Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Jason Isbell is headed for super stardom after the release of The Nashville Sound. He cut his teeth in The Drive By Truckers where he developed his writing and performing skills. Not to mention Jason’s amazing guitar playing. He has continued to develop and improve each step along the way. Isbell’s songs are still extremely powerful and well written. He is one of the few artists that can really tell a very vivid story with a start, middle, and poignant conclusion.
All of the ten songs on The Nashville Sound paint such a vivid picture that it is in 3D and full technicolor. The emotions evoked are so strong that they are easily sensed while listening. Songs like Tupelo (Track 3), Last Of My Kind (Track 1), and Cumberland Gap (Track 2) are so powerful that the feelings are transmitted right from the speaker to my ear, like a bolt of lightning hitting the ground.
I mentioned Isbell is a very accomplished guitar player and he shows off his slide chops on Tupelo and White Man’s World (Track 4). He has the amazing ability to write a slow song or ballad, but it still sounds powerful and energy packed.
Take Last Of My Kind (Track 1). This ballad is so well written and played that you truly do lose track of time. I think that Jason is paying homage to John Prine on this track. The lyrics and vocal stylings conjure up images of Prine. Jason is definitely in that song writing company. This song is a bittersweet ballad reminiscing on different events in Isbell’s life and not all of the events are completely happy memories. However, he sings with such elegance and grace that it takes this raw subject and softens it up a bit.
Another song that seems to be heavy on reflection and memories is the profound White Man’s World (Track 4). This song tackles the ever-present topic in the US of racism. This is from the perspective of a white southerner who realizes that the cards maybe unfairly stacked in his favor simply due to skin color. Isbell is sincere in his admission and also a call for everyone to do their part to improve relations for the sake of the next generation. Pretty heavy indeed, but not preachy.
The following song after White Man’s World is a slower ballad but still incredibly well written and delivered. If We Were Vampires (Track 5) covers the topic of living forever in the form of a vampire. This is countered with a verse about the realization that we will not live forever so it is vitally important to make every day count. The backing vocals of Amanda Shires are flawless on this track.
My sheer enthusiasm and excitement over The Nashville Sound is fairly evident from my review. When I say fairly evident, I mean completely obvious. Well, it is easy to spot a winner when you experience a winner. And The Nashville Sound takes first prize.