Southeastern, a modern classic by Jason Isbell
By J.P. Kallio
From the first few bars of “Southeastern” the depth and presence of the acoustic guitar you know Jason Isbell means business. “Cover me up” is a brave song to throw as the opening track of an album, not because it is more on a slower side, but because the intensity of the songwriting. How do you follow it? But follow he does. This is an album of 12 songs and not a single one of them sounds even remotely like a filler. Hell, not even one line in the album sounds like filler. For a songwriter this really is a “kick in the back side” kind of album. “Southeastern” has become very fast what I would call a fork in a road album. When you meet someone you know or even a stranger and the conversation turns to music. You ask if they have heard the album, if they have not you recommend them to get it as soon as possible. If they have, you start to compare notes. Which songs did you like, you even go to the details of the lyrics. I have talked to more strangers about this album in the past six months than I have about some of my all time favourite albums.
“Traveling Alone” and “Flying Over Water” are songs to do with traveling and for any musician easy to relate to. “Elephant’ is the song that drew me to the album in the first place. Jason bravely tackles the subject of cancer with a very moving song, but still manages to inject a touch of wit in to it as well.
Jason has been very open about the changes in his life during the writing and making of this album and the honesty comes across in the lyrics. The arrangements are mostly sparse, but on tracks like “Stockholm”, “Traveling Over Water” and “Super 8″ Jason cranks up the overdrive electric guitars and rocks it out with his full band. After probably close enough 100 spins, the track that I keep coming back to is “Yvette”. This track is a real proof of the level of Jason’s songwriting, a true masterpiece.
If you have not heard of Jason Isbell yet, I highly recommend “Southeastern”. This album will go down in the history as one of those albums we will talk about years to come. For me this was the album of 2013, hands down.
You can read more from J.P. Kallio here.