Jason Isbell crafts another gem in ‘Something More Than Free’

(Photo by David McAlester)

(Photo by David McClister)

‘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.

Cover_hi_resNeedless 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)

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