Jason Isbell is probably most famous for his contribution to The Drive By Truckers. In my opinion, he was the best thing about that band. Lately, Isbell has been making music under the name of Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Unfortunately I just haven’t been able to get in to his solo career. His music retains the southern rock style of the Truckers, but in a much less interesting way. His most recent work, Here We Rest further confirms this. Although he does weave in a few good songs, most of the album sounds like a very bland and unoriginal country album. It occurred to me that while he was working with several other really great songwriters in the Truckers, he was at his best because he didn’t have to carry the entire album. I get the feeling that he’s just struggling to write enough quality songs for an album so he “fills in the gaps” with trite and boring southern rock ballads.
One of the better songs on the album is “Alabama Pines.” Alabama Pines is somewhat lo-fi and sentimental. It describes a man who has practically given up on life. He has no name. All he seems to have are his regrets. True to form, Jason Isbell does a great job of showing instead of telling. That being said, he also uses a lot of figurative language.
Other than “Alabama Pines” the album is pretty much worthless. I listened to this record several times, trying to find another redeemable song but I just couldn’t. It’s always a sad thing to see a favorite musician reach that point in their career when they seem to just stop improving. I think he’s probably just as good at songwriting as he’s always been; he just isn’t taking his time.
By Nash Whaley