Friday, November 15, 2013

Album of the Year, in Any Year -- Jason Isbell, Southeastern

Not that I've ever attempted the task, but I believe that piecing a full album of music together is nothing short of a monumental task.  This isn't to say that it's an unpleasant task, but monumental just the same.  Writing enough songs for the project, so that you have enough material to work with.  If you don't write your own songs, the added layer of finding the right songs that suit your musical style.  Getting the right producer, the right musicians, the right studio, the right record label, promotion team, publicist and on and on.  When considering this basic laundry list of items, neither of them small tasks, it's no wonder that many artists consider it a great honor to have their work named in an "Album of the Year" category, whichever genre they may ply their trade.

In my last piece, I wrote about three songs that have had significant impact on my life as a music fan and budding music blogger.  Of all the albums I have listened to over the years, there is one recent release that stands out as one of the most impactful, meaningful and deep albums that I have ever heard.

Jason Isbell is on a seemingly unbelievable roll, as his already stellar albums keep getting better and better.  With Southeastern, he hits a creative high and has produced an album that I believe would be an Album of the Year, in any year.  It's that good.

"Cover Me Up" is a great lead off to the album, as it captures the essence of this album.  That is, a deeply personal, snapshot about where the author has been and where they are in the present.  "Cover Me Up" shares the story of a hard living individual who has finally found the love he was missing in his life.  Considering that Isbell has recently married himself (to fellow artist Amanda Shires), an arguement could be made this song is a chapter in Isbell's life.  "Stockholm" and "Travelling Alone" continue on the theme of a lost soul finding their soul mate, completing oneself. 

It is, however, the fourth track on the album that will make one stop in their tracks.  The song "Elephant" is an absolute masterpiece. Describing the story of a true and lasting friendship that captures the essence of "'til death do us part."  It's a love story, but not in the romantic sense.  It's the story of devoted friends who share their finite time together, while avoiding the fact that one is dying from cancer - the clear elephant in the room.  One of finest songs ever written, it is a high point on the album.

Other serious, dark topics are covered as well.  A story about revenge on an abusive father is told in "Yvette", while "Super 8" may harken back to Isbell's more wilder days before sobriety.  "Relatively Easy", the album closer, reads like an old Merle Haggard song but it is all original by Isbell. 

The writing, musicianship and production make this a truly special album.  Not to wear out the line, but this is an adult album that deals with adult topics and situations.  It's a finely crafted masterpiece that captures a creative highmark in Jason Isbell's career.  The amazing and equally exciting thing is, Isbell doesn't appear to have reached his peak.  With  his ongoing lifestyle changes, we are witnessing the growth of a very unique and special talent. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey...I like your writing style and your taste in music. Jason Isbell's 'Southeastern' was one of my favorite albums of 2013. I wanted to recommend a new band I think you might like based on that called SUSTO. They are based in Charleston, SC and Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) called their debut album "a masterpiece." You can check them out at