Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ken's Best of 2013: #9: Jason Isbell - Southeastern

I've been a fan of Jason Isbell ever since he days with the Drive-By Truckers. As much as I enjoyed his solo work, there was always a little something missing from each album. I had assumed it was having the more rocking songs by Mike Cooley or Patterson Hood to break up the more laid back down tempo songs Isbell tends to write. Southeastern proved me wrong. I wish I could put my finger on exactly what it was, but it doesn't really matter since Isbell found it himself.

Southeastern had the potential to be a complete nightmare. It's his first album newly sober and the first after his marriage to Amanda Shires (who also performs on the album). It's kind of a running joke that artists lose their edge after sobriety, and it also tends to be true. Plus, being happy doesn't tend to lead to great art, either. Southeastern breaks both those rules by being Isbell's greatest work ever. Not just as a solo artist: Ever. He's found inspiration in both sobriety ("Super 8") and marriage ("Traveling Alone"), which might be a first for both of those life events. Amanda Shires joins him on many songs and adds the absolute perfect element. Maybe she's what was missing. Or maybe it was happiness. Maybe my own maturity is finally drawing me to stable artists instead of tortured ones. 

For more information on Jason Isbell, head on over to his website. He also has an extensive tour coming up in the New Year. He was a stand out performer at a stacked 2013 Newport Folk Fest (my review is here), so I implore you to go out when he comes to your town. You can also stream Southeastern below.

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