Showing posts with label Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Show all posts

Dec 21, 2017

Farce the Music's Top 20 Albums of 2017


Our Top 20 Albums of 2017 were voted on by all contributors again this year: 
Kelcy Salisbury, Robert Dean, Kevin Broughton, Jeremy Harris, Trailer (me), and Matthew Martin 
(with friend Chad as a tiebreaker).

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1. Tyler Childers - Purgatory
Appalachia has passed the torch to its newest great storyteller; welcome to the big time, Tyler Childers. If anyone has doubts, ask yourself if Sturgill Simpson would produce this guy if he were anything but the genuine article. Childers has set himself an incredibly high bar here; but with a couple listens no one will doubt he’ll raise it higher on the next one. Here is the real deal, and he’ll be around for a long, long time.  - Kevin Broughton

Childers' voice along with the great production on this album were home-runs.  Add in the killer lyrics that have just enough humor to break the darkness in the issues plaguing rural America and you have this incredible album.  I had not listened to Tyler Childers prior to this year and now I can't get enough of him. - Matthew Martin


2. Turnpike Troubadours - A Long Way From Your Heart
The best country band in the world delivers yet another classic. The sparkling instrumentation, the master-class songwriting, the mythos, everything is here and it's a joy to behold. - Trailer

As I wrote on its debut, this album is wonderfully more of the same we’ve come to expect from these champions of the Red Dirt universe. Nobody writes a bittersweet broken-heart song better than Evan Felker, as evidenced in “The House Fire.” - Kevin


3. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - The Nashville Sound
Jason Isbell is the best there is in music right now.  I don't think it's even close.  The voice, the music, and the songs are all perfect.  After Isbell's last couple of quieter, more introspective albums, I was really looking forward to hearing Isbell cut loose a little more.  This album was not a disappointment on that front and even threw in a couple of tear-jerkers for good measure.  This year I got engaged, and hearing 'When We Were Vampires' is a song that crushes me every time.  For the rockers, 'Cumberland Gap' and 'White Man's World' are going to go at the top of the Isbell cannon.  After listening to these songs and this album all year, I can't even imagine Isbell's shows without these songs.  They are some of Isbell's best.  I know Southeastern may be Isbell's high water mark, but this album shows that he's not resting on his laurels.  He's going to continue to make incredible, hard-hitting music for years to come. - Matthew

If ‘Vampires’ doesn’t make you cry you may be a zombie. - Jeremy Harris


4. Colter Wall - s/t
Granted, producer Dave Cobb has an inexhaustible Midas touch. But you’d assume in situations 
like this one – producing the debut album from a star in the making from Canada – he’d largely
 just stand back. Listen to Wall’s deep, dark baritone and tell me he’s 22 years old; great golly, 
he is. Here’s the gold standard for folk albums in the twenty-teens, featuring the year’s best 
murder ballad, “Kate McCannon.” Tyler Childers’ singing harmony vocals on the traditional 
ballad “Fraulein” is the cherry on top.  - Kevin


5. Chris Stapleton - From A Room, Volume 2
This album was everything I want from Stapleton- it's bluesy, it's rowdy, and it's beautiful.  
The man can sing a damn song.  He makes you feel what he's singing, the way the best of the 
soul-singers of yesteryear could do.  This is one of the big-hitters of country music and it's completely, unequivocally deserved. - Matthew

This is the best pure country album for the last two or three years, from the man with hands-down 
the best voice in the genre. I had this playing in the background at work and a colleague asked, 
“Is this Waylon?” Well, yeah, pretty much. Take note, Nashville: Stapleton’s topping the charts, 
no thanks to you. - Kevin


6. Gregg Allman - Southern Blood
I don’t think he ever made a better solo album, and it’s so just bittersweet that we get this 
one from beyond the grave. His covers of the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River” and 
Little Feat’s “Willin’” add a sweet touch. Given all Gregg’s givens, let’s be thankful he was 
here for 69 years. Rest easy, man.  - Kevin


