Since Jason Isbell split the Drive-By Truckers in 2007, at least one thing has become clear: He didn't leave over artistic differences. His first solo record, Sirens of the Ditch, compared favorably to the devastating Southern character studies of his best DBT work, while this year's album, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, continues to set his storytelling against increasingly exigent, space-clearing rock arrangements, with plenty of country dirt in the hard guitars and plenty of soul in the piano and organ. (And he discharges a few .38 Special stadium rockers just for kicks.) But Isbell is at his best and most comfortable with slow-burn tales of wasted days and nights, resigned addictions, love achingly lost, and the afflictions and joys of being a Southern man.
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