Jason Isbell – Southeastern [album review]

by Woody on June 14, 2013


Its always nice to have a musician that you have grown to love over the years hit a pinnacle so high that you feel the need to stop and tell strangers about it on the streets. Similar to Patterson Hood’s Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance or Phosphorescent’s Muchacho, Southeastern is the work of one of my favorite musicians hitting a pinnacle so high that you’ll soon finding yourself telling strangers about it as well.

One of the first times I encountered Jason Isbell was back during the Decoration Day tour. During that time, DBT would walk on stage with a Costco sized bottle of Jack and proceed to drain it. There was a point late in the evening where we was teetering with only the wall holding him up. Somehow, he stood up straight and nailed a version of Decoration Day that left the crowd speechless. You knew that at time, you were watching someone with a great future ahead of him; if he could keep his shit together.

Keeping his shit together is the central theme of Southeastern. Isbell has met the love of his life in Amanda Shires, is making the best music of his career and most important to him – is sober. The opening track, Cover Me Up, is an absolute stunning song (and one of 2013’s best). The way he combines themes of redemption and love gives me the chills every time I hear it.

The fact that he bookends that song with Relatively Easy which seems to point to a better future is not lost on me and is a nice touch. In between Southeastern is chock full of gems. Traveling Alone has Mrs. Isbell helping out on vocals and more importantly, playing her amazing fiddle. Flying Over Water has Isbell revisiting his Southern roots in the song that would sound the most natural on a DBT album. While Live Oak paints a dark tale in a murder ballad.

The cover of Southeastern is a simple picture of Isbell. Southeastern is a simple album in that there is no bullshit. It is an artist writing amazing songs and baring it all for us to see. If Muchacho is 2013’s #1 album, then Southeastern is 1A.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

argo0 June 14, 2013 at 9:58 am

Nice write-up. And I couldn’t agree more with putting Muchacho as the year’s best followed by Southeastern. Of course, given how little time I’ve had to listen to Southeastern, it’s possible those will eventually flip places.

mandy June 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm

great voice, will have to check out more of this guy

Christian July 17, 2015 at 8:49 am

Great write up. One of the best records in the last 5 years.

@ Woody: What is about his new album “Something More Than Free”? Do you like his new record? Will there an album review about his new record at hearya?

I would love to read your opinion about this one.

Thanks and greetings from Germany,

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