Jason Isbell Review – The Nashville Sound

Thank you good friend Doug Green for introducing me to Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Doug let me know Jason would be performing in my town and literally insisted I go. One of the BEST concerts ever!



I am excited to review Jason’s latest album The Nashville Sound, so good!

American Singer-Songwriter and Guitarist

  • Jason Isbell
  • Born: February 1, 1979, in Green Hill, AL
  • Genre: Pop/Rock
  • Styles: Alternative Country-Rock
  • Former Member: Drive-By Truckers

Jason grew up in rural l North Alabama. For the most part he was raised by his grandparents who lived on a farm down the road, next to the school that Isbell attended. When Jason was 6 years old his grandfather and uncle taught him to play various musical instruments starting with mandolin. His family would get together and play music every week.

Around 14 or 15 years old, Jason was playing in a garage band and country cover band with songwriter Chris Tompkins. At 16, they played at the Grand Old Opry.

In 2001, while working as a songwriter, he joined The Drive-By Truckers out of Athens, GA. Jason was instrumental in writing many of the songs for The Drive-By Truckers. After 6 years, he left the band to begin his solo career.

After touring doing 200 shows a year, Jason decided to take a break in 2010 and returned to Green Hill, AL. He released several works over the years. In 2015, his Something More Than Free album earned him a Grammy for Best American Album.

In 2017, with his new band Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, he released “Hope The High Road” as the first single from The Nashville Sound. The album also features his wife, Amanda Shires on violin. Amanda, besides having a successful solo career, is credited for touring with John Prine.

The Band

  • Jimbo Hart, bassist
  • Derry deBorja, keyboards
  • Chad Gamble, drummer
  • Sadler Vaden, guitarist
  • Amanda Shires, fiddle/harmony vocals

The 400 Unit is a powerful diverse group of top-notch musicians and have been essential to the successes of Jason’s last two albums and to him earning a Grammy for Best American Album. Interestingly, The 400 Unit is named after a Florence mental treatment facility.

The Songs – Jason Isbell Story Teller

Last of My Kind

A song about social change. People becoming self centered, not really caring about what is going on around them. Am I the last of my kind is more a statement about not conforming, still caring and willing to help others.

Cumberland Gap

Jason says “This song is about working class desperation, really. It was written as a tribute to the children of the coal mining regions.”


“Tupelo” is a song about the hope people can construct to escape their problems, no matter how false those hopes might be.

White Man’s World

This a powerful song with hard hitting lyrics that addresses the privileges and disadvantages baked into the American system along familiar lines of race, gender, class, and geography.

If We Were Vampires

The name doesn’t say it but this is a love song about wanting to be with Amanda forever. “But one day I’ll be gone or one day you’ll be gone” is the reality that it will not last. But, if we were vampires, we could be together for ever.


In an interview with Garden & Gun, Jason stresses the fact of his storytelling task, rather than an autobiographical one:

I’m not always the person speaking in the songs, keep that in mind. But there’s the kind of anxiety that gives you attacks, which I don’t have. And then there’s also the kind associated with neuroses, the constant summation and judgment of every situation you’re in and every reaction you have and analyzing yourself ad nauseam. I think that’s more my issue than anything else. I just worry too much.


This song is really about settling down, putting the wild days behind. Burned out like a Molotov references a past life of destructive behavior.

Chaos and Clothes

Jason Isbell is great friends with fellow songwriter Ryan Adams. Adams was one of the people who got Isbell back into rehab. On this song it’s Isbell offering Adams the support from the loss of a lover.

Hope To The High Road

If you follow Jason on Twitter or Facebook, you know he has some political thoughts. This song is inspired by his opinion of today s political scene.

Something To Love

Jason closes out The Nashville Sound with a song written to his daughter. He wants her to find her passion and pursue it. Good advice for any child don’t you think?

Final Thoughts

I hope you have enjoyed my review of The Nashville Sound. Jason Isbell is not mainstream but he has an incredible following of the most faithful fans on the planet. We never sat down at his concert and, except for me, everyone knew all the lyrics to every song. He is quite an entertainer, amazingly gifted guitarist, and his writing his second to none.

Please give this album your attention if you haven’t already. At the bottom of this page you can sample the songs from iTunes.

I welcome your comments and suggestions for future artists to review.








2 Comments on “Jason Isbell Review – The Nashville Sound”

  1. Hey Rick! Hope all is well. I can’t believe I failed to ever mention Jason Isbell to you – I’m SURE I must have at some point. My all-time favorite singer/songwriter. I took my daughter to see Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit on January 29 – absolutely amazing concert, and we got two bonuses – it was the first performance after their sweep of Americana Grammys (Best Album, the Nashville Sound, and Best Song, If We Were Vampires), AND it was the first performance where Amanda returned to playing with the band, after being absent on an earlier leg of the tour while working on her own album. True to form, Isbell was very modest and when people were yelling about his Grammy win, he instead congratulated the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for their Grammy win (the concert was at Heinz Hall, home of the PSO).

    If you haven’t already, you definitely need to listen to Isbell’s two prior albums end-to-end (Something More Than Free and Southeastern). Both very solid and each has their own character, and not a song on either that I don’t love.

    Glad you got to see them in concert – now I have a fellow fan friend!

    • Cool Ron and thanks for checking out my website! I am enjoying writing blog posts on various subjects centered around music. Jason was so inspiring to me when I saw him live that I tell everyone about him and Amanda. He was in Florida but I missed him and Amanda performs tonight in Ponte Vedra (love this venue) but I have family in town so can’t see her either. Please let me know who else you like that is the similar to Jason.


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