As the title states, Jason Isbell’s new record is a live one. There are no new songs and only one new cover but it stands as a benchmark achievement and is without a doubt Essential Listening.
For those of us that were listening to DBT when Jason arrived in the band his writing was a most welcome addition. I wouldn’t mention DBT in this review if Jason hadn’t included songs from that first record but I’m glad he did. “Decoration Day” and “Outfit” are two of his finest songs and on Live From Alabama they are freshened up a bit. Most importantly Live From Alabama provides us fans with an excellent retrospective from the new guy with a couple of good songs to bandleader and frontman with entire albums under his belt. When Decoration Day first appeared many fans certainly wondered what a full Jason Isbell album would be like and he lived up to that promise with last years’ Here We Rest.
I had at least one longtime DBT ask me if I thought Isbell would be able to carry a band all his own. My friend was not questioning his ability as a writer or player but as a frontman. I’ll admit that I’d never considered the question but I also never thought Isbell would front more than a bar band. (There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a bar band) But with Here We Rest Isbell proved he could write a collection of world class songs and with Live From Alabama he proves that he’s capable of capturing a large audience and holding them in his hands.
The tracklist on Live From Alabama includes songs from all three post DBT albums plus his first to records with DBT. There’s also a Neil Young cover, which is great, but if I was choosing I’d ask for a new song or something else he’s written. But that’s not me complaining. And this wouldn’t be a proper review if I didn’t mention the 400 Unit. They sound tight here, like they’ve spent years out on the road together. And there’s also the addition of a three piece horn section on several songs.
Live From Alabama makes me want to see the band live, (I haven’t seen them since Sirens Of The Ditch tour) which seems like one of the goals of a live album. It also makes me wonder if you consider his writing, playing, and singing skills, is there a more talented person in our little Americana scene. Agree or disagree?
Check out Jason’s performance of “Outfit” last week on Letterman: