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Sirens Of The Ditch

4.5 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Sirens of the Ditch
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Audio CD, July 10, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Accomplished guitarist and songwriter Jason Isbell, formerly of Drive By Truckers (DBT), releases his debut solo album Sirens Of The Ditch.

The album rocks with 11 tracks all written by Isbell kicking off with "Brand New Kind Of Actress", followed by the rocker "Down In A Hole", a swampy number featuring Muscle Shoals natives Spooner Oldham and David Hood. Isbell s songwriting skills shine especially on "Dress Blues" a pensive ballad about a high-school classmate who lost his life fighting in Iraq and "Chicago Promenade" a tribute to his late Grandfather.

Listeners caught glimpses of Isbell s skills on Drive-By Truckers records with tracks like "Danko/Manuel" and "Outfit".

Sirens Of The Ditch's mystical quality can be partially attributed to the FAME recording studio (Aretha Franklin, Duane Allman, Otis Redding) in Isbell s hometown of Muscle Shoals, AL where the album was recorded. A lot of old soul musicians came through here in the late 60s and 70s and helped define the Muscle Shoals sound, the lifelong Alabamian explains, so that influence was always in my environment, but on this record I really tried to capture that.

Co-produced by Isbell and Patterson Hood (DBT), Sirens Of The Ditch features Isbell singing lead vocals and playing guitar throughout, joined by Shonna Tucker (DBT) on Bass and Brad Morgan (DBT) on drums. Several musicians pop in for cameos including Spooner Oldham and David Hood (Patterson s father) on "Down In A Hole", John Neff (DBT) on "Dress Blues" and Patterson himself guests on "Shotgun Wedding".

Amazon.com

Guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Isbell was a driving force in the rousing postmodern Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers. Sirens of the Ditch is his solo debut. A resident of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Isbell clearly has Catholic taste in his roots rock. His backing band throws together a pleasant mélange of pedal steel, organ, strummed acoustic guitar, and heartfelt Americana vocals. At first, it sounds like something you've heard before a thousand times, by Ryan Adams or was that Bryan Adams. However, on closer inspection, there's a lot more going on. After rhyming "bitch" with "ditch" in the song "Ditch," Isbell throws in a line about "dancing to 'Purple Rain'" and you're drawn in, to a clearly delineated but poetic storyline and gorgeous melodies. Isbell's best songs will remind you of Richard Buckner, Raymond Carver, and Neil Young. "Dress Blues" might be the most sympathetic and awesome song about the Iraq war yet written. Huzzah. --Mike McGonigal
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 10, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: New West Records
  • ASIN: B000QUU2UW
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,117 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Saw him open for Sunvolt and give a much better performance, frankly. "Dress Blues" had me choked up in public and I bought the album on the strength of that song. I only find a couple other songs as good, but there are no real stinkers, either. Like a lot of bands I used to listen to back in the day, they've had a hard time getting their great live band energy to come through in a studio recording. That said, the band's musicianship and Isbell's singing are well represented. I'm looking forward to the next album and Isbell's next crack at songwriting, which I think shows flashes of brilliance here.

Heck, I've just talked myself into revising it to 4 stars instead of 3. Definitely see them live, but until then, even with a couple forgettable songs on it, "Dress Blues" and "Try" are worth the price of this album.
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I have always loved music and it has been a big part of my life. I am almost 70 now and still listen, but not like I did in my earlier years. Actually, I had pretty much lost interest until I saw Jason Isbell on PBS LIVE AT LINCOLN CENTER a couple of months ago.
I am embarrassed to say that I had never heard of him, but was taken with his music. I Am currently buying all his CD's one at a time so I can become very familiar with all his recorded work.

