Every once in a while, an artist comes along that writes and performs songs that can touch you deeply. Their songs are honest, the story telling is impeccable and their musicianship is on point. The first two artists that made such an impact on me were Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp.
There’s a new name that I can add to that list and that is Jason Isbell. Isbell and his tight band The 400 Unit made a stop at the beautiful Goodyear Theater on Wednesday night. They are out supporting their incredible new record The Nashville Sound.
Some try to describe Isbell’s music as alt-country or Americana. I just call it great! If you enjoy late ’80s Mellencamp from Scarecrow to Big Daddy, I’m sure you will be a fan of his.
The former Drive-By Trucker opened the show “Anxiety” and proceeded to take the audience on a journey that included themes of heartache, drug abuse, and the adventures of living in a small town.
Isbell did not talk much between songs except to introduce his band mates which included: his wife Amanda Shires on fiddle, Derry Deborja on keyboards, Chad Gamble on drums, Jimbo Hart on bass and Sadler Vaden on guitar. Rather, he let the songs do the talking for him.
The set list relied heavily on songs from The Nashville Sound such as “Something To Love” the poignant “White Man’s World,” and “Cumberland Gap.” However, he did hit on songs from throughout his career including solo songs like “Super 8” and “Decoration Day” from his stint with the Drive-By Truckers.
An acoustic version of “Speed Trap Town” featured Isbell with an acoustic guitar along with Shires on fiddle. It was one of the many highlights of the evening.
The show ended with an encore of his latest single “If We We’re Vampires” and the Drive-By Truckers “Never Gonna Change.”
To quote one of his own songs, Jason Isbell may just be “The Last Of His Kind” when it comes to American singer-songwriters telling the stories that need to be told. He is definitely a breath of fresh air in this age of “bro-country” and auto-tuned pop music.
The next time Jason Isbell comes to town, I will be there and you should too.