I first came across Jason Isbell on Bob Harris’s show on BBC Radio 2, when he played Alabama Pines from his Here We Rest album. A few weeks later, on 30 April 2012, I caught him playing a short, but brilliant, acoustic set at the London Palladium supporting Ryan Adams. I remember him doing a superb version of Alabama Pines and I’m sure there was a Drive By Truckers song in there too.
When I spent three months in Columbus Georgia, during the summer of 2013, it was a few months after the release of his Southeastern album. After hearing a couple of songs on the local radio station I purchased the album and it’s been a staple on my playlist ever since. I was lucky enough to catch him last year in Atlanta, at the Shaky Knees festival, where he played a few songs off Southeastern. A highlight of that set was a duet with Candi Stanton, when they performed Candi Stanton’s Heart on a String.
I must admit to wondering whether Something More Than Free would match up to Southeastern, which is an acknowledged classic. But having listened to it a few times, it more than matches it. It’s definitely less personal than Southeastern and is definitely more upbeat. As a Brit who has only spent a few months in the South, his songs, based on characters and situations from the South, shouldn’t mean a lot to me, but that’s the strength of Jason Isbell’s songwriting, his songs resonate with me.
I mentioned earlier that I’d seen Jason Isbell perform with Ryan Adams, well I can offer no bigger compliment than say that I rate Something More Than Free on a par with Gold by Ryan Adams, that was released over ten years ago and is an album I constantly play.
Just to finish, how about some Alabama Pines…