On 15th May, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit released their latest album on Tiger Tiger records. Consisting of 10 tracks and containing some great writing, the album is a must-listen for Americana (and music) fans.
This record covers a large portion of the Americana genre, ranging from country to rock, and showcases not only Isbell’s writing skills well but also the musical talents of the 400 Unit.
Starting with ‘What Have I Done To Help’, a song whose meaning strikes even more of a chord at the moment than it would have when it was written, the album bursts out of your stereo. The first listen or two is a little jarring if you’re not a fan of overly repetitive lyrics, but after you’ve listened to the album a few times you can see it works well in the context of the song.
The record moves through the slower ‘Dreamsicle’ – about “a child who is in the middle of the home that is breaking apart” – which includes a guitar part reminiscent of ‘Maggie May’, and a chorus that sounds similar to ‘The Lone Bellow’; and ‘Only Children’ – with its beautiful harmonies – before taking things up a notch with ‘Overseas’ – a full band sound and a guitar part at 3:45 which alone is a reason to listen to the song.
‘Running With Our Eyes Closed’ – another with the full band – consists of catchy lyrics and a guitar that demands your full attention. ‘River ‘slows things down a bit and adds an interesting narrative, before the most out-and-out rock song on the record, ‘Be Afraid’ – an angry track which says that, even though as a recording artist there can be negative consequences from speaking out about injustices in the world, it shouldn’t stop you – you are still in a much better place than the “everyday American who doesn’t have any voice at all”.
The last three songs are ‘St Peter’s Autograph’ – looking at how everyone grieves in their own way, ‘It Gets Easier’ – a song about the struggle with alcoholism, written to those who are struggling with not only getting – but also staying – sober, and ‘Letting Go’ is written to Jason’s daughter, with something of ‘Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys ‘about it.
Whilst all songs are good, ‘Be Afraid ‘- which includes a nod to the ‘Dixie Chicks’, ‘It Gets Easier’, with its great chorus and ‘Letting Go ‘- which is likely to see many father/daughter dances – are the stand-out tracks.
‘Reunions’ is a great album, and one that after a couple of plays seems to be over in no time at all, but at 40 minutes long – you can afford to just play it again.