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Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Communist Daughter

  • Breese Stevens Field 917 East Mifflin Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Jason Isbell's solo career technically started with 2007's Sirens Of The Ditch, after the Alabama songwriter left the Drive-By Truckers, but you could be forgiven for thinking it started with his fourth album, 2013's Southeastern. That record at least marked the start of a new chapter, with Isbell's songs attaining a new clarity, balancing brutal honesty with wry tenderness and inhabiting characters so thoroughly that it's easy forget Isbell isn't always exactly singing about himself. Plenty of songwriters can craft a respectable sad tune, but it takes finesse and a rare grasp of one's own lived experience to crush the listener nice and slowly, as Isbell does on Southeastern's grief-ridden "Elephant." On 2015's Something More Than Free, he continued the streak and kept building up a well-deserved following. This year's The Nashville Sound is more explicitly a full-band record, billed as Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit. Some of the more rocking moments on Nashville Sound can feel forced and overwrought, especially on the seven-minute "Anxiety," but some, like "Cumberland Gap," inject a new and compelling tension into Isbell's work. If this album isn't at quite the same knockout level as Southeastern and Something More Than Free, it's still written with a lot of the same care and keen instincts, and across these three records alone there's more than enough for Isbell and band to deliver a stellar set here. —Scott Gordon

Later Event: September 3
Kitschy Staycation