’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.