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".
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