Americana guitarist and singer-songwriter Jason Isbell started as part of Drive-By Truckers and is now a drive-by revolutionary.
"Something More Than Free" is his sixth release outside of the band and a follow-up to his 2013 award-winning album, "Southeastern." Isbell carries his group roots with him as he also makes a voice for himself, exploring his southern origins with a progressive nostalgia that's in-touch with audiences of all generations. His sound might be old-style Southern folk, but his words speak beyond the cotton fields and bluegrass hills.
From the very start, Isbell connects with a younger audience. To listeners in their mid-20s and jaded with the socially-absorbed generation, the opening track's first verse speaks volumes. "I'm learning how to be alone, fall asleep with the TV, and I fight the urge of living inside my telephone," he sings in "If It Takes a Lifetime." What was probably intended to just be an observation of the 36-year-old's early lifestyle (or that of his song's narrator) is instead the verbalization of any Gen Y starting adulthood and getting bored a few weeks into the process.
From there, the songs vary with burlap roughness and symphonic sweetness. "Palmetto Rose" stands out as Isbell's fully instrumented rock, rhythm and blues anthem. "Hudson Commodore" brings bittersweet, simple Southern storytelling, while "Children of Children" is an ambitious power ballad, but speaks to mid-2010s listeners.
The 11-track collection is an ode to remembering the past, but not dwelling on it, even if the songs themselves don't vary so much from Isbell's successful, "Southeastern" release. Those who loved the 2013 "Southeastern" will be pleased to hear more of the same - but when the "same" is this good, who wants anything different?