Jason Isbell has long been a revered and respected songwriter. Throughout his tenure with the Drive-By Truckers and his initial solo releases with the 400 Unit, Isbell has shown a knack for ripping hearts out with his lyrics, including his own. The desperate characters he writes about are those inhabit the desolate places of the south and the intimate places of your soul.
In a career of personal inspirations, Southeastern is Isbell’s most personal work, and quite frankly his best. The songs on this collection detail his personal battles with finding sobriety and love with Amanda Shires. He details the missteps along the way and lays every vulnerable piece of his life bare for the world to see. Each lyric is wrung from Isbell’s hard fight with addiction in some way. The emotion-packed lyrics are surrounded and supported by the least rockin’ production of Isbell’s recorded career.
For the most part, this is a songwriter’s record, not a southern rocker’s record. Yet, somehow the increased acousticness lends the songs extra heft and punch. The strongest punch is landed by the track “Elephant” that details a man’s ignorance to the disease ravaging his lover. That knockout blow is followed closely by “Live Oak”, an introspective tale of a criminal’s wayward life that bares more than a striking resemblance to the personal hell survived by Isbell.
This album is compelling and commanding; potent and prevailing…and above all simply brilliant. A masterpiece.