Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jason Isbell

  • Sirens of the Ditch [New West, 2007] *
  • Southeastern [Southeastern, 2013] ***
  • Something More Than Free [Southeastern, 2015] A-
  • Reunions [Southeastern, 2020] ***

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Sirens of the Ditch [New West, 2007]
Like so many major talents, more major in a group ("Dress Blues," "Try"). *

Southeastern [Southeastern, 2013]
The problem with sobriety records is that they're so damn sober ("Elephant," "Cover Me Up") ***

Something More Than Free [Southeastern, 2015]
Although his alt-Americana base may find him less "authentic" now, it's a musical positive that getting sober has finally cheered Isbell up. The resigned confidence of his singing signifies mental health. His contained Alabama drawl and guitar-bass-drums aesthetic mark his people as Southern whites of modest prospects subject to the "powder keg ready to blow" that is God's will. Talk of The Bell Jar and "character sets" mark him as a participant-observer while reminding bicoastalists how many Southern whites of modest prospects live in a larger world than bicoastalists imagine. A-

Reunions [Southeastern, 2020]
Lest anyone think he's full of himself, this brave, soulful, articulate Nashville conscience singer turns the high beam on his own moral shortcomings ("It Gets Easier," "What've I Done to Help?") ***

See Also