Jason Isbell
The Nashville Sound


4.0
excellent

Review

by nukethewhale USER (1 Reviews)
November 27th, 2017 | 25 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I thought about moving away, but what would my momma say?

When interpreting albums, the context they’re placed in can almost be more important than the musical content. I’m tempted to give a few “classic albums” as examples that are musically subpar to prove my point, but I’ll try to keep this review unprejudiced. The “Seinfeld is unfunny” TV Trope is a perfect example of how a generation removed from a critically acclaimed work can fail to appreciate it due to lack of context. If you haven’t already picked up on my point yet, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s new record needs to be interpreted within its correct context to be fully understood and appreciated.

The Nashville Sound is a fitting title for Jason Isbell’s newest album for a few reasons. The foremost, is that the title of the record can be taken literally. Jason and the 400 Unit made an unabashedly country record. If the production was a little sleeker and the lyrics a little more vapid, it would fit right in on CMT radio’s evening playlist. “Something to Love” is blue-grassy with a nice fiddle lead and “White Man’s World” and “Cumberland Gap” boast distorted guitars and offer a more alt-country flavoring. “If We Were Vampires” and “Last of My Kind” bring in elements of folk. Blending various forms of country music together: The Nashville Sound creates a broad palette of the sounds that make up the modern country sound based out of Nashville. Thus, The Nashville Sound is an aptly titled record that is sure to offer any country music fan something to like. (Or should I say Something to Love?)

On the other hand, the name, “The Nashville Sound” has an almost ironic connotation to it. If you listen to the lyrics of “White Man’s World” or “Hope the High Road” for more than a few seconds, you’ll hear Jason’s take on America’s current political climate. While Cole Swindell and Eric Church aren’t really all that political, you have to assume that the majority of country music fans share views similar to Ted Nugent rather Zack de la Rocha. In a traditional sense, a Nashville sound would espouse a conservative worldview. But Isbell goes against this paradigm. In an age where Youtube videos of the Drive By Truckers performing with a Black Lives Matter flag have commenters saying that they aren’t fans anymore, Isbell shows that he’s not afraid to speak his mind against the seemingly conservative majority in the United States. Following the Trucker’s general beliefs, Isbell’s lyrics hint at a dissatisfaction with the way the US has responded to the Obama years. And this album, which was released in the first few months of Trump’s presidency, is a direct response to the uneasy environment it was released in.

Despite this being Jason’s first album titled with the 400 unit since 2011’s Here We Rest, The Nashville Sound is a logical progression from Southeastern and Something More Than Free. While very few of his listeners know Isbell personally, these albums are all obviously strongly influenced by the stage of life that Jason is in. Southeastern was written during a relatively unstable point in Isbell’s life when he was dealing with a newfound sobriety. Something More Than Free was released in a relatively stable period, and while still good, was a bit uninspired in comparison. The Nashville Sound, like Southeastern, is inspired by a new chapter in Isbell’s story. Vampries, Anxiety, and Something to Love all have lyrics that are more personal than his political anthems. These all touch on his familial relationships in some way. Something To Love is the most obvious and most touching song. It is a song that presumably gives advice to his infant daughter. A song akin to Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd, or even an epilogue to his Drive By Truckers song Outfit; Something To Love offers road and life tested advice that Jason has surely learned and wants his daughter, and maybe his listeners to always remember.


user ratings (65)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
nukethewhale
November 27th 2017


158 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

first review be kind pls

theBoneyKing
November 27th 2017


17917 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well, someone beat me to it. I meant to cover this back at release but never got around to it but I'm glad it has something now! Pos'd

Decent job overall, though it feels perhaps a bit too much like summary and a bit light on close analysis; but that could just be because I've spent a lot of time analyzing this myself.

Digging: Elliott Smith - Either/Or

nukethewhale
November 27th 2017


158 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah I know what you mean. I was thinking of writing a review for Rocket by Alex G but someone beat me to it a few days ago, so I decided to finish my rough draft of this that had been sitting on my computer for a while.



And yeah I was thinking about going a little more in depth about why this was better/worse than his other records but I feel like there hasn't been too much said about Isbell around these parts aside from your Southeastern review so I didn't know if it was worth it haha

ashcrash9
November 27th 2017


3093 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

solid review, especially for a first, pos'd

actually didn't realize it hadn't been reviewed yet or I would've tried a hand at it myself, album's still in my top 10 of the year atm

Sunnyvale
December 24th 2017


1272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Glad this finally got a review, album's in the running for my album of the year.

impoppy
December 24th 2017


2226 Comments


One of the four current country artists I can actually get into.

Sunnyvale
December 24th 2017


1272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

What are the other three?

nukethewhale
December 24th 2017


158 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Prob Sturgill, Stapleton, and Florida Georgia Line lol

Atari
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2018


25258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love how he references black metal t-shirts in "Chaos and Clothes" haha. This guy is the fucking man

Digging: Origami Angel - Somewhere City

theBoneyKing
April 28th 2018


17917 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That whole song is about Ryan Adams, another alt-country artist who is known for his love of metal (and even released a brief “sci-fi metal concept album”)

Atari
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2018


25258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ah, I see. I’ll check him out eventually but right now I think I’m content just binging this man’s last 3 fantastic albums

theBoneyKing
April 29th 2018


17917 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album is far from Isbell at his best imo (still very good) but indeed you can do little better than the two albums before this.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2018


25258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I mean Southeastern is so good I don’t see how he could top that (potential 5 honestly)!



But these last two albums are still hitting the spot

nukethewhale
April 29th 2018


158 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I can't believe you have this as a 3.5 and Something as a 4.5, boney, they just seem pretty similar in quality to me.

theBoneyKing
April 29th 2018


17917 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This one has grown on me a good amount since first hearing it, but I still believe that, with a few exceptions, the writing on it isn’t nearly as hard-hitting as the two previous albums. Everything on here is very nice, and I absolutely appreciated that Isbell is in a better place, but some of this is quite middle of the road to my ears, and the songs are a bit too all over the place sylistclly. Don’t get me wrong, I like this a lot, but it’s definitely a beg step down from SMTF. Granted, it took that one a solid year to fully grow on me, so maybe this one will see a bump eventually.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2018


25258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

SMTF needs a review badly. While I appreciate the more rock-oriented approach here, that one's hitting me hard rn

theBoneyKing
May 3rd 2018


17917 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, I meant to give that (and this one) a review back when it came out but never made it happen... I’ll have some free time in the next few days, I could probably pump out a quick one for that.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2018


25258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

please do



title track and 24 frames are my current favorites, but it really feels like a grower





theBoneyKing
May 3rd 2018


17917 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Something More Than Free is definitely a grower, it’s a bit more subtle than Southeastern but when it hits it hits nearly as hard.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2018


25258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

honestly some of his songs seem influenced by gospel music. dude's got soul



don't think I've been this obsessed with a songwriter since I first heard Bob Dylan lol



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