Friday, 17 July 2015

Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free, album review

Noteworthy Place

Jason Isbell’s 2013 album, Southeastern, established him as a fine solo singer-songwriter, not least for me through the overwhelming impact of the one song Elephant which remains a favourite – a relative term, I know, in my extensive list of ‘favourites’ – because of the simplicity of its nonetheless memorably sweet melody, and the power of its storytelling, here plaintive and genuinely emotive.

This follow-up continues that significant trajectory, no one song matching the puissance of Elephant, but perhaps more impacting as a whole. Stand-outs are second 24 Frames, which has an element of Springsteen about it; third Flagship, an acoustic narrative with a simple and soft harmonising vocal, the storytelling evocative without needing to create drama; fifth Children of Children which is distinctly reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot in its melody, and America in the acoustic guitar work before it pans out atmospherically into a long sweep of strings and fuzzed guitar; eighth Something More Than Free which is as near to Elephant as it gets on this release, another simply acoustic performance with additional wailing slide, and tenth Palmetto Rose, the one rocker on the album with echo on the vocal and wah-wah in the guitar: generic but effective, riding high on the bass and into its organ uplift.

All the other songs are damn fine too and it is a strong, satisfying whole placing Isbell in a noteworthy place as an artist.

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