7. Jason Eady - s/t
Eady does it again. Another great album. - Jeremy

The album gently grabs your attention with the song “Barabbas” and holds it throughout with 
some of the best songwriting of the year from a genuine craftsman. This Texan – by way of 
Mississippi – hits full stride with a fine album produced by the legendary Lloyd Maines and 
featuring the backing vocals of Vince Gill.  - Kevin


8. John Moreland - Big Bad Luv
From the album cover and title you’d think rap. 
From the sound of his voice you’d think awesome. - Jeremy

He writes compelling songs about feelings and situations we are all familiar with.  
He's heartbreakingly good and this album is proof that Moreland deserves even more 
accolades than he's receiving now.  With an incredible voice and lyrics; it's hard to not 
feel gut-punched at least 2-3 times per song.  - Matthew


9. Shinyribs - I Got Your Medicine
Just a fun album, start to finish. Adult-size portions of soul, real (as to what is today called) 
rhythm & blues, and gospel should keep this record in heavy rotation. - Kevin

Even a non-dancing, non-fun-having dude like me feels the desire to tap a foot every time I hear this album. It's soulful, funny, real, and my favorite thing Kevin Russell has done since the Gourds.
- Trailer


10. Travis Meadows - First Cigarette
There’s some real sad stuff on this one. If Isbell makes you feel weird and emotional,
 Travis Meadows will bring you down even more. - Jeremy


11. The Steel Woods - Straw in the Wind
A perfect balance of country and rock, and with some fine storytelling. Check your mirror,
Blackberry Smoke; these guys are on your heels. - Kevin

I was already impressed by Straw in the Wind. Seeing them live took my appreciation for
this band to a new level. They deserve any and all accolades headed their way. - Trailer


12. JD McPherson - Undivided Heart and Soul
What this country needs is more rockabilly, and this Okie delivers in spades. This is just lots of fun. It’s got a dash of British pub rock, just enough to remind us of Elvis Costello & Nick Lowe. Shake your hips, Daddy-o. - Kevin


13. Chris Stapleton - From A Room, Volume 1

Chris Stapleton continues his career with another solid album of covers and originals.  Not quite as good as Volume 2 in my opinion, but worth every bit of accolades it's received. - Matthew

There’s a magic formula that combines the best of 1 and 2 that makes it a much better album. 
With this formula 1 tops 2 by a lot. - Jeremy


14. Zephaniah OHora - This Highway
This album is an authentic, organic tribute to the golden years of country music, recalling Hank Snow, Marty Robbins and Ray Price. Another hit for the so-called “neo-traditionalists.” - Kevin


15. Steve Earle - So You Wanna Be An Outlaw
On a scale of 1 to Steve Earle, how do you feel about Trump? 
Just kidding, Steve steers clear. - Jeremy






18. Hellbound Glory - Pinball
This may be the best Leroy Virgil or whatever his name is now’s best album yet. - Jeremy







Jun 12, 2017

Album Review: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - The Nashville Sound


Album Review: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - The Nashville Sound

By Kevin Broughton

Last year was a sonofabitch for nearly everyone we know.

-- Jason Isbell, “Hope the High Road”

A thought occurred to me while reviewing Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free a couple years ago: “At some point, you run out of superlatives.” So let’s get this out of the way. Right now, Isbell is without peer as a songwriter. He couldn’t have a better band – and God bless him for giving The 400 Unit billing on The Nashville Sound. Throw in a producer – Dave Cobb – who should just buy a gadget that makes Grammy figurines, and you have a legitimate American musical juggernaut.

And a quick word about the band. It’s proper that current 400 Unit – Sadler Vaden and Amanda Shires are newcomers since Here We Rest – gets a spot on the marquis. When the book is written on this band, this lineup will be viewed as the Mick Taylor-era Stones were.

