earlier work. But Jason Isbell’s latest, Here We Rest, sounds closer to those early DBT albums than either he or the original band has released in years. Perhaps he’s gotten the need for experimentation out of his system and is comfortably settling back into his roots. I am excited to hear this sound again – but it also leaves me feeling nostalgic for the time when the three songwriters were working together. Perhaps Isbell doesn’t possess the same ability to evolve musically into different genres. But he certainly maintains his position as an excellent writer.

Being the articulate and convincing storyteller that he is, it has always been difficult to decipher whether Isbell’s songs are personal or based on conjecture. On Here We Rest, the songs do seem to contain more self-reflective sincerity than normal. There are more first-person narratives, seemingly not about a character he’s invented. “Alabama Pines,” an overwhelmingly endearing song about homesickness, is a great example of this. It’s difficult to believe that this isn’t a deeply personal song, an expression of his feelings and experiences.

Aside from being a great collection of songs, one of the things that really impressed me about this album is the track order. That may seem like an insignificant detail, but when you hear it done correctly, it makes you realize how often this important decision is overlooked. In a market where singles have become more important than albums, the album as an entire work of art is all too often overlooked, resulting in inconsistency and a lack of cohesiveness. Such is not the case with Isbell’s new album. Although the basic formula seems to be: mellow song, followed by more up-beat song, there is a perfect pacing that holds your interest throughout.

With each album finding Isbell fitting more comfortably into his new outfit, it’s comforting to know he’s holding his own. It’s always difficult for a member of a band to go on their own, to convince the fans of their continuing relevance. Jason Isbell’s potential is just as great as it always has been. Whether you mourn his departure from the Drive By Truckers or not, it should come as a relief that he’s still making great music.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Here We Rest, reviewed by Daniel G on 2011-05-05T13:59:28-07:00 rating 4.4 out of 5

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