The last time I got this excited over an artist was in 1972 when I discovered John Prine! Jason Isbell is an incredible talent!
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Format: Audio CD
I had to listen a bit before I could review this. It had to sink in for a little while. Like the majority of folks who bought this album I was a Drive-By Truckers fan first and was interested in Isbell based on his output from that band, and fine bit of output it was. I bought the album with DBT comparisons in mind and I don't think I gave this album a fair shot to stand on its own. It is different from DBT, and those difference were a little off-putting at first (because of my expectations) but I found going back a re-listening to be very rewarding.

Oddly, the stuff that is the furthest from his DBT work is, in my opinion the best material here. "Chicago Promenade" struck me as the most sincere song and I wasn't surprised to learn that Isbell had a family member in mind when writing it. It's the kind of song that is personal yet universal, like a relationship with a loved one. Each personal relationship is different, but there is an aspect of familiarity that everyone can relate to since we've all felt it. It's not necessarily what he says in the song, but the feeling behind that gives me goosebumps when I hear it.

That aspect of feeling is also what sets apart "Hurricanes and Hand Grenades." The first line "I've got a glass of wine/I've got a cigarette/I should be feelin' fine/I ain't feelin' nothin' yet" perfectly encapsulates the mood of this lazy, bluesy gem. It creeps along like sneaking wine buzz that slowly warms the entire body until you realize that your just sitting and smiling for no particular reason. The lyrics of the song indicate pain and loss, but vibe is pure mellow.

There are some places where the album feels like it's missing something. Some of the songs are very good and feel like they could be great, but something is keeping them from it.
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Format: Audio CD
Jason Isbell's "Sirens of the Ditch" is brilliant, edgy, intuitive, deep-running country rock of the New School. Isbell is a remarkable poet and combines powerful lyrics with tight, soaring guitar breaks. Frankly, there is something wrong with a person who can resist playing air-guitar on many of these tunes. Though most of the songs are not political, "The Devil is My Running Mate" is one of my favorites because it absolutely nails President Bush.

I don't want to listen to any other music but Isbell's right now, and it's been like that for a month. This doesn't happen to me very much. Be warned, if you listen to this CD a few times, the Sirens will indeed draw you onto Isbell's lyrical island for an extended musical vacation. I look forward to more powerful new music from this former Drive By Trucker.

Purely by luck, in early November we saw Jason Isbell live in front of a large crowd at the Cubbie Bear in Chicago. His was the warm-up band for the main act. Isbell blew the audience away. My son is a veteran Chicago band watcher. When Isbell was urged back for his second encore, my son shouted to me that it was the first time he'd seen a warm-up band get even one encore in the Windy City.
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Format: Audio CD
Jason Isbell is a storyteller, one whose work with DBT took me, a Southern California boy, into the tradations, beauty and horrors of his Deep South. As with the best of DBT's work, he did so in graceful, yet frequently brutal narratives. With DBT, you didn't easily forget a Jason Isbell song. "Outfit", "Declaration Day", "Never gonna Change", "Goddamn Lonely Love", "When the Well runs Dry" ... these songs are movies that play out in your mind and stay.

DBT albums like The Dirty South are intense affairs. One of the many benefits of having three top-notch contributers was it allowed Jason, Patterson and Cooley to bring their top material. In Jason's case, that always meant intense or highly entertaining material ("The Day John Henry Died").

In Jason's debut release, I have listened to it for three weeks now before weighing in with a review. Jason's songwriting skills and guitar playing are evident throughout, with many of the songs improving with ongoing listening.

However, I don't believe the overall quality of his full release is fully realized, thus the four star rating. While contributing 3-4 songs likely representing his best work per DBT album, in this case there isn't enough top level material throughout Sirens of the Ditch. This point of view probably is not fair, my expectations were very high. His previous work usually left me open-mouthed in amazement, very little here comes close to that. It likely would be difficult to produce an entire release consisting of the quality and intensity of Jason's previous work.

I conclude by noting that I am very anxious to see Jason's band in tour. I saw DBT on The Dirty South tour in an amazing show and Jason's guitar work and songs were incredible. As much as I enjoy the majority of his first release, I have a gut feeling that the next one will blow every gear and be simply incredible.
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