Tomorrow, Jason Isbell‘s DBT side project-turned-band sees their debut cd, Sirens of the Ditch, finally hit the shelves. It seems like I have been reading and talking about this cd for ages. Hell, I even named it as one of my most anticipated releases back in December. So I can only imagine what it has felt like for Mr. Isbell. Along the way, as we all know, Jason and the Trucker’s went their separate ways and Sirens finally got a firm release date. So, what does the solo Jason sound like?
First, this ain’t a Truckers album with Jason singing all the songs but it isn’t like the guy put on a brand new suit either. For the people hoping to hear “Decoration Day” and “Never Gonna Change” over and over, this cd is gonna take a couple of spins before you start to dig it…but you will. My first time through the cd, “Try” and “Devil is My Running Mate” jumped out, but outside of that I was a little let down. I went into the cd blind and expected the “Truckers album with Jason singing all the songs” cd. It was in the subsequent listens, as my original expectations gave way and I accepted the songs, that I began to really hear them. There is a varied sense of maturity to this cd and dare I say, it sounds like the kind of cd DBT was trying to make when they stumbled on A Blessing and a Curse.
My personal favorite track on the cd has got to be “Hurricanes and Hand Grenades”. First time I heard it, I could not hit the skip button fast enough. I dunno, maybe I was in a shit mood or maybe it was just too far away from what I was expecting to accept it at the time. It really reminds me of a 70’s-era contemplative “my baby left me” country song. It’s a beautiful song. Other standouts include the driving guitars rock song sound you expect of “Try”, the acoustic guitar and banjo interplay of “The Magician”, and the piano driven song for his departed grandfather, “Chicago Promenade”. Also included on the cd is “Dress Blues”. Hardcore Truckers fans are quite familiar with this song already, but for the uninitiated, it is a song about a friend of Jason’s who did not make it back from the war. A powerful song on the youtube and DBT live boots, it acquires an 8 pound sledge in its studio version. The cd closes with “Devil is my Running Mate”, an acoustic anti-war ballad that lacks all the anti-war song cheese everyone is starting to bore of, and has all of the craft we have come to expect and love from Jason’s songs.
All in all, this wasn’t what I expected at first, but as the cd played I found it to be exactly what I was expecting. Jason isn’t a member of the Truckers anymore and that means we have to listen to him with new ears. When you do, what you will hear is a diverse collection of songs with the songwriting talent you’ve come to expect from Jason, coupled with the freedom to do whatever he feels like.
Note to Tampa/St. Pete readers: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit are playing Crowbar with the super awesome Centro-matic on August 18. You would have known this if you actually checked the ninebullets.net calendar with any regularity. There is no reason not to go…it’s on the weekend and I’ve already told you it’ll be awesome. See you there. Buy me a drink.
Useless trivia moment: The 400 unit refers to the 4th floor (rooms starting at 400) at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital of Alabama. It’s the crazy ward.