Jason Isbell releases his latest, Something More Than Free, on Friday, July 17th. I would have written about it sooner, but I couldn’t stop listening to it.
I gave the latest CD a whirl when it appeared in the stack sent over from WKIT’s Bobby Russell. Although recommended by many songwriters I admire, I just couldn’t jump onto the Isbell fan train that he has collected since leaving the Drive By Truckers so I have little comparison for the new material. (Yes, I am planning to listen to the older material again soon.)
A beautiful songwriter, as everyone knows, Isbell designs each syllable built for impact. Something More Than Free, is never dismal or morose, but Isbell has written straightforward accounts of life – the pain, the rebuilding, and the hope of keeping the good things together. I particularly admire that Isbell gives the characters in his songs, vignettes really, dignity without bothering to glorify them as so many country songwriters feel compelled to do. Musically each cut offers variety and interest, full of the roots sound many of us love, and always gentle and smooth.
Reading others’ reviews of Something More Than Free, it seems the new release either hits the spot or somehow falls short of their expectations, and often the response feels personal, far beyond tackling the release’s use of good song writing or composition. Apparently Isbell has become a voice in the darkness for many people, able to articulate the world in both a personal and general sense, an articulation that touches a nerve, or stabs at one. With that said, Something More Than Free certainly does stir emotions, playing like an eleven-song soundtrack for that old box of sepia and black and white snap shots from the drawer back on the farm – I can hear my uncle’s voice, the old vinyl playing in the morning, and smell the fields. I do love it when music can do that.