JamBase Questionnaire: Jason Isbell

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new album
Northern Alabama is one of the hardest hit spots in the U.S. today, a place where the economic legs have been kicked out from under folks, leaving a lot of dangling questions about identity and future. Here We Rest, the resoundingly together third album (released April 12 on Lightning Rod Records) from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit wades in with eyes wide-open into this region, which is home to Isbell and his family and friends. What one finds in the bars and quiet stretches of night inside the 400 Unit’s latest is a place and people shaken to their core but resilient despite it all, the fracture lines healing slow but steady for the returning soldiers and out of work denizens spilling from Isbell’s pen.

As in his best work in the Drive-By Truckers, Isbell shows that tenderness is a strength in these new tales, draining the usual venom from rough emotions so the real feelings below the understandable bitterness and anger in hard times rises to the surface, faith returning and love triumphing over most things, though rarely with ease or certainty. Isbell is a questioning spirit, and lock-dead assurances don’t seem likely or even believable when one wipes away the sleep and looks clearly at what is and not just what one would like it to be. The verisimilitude of Here We Rest is striking, and when the band finally kicks up some dust on “Never Could Believe” there’s a sense of victory over the things that drag one down, even if it comes with a crooked grin and an empty bed. The whole group moves incredibly well together on this set, serving the songs with measured power and empathetic discretion, ultimately highlighting what a goddamn great modern singer-songwriter Isbell has grown into, and moving him a few steps closer to the South’s contemporary answer to Warren Zevon. (Dennis Cook)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit are currently touring the U.S. and Europe. Find tour dates here.

Here's what Jason had to say to our inquiries.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit by Allison V. Smith
1. Great music rarely happens without…
A Beatles influence

2. The first album I bought was…
Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814

3. The last song or album to really flip my wig was…
Mimicking Birds’ self-titled album

4. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be…
Eric Clapton's rhythm guitarist

5. My favorite sort of gig is…
A small-to-medium size theater with a Clair Bros. sound rig and a private bathroom.

6. One thing I wish people knew about me is…
I wish people knew less about me.

7. I love the sound of…
The French horn

8. One day I hope to make an album as fantastic as…
Emiliana Torrini's smile. Probably not gonna happen.

9. The best meal I ever had on tour was at…
El Matador in Sydney, Australia

10. I always find the coolest audiences in…
Boise, Idaho

11. The worst habit I've picked up being on the road all the time is…
Um, drugs? I don't do them anymore, though.

12. Led Zeppelin or Radiohead, which flips your switch the most and why?
I love both, honestly, but I have to say Zep because I'm not a total jackass.

13. The craziest thing I ever saw was…
The Flaming Lips after taking LSD. Or maybe the results of the 2000 presidential election.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Tour Dates :: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit News

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[Published on: 4/19/11]

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