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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)
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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