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Isbell offers master class

Chautauqua Amphitheater, Chautauqua, N.Y., August 27, 2021

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

Muscle Shoals, Ala. was so influential musically in birthing its own sound. Fittingly, Jason Isbell is a native. His country rock/blues hybrid is the essence of the storied area. His 2021 tour is a master class in diverse textures and expert musicianship.

He sets off a pleasant atmosphere with airy guitar of the accessible and contemporary "Overseas" and "It Gets Easier" Isbell is labeled as both country and rock. On this night, he leaned toward the latter. Showing diversity, he delivered the tender acoustic ballad about cancer "Elephant," then morphed into guitar god mode on the blistering cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" and the gospel romp "What've I Done.

The second half of the show was more ethereal and mystical both sonically and visually. The stage lights softened overhead and set a living room vibe for the 2,000 in attendance. A fan shouted, "Thank you for coming." Isbell quipped at the idyllic setting of Chautauqua institution. "Thank you for having me. This is such a great place: all the houses and gardens. And so many porches, this is the porchiest place in America."

"If We Were Vampires" set the tone for the dismount. The melody was airy and sparse. "Last of my Kind" was the truest to the country genre and feels like it would be a massive number one hit if Blake, Luke or Jason had cut it. It is better off in Isbell's hands. He closed with a cover of his former band's (Drive By Truckers) "Never Gonna Change" before he tipped his cap to the late Charlie Watts with a scorching version of "Gimme Shelter".

Isbell is indeed a rare talent, one that not only the genre needs, but the entire industry as well.



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