Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jason Isbell "Something More Than Free" Album Review

     Jason Isbell, former member of the Drive-By Truckers, recently released his latest album Something More Than Free.  Jason Isbell has been building up quite a reputation as one of the best songwriters in the business.  Each of Jason's songs tend to feature vivid imagery, exquisite story-telling, and intelligent musings on the world.  Something More Than Free is album for the working man who is also a deep thinker.  It is about making a living, overcoming demons, and living life.  It also comes across as very personal, and that's what males it so great.

     Jason Isbell is not your everyday artist that I cover on this site.  He is a little bit of a curve-ball. Sure, the story-telling and musical direction certainly leans heavily towards country music.  But, at it's heart, Something More Than Free is simply music.  It is a little left of center from the country genre, and that's pretty cool.  That doesn't mean there aren't some straight-up country songs on the album.  "If It Takes A Lifetime" is a jaunty little number that is as upbeat of a melody as you will find with some laid-back lyrics about the joys and struggles of working, growing up, and staying on the straight and narrow.   Other big highlights include "Speed Trap Town", a cautionary tale about life in a small town, and "Hudson Commodore",  a breezy tune about growing up a free spirit.  "24 Frames" , with it's open questioning of many important aspects of life, is another personal favorite.

     To sit and review each song for this album is futile.  Each song has its own interwoven story with unique characters and thoughtful dialogues that mentioning them in little quips doesn't do them justice.  This is an album that you need to really just need to listen to and make your own assumptions about the music.  However, one song that really deserves  special look is the phenomenal title track.  "Something More Than Free" is a anthem for the blue collar workers that is the perfect combination of upbeat and exhausted that epitomizes so many people.  It takes on the point of view of a working man that is beat-down and barely hanging on, but still thankful every day for the work.  This never-quit attitude is exactly the tip of the hat that our workforce deserves to hear.  Sure, a good-time jam can talk about getting loose on the weekends and may ever-so-slightly touch on the realities of work and weariness, but this song puts on a hard-hat, grabs their lunch pail, and goes to work with you.  I feel like I have to wash the dust of my hands after I listen to it each time.  If you don't listen to another track from this album (I wouldn't recommend that, you'd be missing out), listen to "Something More Than Free".  It is one of the best of the year so far.

     Something More Than Free is a country album for thinkers and do-ers.  Jason Isbell's writing has never been better.  He really found a way with this release to create characters that are easy to relate to combined with beautiful melodies and masterful playing.  Each track plays out like its own mini-novel, leaving the listener with lasting impressions each go-round.  I would strongly suggest giving this album a listen.  Country music used to be the voice of the voiceless, and with records like this, I can see it regaining that title.

Standout Tracks: "Something More Than Free", "If It Takes A Lifetime", "Hudson Commodore", "Speed Trap Town", "24 Frames", "How To Forget"

"Something More Than Free"

"If It Takes A Lifetime"

"Speed Trap Town"

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