It has been over four years since Jason Isbell and The Drive-By Truckers went their separate ways. While it might become tiring for both camps, I think the fact that nobody can write about one without mentioning the other proves that the fan base has been keeping a mental scorecard since the split. There have been a few strikes and a couple of tip ball fouls, but neither camp has been able to hit that home run the fans having been begging for. Well, I’m here to tell you that in my opinion Here We Rest is a solo shot touching down somewhere up in the cheap seats. Home-fucking-run.
I’m also here to tell you that I’ve probably reached the end of my “readily available baseball analogy” list.
If you read Jason’s website, you see that “place” is the central character on Here We Rest. This is a nuance that I, honestly, didn’t pick up on, but knowing it has really made the album feel even more cohesive than it did before I learned it. If you look around the internet you see plenty of reviewers still comparing Jason to his DBT material and bemoaning the fact that the album isn’t stacked with 11 different takes of “Never Gonna Change” or “Outfit”. Pitchfork said, “he’s now logged as much time as a solo artist as he did with his former band, Isbell sounds he’s still finding his voice” to which I can’t disagree more. I think Here We Rest shows Jason more comfortable than ever as a solo artist. I think with Here We Rest we’re finally seeing Jason make a record instead of making a certain kind of record.
Place may be the central theme of the album, but characters drive the record and those characters mirror the people living in Anytown, USA right now. The desperate, the drunk, the shell shocked and the invisible. Character songs with sharp detail have always been Jason’s strong suit and he kills it on Here We Rest. So, I propose that the print and internet media (myself included) finally let Jason out from under his own DBT-cast shadow, ‘cause he’s earned it.
I’m sorry if this was too long and rambling. A cliff notes version goes like this: Jason Isbell has released a new album. It’s got 11 tracks that crush. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. The more I like it, the more I think it could on top of the year’s end version of the Essential Listening list.