Jason Isbell hails from the state of Alabama. With the drawl when he sings, and the dusty, slow, southern atmosphere that fills his music, that is a secret to no man. Something More Than free follows up on the enormously well received 2013 album Southeastern. With producer Dave Cobb on board yet again in his studio in Nashville, it is hard to imagine him not spitting out another great record with those blueprints.
From the single light in the darkness-approach, and the splinter of hope for better times we saw on the previous record, Isbell seem to have found humbleness and embraced contentment and appreciation of what he has. Singing about family, the earnest hard work, and the small but imperative things in life, Jason has decided to press the saturate button on this album. There are a far bolder expressions and an added playfulness to his words.
With ‘If It Takes A Lifetime’ opening the album, a humble vocal declares that hard work gets you better, and while not being at complete peace with everything you have there is a satisfaction, and with the backstory of Jason’s sobriety this speaks volume. Halfway through the album we meet ‘Children of Children’ that has an early Neil Young feel to it. The hypnotic strings and guitar solo that seem to continue forever enchants you.
In this song he reflects on his influence on his mother and the prospect of ‘what ifs’ to her life. “I was riding on my mother’s hip / she was shorter than the corn / all the years I took from her / just by being born.” The heartbreaking statement leaves you wondering how much soul-searching heartbreak has cost Jason himself, but it is where he shines the brightest. He paints atmosphere, surroundings and emotion in very few phrases with no misses, which continues through and through.
The bluesy song about the Civil War, ‘Palmetto Rose’ is where he contemplates the history of his country with conflicting attitudes but ultimately states, “I follow my own free will.” In the other end of the spectrum, there is the classic acoustic song ‘Speed Trap Town’ that tells the tale of a defect father figure and finding the means to leave a small town. “She said, ‘It’s none of my business but it breaks my heart’/ dropped a dozen cheap roses in my shopping cart / made it out to the truck without breaking down / everybody knows you in a speed trap town.” Jason Isbell’s blueprints turned into a well-crafted 5th studio album that most of all shows personal growth from the man himself and his willingness to share those stories with no filter.
Article by Flipse Flebo