Jason Isbell’s back

More of my friends are discovering Jason Isbell, who’s been all over the media landscape in the last few weeks after the release of his latest album. It’s another strong effort — I cannot believe his consistency in putting out great music — and it also features the bittersweetness that I admire so much in his songwriting.

It’s not easy being a singer-songwriter these days. In an era when the producer is more important than the musicians for a lot of acts and every musician seemingly gets scrubbed by electronics, singer-songwriters still put themselves out there, often accompanied by the simplest of music, and that’s just not the way most music listeners want things. But Isbell (and a number of my other favorite musicians) still do it this way.

This particular Isbell album is noisier than his last two efforts, but it still has plenty of contemplative moments. Even “Cumberland Gap,” my favorite song on the new album, makes devastating use of the line “Maybe the Cumberland Gap just swallows you whole,” and nobody I know makes it through “If We Were Vampires” unmoved. That’s really all you can ask of a musician.


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