There are several great songs on this record, bookended by a pair of wholesome ballads. “The Last of My Kind” is just another great story of an Isbell blue-collar guy, who wryly notes that some Scripture might only apply when back home. “Something to Love,” on the back end, is a sweet, hopeful homage to Isbell’s rural roots, a companion piece to his “God is a Working Man” on Brother Cobb’s Southern Family compilation.

More than one song recalls Isbell in his peak Drive By Truckers days. (And no, they’ll never be that good again, and were never better.) The driving intensity of “Cumberland Gap” captures the defiant malaise of Never Gonna Change, only in middle age. Here’s a guy who probably wishes he’d been thrown off the Wilson Dam.


If you’re looking for other perfect B-sides, how about “If We Were Vampires,” a sweet, morose counterweight to “Flagship,” till now Isbell’s most tender love song?  

Sadly, the album is not as good as the sum of its parts. It’s a good but not great record, lacking the continuity and flow that made Isbell’s previous three studio offerings so compelling. Consequently the default focal point becomes the overtly political.

Have you ever thought about what a vile, racist country this is? This republic that twice elected a black man president, with solid popular and electoral majorities? No? You’re in luck, because Jason Isbell is here to beat you over the head with it. “White Man’s World” would be better titled “White-Guilt World.”

Granted, Isbell didn’t completely lose his mind the way his 50-something former band mates did last fall, stopping just short of pissing on Old Glory and renouncing their citizenship in a bid to curry favor with millennial piss-ants and Bernie Sanders-loving losers.  One wonders, though, how many minds did they change? How many people came around to their cop-hating, white-guilt, socialist point of view because of DBT’s temper tantrum of an album? Likely none, though countless bedwetting, gender fluid NPR fans got enough affirmation to stave off being triggered for at least a day.

While Isbell employs a modicum of subtlety compared to Cooley and Hood, “White Man’s World” is still heavy handed. And lest you think blacks are the only oppressed people in this fascist nation: “I’m a white man living on a white man’s street, got the bones of the red man under my feet. Highway runs through their burial ground…”

Really?

Yeah. Step right up for self-flagellation, Cracker Boy. You will be made to care.  And never mind that “red man” is way more than a microaggression.

You want privilege-checking? Got some of that, too. “I’ve heard enough of the white man’s blues, I’ve sang (sic) enough about myself” is our entry into “Hope the High Road,” an otherwise hopeful postmortem of the 2016 election. Oh, and “Anxiety” will be perfect fare for the “safe zones” (you know, where they exclude white people) on the campuses of Mizzou, Harvard, Brown, etc. It’s just flat-out whiny. The crybabies and victim-pimps will love it.  

It’s a sad thing when music – something that should draw everyone together to admire it as art for art’s sake – is politicized. More than a couple of the artists I’ve interviewed for FTM have told me off-the-record why they avoid it. “You're 100 percent right about the music and politics thing,” one told me recently. “I've worked really hard not to do that. The only thing that can come from that is that you piss off half of your fan base. And you won’t change anyone’s mind.” Indeed. But those on the Left seemed determined to politicize every aspect of American life and culture, as we’ve seen happen in the world of sports over the past few years.

Will Isbell lose some fans? A few. Not this one, who hopes it’s a one-off. Still, look for plaudits from all corners: “Jason Isbell courageously speaks his mind.” Yep. Takes a ton of courage to toe the Leftist line in song.

Ultimately, though, if you can do this, you can do anything you want. Nice record, Jason. Wish it were better.


The Nashville Sound will be available everywhere this Friday.

Jun 5, 2017

Really Dumb Country Reviews: Wheeler, FGL, Isbell

Florida Georgia Line - Dig Your Roots



Wheeler Walker, Jr. - Ol' Wheeler

Good thing; it's not for kids, dumbass. *the *those? *to?



Sam Hunt - Body Like a Back Road

A song about sex helped you through rough times? You need therapy.



Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - The Nashville Sound
If this record offends your sensibilities, you should probably move on over to pop country for however long Donald Trump is in office. It's going to be a rough time for you listening to Americana.





Thomas Rhett/Maren Morris - Craving You





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