musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Jason Isbell’s Triumph

It’s not too soon to be talking about Best Albums of the Year, and one of the contenders for that claim is Jason Isbell’s new album, Southeastern. Isbell is a former member of the acclaimed band Drive-By Truckers, but he left to pursue a solo career about six years ago. On his previous three albums, including the excellent concert recording, Live From Alabama, Isbell shared billing with his band, the 400 Unit, but he is using only his name on this new album. Isbell is an articulate, passionate songwriter, who writes melodic songs that stick in the head. One review I read likened him to a cross between author Raymond Carver and music legend Neil Young. Hmm … not a bad comparison.


The new album is a continuation of the “thinking man’s southern rock” style of music that he — and also the Drive-By Truckers, who have continued making excellent albums even without Isbell, thanks to having another great songwriter, Patterson Hood in the band— excels at making, but on Southeastern Isbell has sharpened and elevated his craft to an even higher level. The new songs take on a more personal and reflective tone, reflecting some of the changes in Isbell’s own life in the past year or so. I think this is clearly Isbell’s best album yet. There are fewer rockers on the new album, favoring slower songs and ballads, but that doesn’t make the new compositions any less potent. This is powerful, moving music. In addition to that excellent album, here are the other goodies — both old and classic and new and intriguing — that are making me smile lately.


Terry Edwards – Birth of the Scapegoats

John Fogerty – Wrote a Song For Everyone

Irma Thomas – A Woman’s Viewpoint: The Essential 1970s Recordings

Various – Yellow Pills: Prefill

The Rail Band – Bell Epoque 1: Soundiata


Slaid Cleaves – Still Fighting the War

Passion Pit – Gossamer

Bobby Whitlock – Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

Solomon Burke – Proud Mary: The Bell Sessions

World Party – Arkeology


Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record

Jonathan Edwards – Jonathan Edwards

The Three O’Clock – The Hidden World Revealed

Johnny Marr – The Messenger


Various Artists – Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay

Bob Mould – Silver Age

Jules Shear – Sayin’ Hello to the Folks

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Prix Label

Talking Heads – The Name of This Band is Talking Heads


Various – Kenya Special

The Strokes – Comedown Machine

The Budos Band – The Budos Band

Jim Boggia – Fidelity is the Enemy

Etta James – Who’s Blue? Rare Chess Recordings


The Mavericks – In Time

George Jackson – What Would Your Mama Say?

Babyface Willette – Stop & Listen

Canned Heat – The Very Best of

Gene Clark – No Other


Various Artists – Twin Cities Funk & Soul

The Primitives – The Best of

Kelly Hogan & the Pine Vally Cosmonauts – Beneath the Country Underdog

Dean & Britta – L’Avventura

Robert Cray – Live at the BBC


Head East – Live

Andy Kim – How’d We Ever Get This Way/Rainbow Ride

Bobby Bland – Greatest Hits Vol. Two: The ABC-Dunhill/MCA Recordings

Donny Hathaway – Live

Owsley – The Hard Way



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