97 of 102 people found the following review helpful
I think this is something rather special. This was an almost random selection for me on a vague recommendation and it turned out to be an outstanding album of real quality, with fine songs and excellent performances.
The album has a feel of singer-songwriter about it. Even though there is some lovely support work from a band and some other singers in places (including the very good Kim Richey), the real impact is from Jason Isbell's fine singing and guitar work. There is a melancholy air over the album, with the songs dealing with loneliness, broken relationships, human flaws and the like. This sounds very miserable but isn't; Isbell creates lovely singable melodies with excellent arrangements and production, and a variety of tones from solo voice and guitar to full rock band sound. It is certainly often poignant and touching but somehow never depressing.
What makes this quite exceptionally good, though, is Isbell's lyrics, in my view. He tells stories and conjures emotional states with exceptional depth and it gives the songs real impact. This is at its most raw in Elephant, a stunning song about a friend dying of cancer. There are a lot of great lines in it, like "Surrounded by family, I saw that she was dying alone..." I have had far more experience of loved ones dying of cancer than any one person ought and, among the euphemism and untruth the living comfort themselves with, it is very unusual to find anyone with the perceptiveness and insight to see the truth and the courage to speak it. I think it's a remarkable song, and Isbell brings a similar level of thoughtfulness and honesty to many of the songs on this album.
It is always a joy to discover new music of this quality, and I will certainly be listening to Jason Isbell's back-catalogue very soon. For now, I'm listening to this album repeatedly and getting more out of it each time. I'd recommend this very warmly to anyone who likes beautiful, thoughtful and intelligent songs.
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2013
Having been a fan of Jason Isbell since his days with the Drive-By Truckers, I was excited and also concerned about the direction his latest album would take. Much of the focus on Jason in the last year was on his sobriety and marriage to Amanda Shires. What was that going to do to the Jason Isbell I knew and loved? Would his songwriting slip? Well, after finally hearing this album, it absolutely did not slip! "Southeastern" is his most personal, raw and haunting album to date. His songwriting just seems to keep improving and I feel this is his best work yet. Every song on the album evokes a different feeling and emotion for me, which is what I like in my music. "Cover Me Up" opens the album as a love song of sorts, but nothing typical or like you'd expect. Following it with "Stockholm" is genius, in my opinion as it's like a continuation of a story to me. But there is some very heavy stuff in this album. "Elephant" is simply heartbreaking and I believe most people can put themselves in that song. "Yvette" is a haunting tale of abuse. "Live Oak" is a great use of Jason's amazing vocals. One fun, but still troubling, track in the middle of it all is "Super 8", which he exclaims "Don't want to die in a Super 8 motel!" and it's pure rock. I could go on about each song on the album but I recommend just getting it for yourself. It is amazing. And one last thing about the songs on this album, they stick with you. I can't get them out of my head, which is a good thing!
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2013
At long last Jason Isbell has delivered that great classic album that he always threatened to make. From his days as a key component in the Deep South's best band the Drive By Truckers to his excellent debut "Sirens of the Ditch", Isbell has produced songs of the highest quality and delivery. Yet even die hard Isbell supporters began to lose faith in later albums culminating with the mixed bag of 2011's "Here we rest" which languishes on this reviewers I Pod like an abandoned prisoner with only "Alabama Pines" allowed out in the exercise yard. The new album "Southeastern" is the product of Isbell going through recovery and cleaning up his act on the Jack Daniels front. More importantly he has found a soulmate and fell in love with musician Amanda Shires who plays on this album (his previous marriage to the DBTs Shonna Tucker fell apart and contributed to his departure from the band). It appears that cupid's intervention has done him a power of good since the fog that enveloped "Here we rest" has lifted and every song on this record basks in radiant clarity. Isbell's often-underplayed strength has been his ear for a classic ballad including stunners like "Dress Blues". On "Southeastern" they populate the album in abundance, not least "Cover me up" a tough song about addictions and passion with has nice Beatles like undercurrent melody. The line "girl leave your boots by the bed, we ain't leaving this room 'til someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom." is classic. What is also noticeable is how much his voice has improved. The good ole Southern twang is still there but its now more mainstream American if that makes sense and it works. The pace picks up with the brilliant uplifting piano driven "Stockholm" where the female backing vocals drives this lovely alt country song with a slight tinge of the music of his friend Ryan Adams. The quality barometer does not drop throughout the whole album so let us single out some songs for special attention. Firstly "Travelling alone" is classic old school country and will wear out jukebox needles in bars across the mid west. Even better is the album standout "Elephant". Honestly you should sectioned if you don't seek this one out at once. It tells a tale of a devastating tale of a couple dealing with cancer that is the elephant in the room in a relationship that is fading away. At one point Isbell sings with aching poignancy that "When she was drunk she made cancer jokes/she made up her own Doctors notes/surrounded by her family I saw she was dying alone". It is brilliant and will send Isbell's songwriting credentials to the top of the premier division.
More songs which have immediate appeal include the sauntering guitar acoustics of the lovely "Different Day", the blustery rocker "Flying over water" that features guitar solo so stinging it almost hurts and the punchy Southern honky tonk rock of "Super 8" which would have fitted nicely into "Exile on Main Street". But again it is an acoustic song that demands attention namely "Song she sang in the shower" which references Pink Floyd's "Wish you were here" and will break hearts when played across the radio waves of country music stations. Somehow he matches it with "New south Wales" with Shires adding an plaintive fiddle backdrop melting together with in Isbell's precise guitar picking. The serious business album concludes with the bluesy "Yvette" with a great Isbell's vocal and the gorgeous closer "Relatively Easy" gives the album an optimistic acoustic ending
Jason Isbell's solo albums to date have occasionally touched the highs of his Drive By Truckers songs where at a precocious age he was writing unimpeachable songs like "Goddamn lonely love" and the great Southern anthem "Oufit". With "Southeastern" he moves from solid to brilliant. It is a redemptive album full of catharsis and pain but with some fun along way. It is a bit like life in that regard but predominantly a soundtrack to everyday heartaches. Isbell is now 34 and ruefully reflected in a recent interview to the New York Times that fame came far too early in Drive by Truckers days and he wasn't ready for it. With the release of "Southeastern" there is a growing vibe in the US at the moment that this album may represent a significant turning point that demands 50 states attention. How many country singers get a full-blown profile in the Wall Street Journal? Thus perhaps Isbell's new found maturity has arrived at precisely the right time since it looks like fame is about to knock loudly at his door again.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2013
When I ride down the road listening to "Southeastern" (it's superb driving music, by the way), I find myself constantly rewinding. Why? It's the lyrics. I go back to hear a certain phrase, the way he strings words together, the wry and elusive nature of his songs. I'm 60 years old, been through Dylan, Joni, N. Young, etc. This is right up there with them. Plus: it's great music. It rocks. In a year where I've already heard 1/2 dozen really great new albums, this one stands out. Record of the Year so far.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2013
I haven't been this impressed with an album in a good while. Jason Isbell has always been talented but this album for me tops his other work. Just as I felt when I first heard Ryan Adams Heartbreaker or Ryan Bingham Mescalito this became an automatic purchase and listen. I replayed Different Days 4 times in a row before moving to the next song. The album is this good.
If you are a fan of Alt/Country, Americana, folk etc.. well really if you are a fan of music then this is a must buy. Will have this one in the car for a long time. Thanks for such amazing work Jason Isbell, truly appreciated.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2013
Jason Isbell gives a wonderful performance in this new CD release titled 'Southeastern' (12 tracks). He has an incredible vocal range execution as in "Traveling Alone" which is a great duet with Amanda Shires & inviting guitar work as in "Cover Me Up", "Songs That She Sang In The Shower", "New South Wales" & "Relatively Easy". The production is great too.
Stand-outs/gems/my favourites are the opening rocky track "Cover Me Up", the up-tempo "Stockholm" which is a wonderful duet with Kim Pichey, "Flying Over Water" & my pick for the best track from this CD, the folksy track "Different Days" which has an incredible melody.
On overall, singer-songwriter Jason Isbell has outdone himself in this new CD release 'Southeastern': great music, performances & production. Featured artists really enhanced the songs they contribute in. A highly recommended CD listening.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2013
So, I've been buying music, first vinyl, then eight tracks, cassettes, Cd's, MP3's, then back to vinyl, for probably forty years now, and I can think of only a handful of albums that have effected me like Southeastern. The ones that come to mind most quickly are Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks," Neil Young's "Harvest'" and Jackson Browne's "The Pretender." Southeastern struck a nerve with me. Isbell's lyrics bore into me like an earwig. You can almost picture yourself as the guy in bed drying out, or the lonely trucker whose tired of being alone or the drinking buddy whose standing watch as his friend dies of Cancer. Isbell is a master story teller. Really, Southeastern is an incredibly moving album. Albums like this don't come along that often, buy it, you'll treasure it!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2014
There's no need to write a lengthy review. All you need to know is that this album is worth every penny. It's the best album I've heard in a really long time.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2013
And releases Southeastern, the finest work of an already very fine musical career. Isbell produced much memorable work during his stint as a member of Drive By Truckers and on his previous albums with the 400 Unit. But on Southeastern, something is different. And by different I mean better. This is the work of an assured, mature artist who is comfortable with what he is saying and how he is saying it. This difference is even apparent in his singing voice, which has acquired a timbre and a confidence that I have not heard in his previous work.
The new vocal sound is immediately apparent on "Cover Me Up" the album's opening track, and one of its strongest. The old Isbell turn of phrase is here as well - "Girl leave your boots by the bed we ain't leaving this room, til someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom. It's cold in this house and I ain't goin' out to chop wood. So cover me up and know you're enough to use me for good."
There is little drop-off as the album proceeds. "Stockholm" features a beautiful duet vocal by Kim Richey. "Elephant", a song about a man's platonic friendship with a woman dying of cancer, is kept from being maudlin by Isbell's deft songwriting touch. "Different Days" is a tour de force about people's ability to learn from the past. "Super 8", a smoking up-tempo track, opens with an unforgettable line - "Don't want to die in a Super 8 motel, just because somebody's evening didn't go so well..."
Isbell was recently the subject of a multi-page spread in the New York Times magazine. The news was all good - he had gotten married, kicked booze and dropped something like 40 pounds. As I read the feature, I couldn't help but wonder - what about the music? To my great relief , on Southeastern, Jason Isbell's beautiful new album, the music's all good, too.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2013
To begin, I listen to a lot of music. I prefer singer-songwriters. This disc is haunting; makes you reflect and after one listen to the whole album, you become eager to play the whole thing again, and again, and again.
Most of the songs are great stories. There is not one song I dislike or want to instantly skip, which is unusual for me.
So, for 10 bucks or so, you can get a new favorite CD. Buy it now. Thank me later.