‘Something More Than Free’
Jason Isbell (Southeastern/Thirty Tigers)
4 stars out of 5
Over the course of a dozen years — first as a member of acclaimed outfit Drive-By Truckers and then as a solo performer — Jason Isbell has emerged as one of the best songwriters around. The 36-year-old Alabama native and Americana troubadour keeps getting better with age and soared to remarkable new heights with 2013’s near-perfect “Southeastern” release. It was his first album since getting sober and nary a week goes by without me listening to “Southeastern” at least once.
Needless to say the bar was set incredibly high for newest platter “Something More Than Free,” and Isbell has again risen to the occasion. Though perhaps a notch below its predecessor, the 11-track release is another winner from a songwriter who has an uncanny knack of getting to the heart of a matter in often devastating fashion.
Upbeat opener “If It Takes a Lifetime” is a refreshingly optimistic track from Isbell, a songwriter who has cut to the quick on past albums with tunes like “Goddamn Lonely Love,” “Songs That She Sang in the Shower,” “Dress Blues” and the rip-your-heart-out-and-stomp-it-to-bits masterpiece “Elephant.” He also scores here with “24 Frames,” “Children of Children,” the title track, “Palmetto Rose” and “To a Band That I Loved.”
If you still haven’t discovered — and reveled in — the musical genius of Jason Isbell, here’s your chance. And don’t be surprised when, after spinning “Something More Than Free” a few times, you find yourself tracking down his back catalog. This guy is truly special. (Jeffrey Sisk)