Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit at Lincoln Hall | Concert preview
Former Drive-By Trucker finds his voice.
When Jason Isbell joined the Drive-By Truckers in 2001, then still in his early twenties, he quickly earned the nickname “Nearly Famous.” The quality of his songwriting, singing and guitar playing marked him as a cut above the usual and destined for great things. That talent and potential ended up playing an ironic role in Isbell’s ouster from the DBTs; there simply wasn’t enough room for a musician of his stature in a band that already had two world-class songwriters. On his own, the 33-year-old still seems to be shaking off his past as he changes and grows, both as an artist and as a man.
The new Live from Alabama finds him in a transitional stage, playing to a homestate crowd while showcasing songs from his tenure in the Truckers in addition to standout solo tracks like “Dress Blues,” “In a Razor Town” and “Alabama Pines” that would have been highlights of any album he made, solo or with the DBTs. Isbell has always been wise beyond his years, but now his voice—in terms of both singing and narrative—has finally caught up with him, and his guitar playing, once prone to flash, now reveals welcome restraint. Not that Isbell can’t cut loose with the best of them, but his newfound respect for moderation is a reward for all the fans who have stuck with him from the start.