Jason Isbell – The Nashville Sound
Since the release of 2013's Southeastern, Jason Isbell has moved from alt-country troubadour to bona-fide rock star, eclipsing even the success of his alma mater, the Drive-By Truckers. On this new record, his third since that career-defining album, Isbell sings as if there's a new weight of responsibility on his shoulders, which doesn't necessarily add up to his best material.
The Nashville Sound isn't a bad record by any estimation, but there are flat moments. White Man's World begins promisingly, with a crunching guitar riff and some subtle keys, but lyrically it feels a little rushed. Clearly Isbell is trying to address some big issues here, all the more relevant in Trump's America, but it's all a bit surface level. Another topical issue, mental health, is covered on Anxiety. This is better executed but still treads the same ground throughout.
What Isbell's always been best at is writing love songs, particularly the "the world is awful, but at least we've got each other," kind. If We Were Vampires is a fine example of this, bleakly romantic with wry humour. Tupelo is similar, though more hopeful in its lyrics and overall sound – a lilting, lounging, mint-julep of a song.
Listen to: Tupelo, If We Were Vampires