Jason Isbell’s music recognizes the aching cold corner of Lonesome Alley and Disillusionment Boulevard as home. In the best outlaw-country music tradition, Isbell unflinchingly calls out life’s moments of squalor and shame, while recognizing that those same moments are worthy of grace and transcendence, and that deep transgression and profound love often abide side by side. His brand of country is steeped in southern twang and badassery, able to channel that tight- lipped, flat-stare matter-of-factness that covers a wellspring of tenderness and a deep connection to the source, and harnesses it all to the drive of a rock and roll heart.
12 years ago, Isbell’s career took off when he left a party in a van with (alt-country/southern rock gods) Drive-By Truckers, with two travel days to learn their songs (and teach them some of his own in the bargain). After parting ways in 2007, he now leads his own barn-burning outfit The 400 Unit—named after an Alabama psych ward. Isbell has been described as a “dynamic electric guitarist, heavy on the slide and reverb” and his music as “lyrical rock ‘n’ roll music with a rural edge to it.” His current album Southeastern—recorded not long after a stint in rehab—gives voice to vivid and complex characters, winning the love of music critics from Rolling Stone to Pitchfork to Uncut. Southeastern deals head-on with the messy business of alcoholism, sobriety and life, raising what could be an exercise in musical journaling to a whole different level by virtue of his insightful songwriting.