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Jason Isbell And the 400 Unit: Reunions - charging a tired format with passion and perception

Saviour of alt.country Jason Isbell is in fine form on Reunions, solo album number seven

Jason Isbell And the 400 Unit: Reunions
(Image: © Southeastern Records)

’This used to be a ghost town but even the ghosts got out’, begins Overseas, the best of many upliftingly sad songs on Jason Isbell’s seventh solo album, before bursting into a meteor shower of guitars that echo Neil Young’s Cortez The Killer

The Grammy-winning former Drive-By Trucker is the country-rock (or alt. country) star who even non-fans of the genre like, so indisputable is his gift for the astute, poetic line, the yearning but not overcooked vocal and the anthemic yet intimate tune. 

He also has a political conscience (not straightforward in Nashville), and is so unafraid of Bruce Springsteen comparisons that he can write a song about a troubled working man here, call it River and not come a cropper. 

Whether he’s musing insightfully over alcoholism or parenthood, his band are blazing and Isbell takes a tired format and charges it up with passion and perceptiveness. An admirable anomaly.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.