Friday, September 22, 2023

Record of the Month

I figured I'd do a monthly 'what I'm listening to' kind of thing. This could be viewed as a lame placeholder kind of post. And probably it is. But it's my blog! So there!   

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit have been playing in my ears for the last few weeks with their new release, Weathervanes

I mentioned a bit ago, when I featured a song from the disk on My Music Monday back in July, that I have heard priase for Isbell, but had never actually heard him. A second song on the album pricked up my ears, and I went to the iTunes and purchased the entire disk. 

While the album doesn't defy a genre per se, and to paraphrase Donny & Marie, it's a little bit country and it's a little bit rock and roll. I'm going with Roots Rock. Or electric Americana. 

Isbell is probably as much a storyteller as he is a musician. I'm basing this on Weathervanes alone, as again, I've heard of him, but until this, not him.  He is a Bruce Springsteen meets Craig Finn with a little Leonard Cohen thrown in there, but with a Memphis type vibe. 

Weathervanes, in my opinion, is the album the Killers wanted to release two years ago, and failed at miserably with Pressure Machine

You can categorize them both as views of small town life and the sad stories that go with them. The difference was the Killers were trying for Springsteen's Nebraska, and Isbell tried for Isbell. It's not forced at all. 

There are plenty of songs based about drug or opioid use and abortion, home strife, Uvalde school shooting and such. There aren't a lot of uplifting moments in terms of lyrics, but they're put together well and played with a lot of talent. The guitars and violin / fiddle are very well done. Some of it could be from mid to late 80s Mellencamp (I say that thinking Scarecrow and the Lonesome Jubilee in mind). 

MMM was the opener with "Death Wish". Topic aside, the production and songwriting grabbed me from the first few lines. He doesn't stop there and goes with "When We Were Young", which is the most electric of the songs, probably. It's an amazing piece. 

But the more nuanced stories, "If You Insist", "White Baretta", "Volunteer" and "King of Oklahoma". The closing track, "Miles" starts with more than a nod to Neil Young's "Southern Man", but it is the longest piece and the most eclectic. 

In between all of those are good songs, but maybe not great ones. "This Ain't It" has Isbell doing an early '70s Jagger homage and "Cast Iron Skillet" didn't draw me in at all. 

I am happy with my purchase. I play the album a lot and it makes me want to explore some of the band's earlier works. For now, this is the strongest album I've purchased in 2023.

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