GRAMMY-Award winners Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit release their eagerly anticipated 13-track Weathervanes album, on Southeastern Records/Thirty Tigers.
And the raw album, in music and lyrics, is a must-listen for everyone; Country, Americana, Soul, life. Listen to it in full, with the lyrics by your side, with no interruptions from anyone; this is what vinyl and CDs were made for. Isbell, who wrote and produced the album (Mike Pence provided additional production) will turn you inside out and you’ll be all the better for the experience. Go to a park with your headphones; there’s no finer way to spend a lunch hour.
Lead single, ‘Death Wish’ sets the tone for the thirteen original and brand new tracks on Weathervanes. The central character strikes a gut-wrenching visual “climbing on the rooftop/higher than a kite, dead of winter in a tank top”. This album addresses those mid-40 thoughts of love and limits, change, the impact of the past, regret and redemption. This is not the only song in which the secondary character is trying to help someone not feel alone.
Follow-up track ‘King of Oklahoma’ tells the bittersweet story of one moment that can forever change your life. We walk a fine line every day with the decisions we make, a personal understanding that Isbell isn’t afraid to release into the world, with his iconic crystal-clear vocals. The song addresses the pill addiction in America and the effect this has on families.
Reading the lyrics opens up a world of new information, pertinent to the America we know exists, but with cultural connections that haven’t, as yet, reached UK shores, unless you’ve been fortunate enough to hear Isbell perform on one of his many visits to this side of the world. ‘Strawberry Woman’ had me wandering down a contemporary dictionary route unearthing a street character in the song, while simultaneously making me feel the sweetness of love. The last verse owns the moment with the lyric, ‘dancing on the table with a bloody nose’.
‘Save The World’ will break your heart the most on Weathervanes. Isbell’s acute, real observation of an America that nobody wants and nobody can do anything about. The innocence of childhood juxtaposed against parental anxiety.
‘Cast Iron Skillet’ is the perfect example of the depth of Isbell’s songwriting genius; what’s happening in the verses between the life lesson of a chorus? Providing the only reference to the album title, and summing up the record’s key themes of love and loss, lies a murder ballad as still and lethal as a southern swamp.
Final thoughts go to the final track, ‘Miles’ which offers a future insight into a daddy-daughter relationship that no parent hopes for, but inevitably experiences. For now, the moment of freeing and being free, hoping your child doesn’t follow your exact path to adulthood, is in the distance. But a decade can fly by. The best that you can do is hold on to your head and your heart.
Listening to an Isbell and the 400 unit album is a rich, sonorous, layered music experience; from the multi-layered strings (Isbell, Jimbo Hart, Sadler Vaden and special guest Amanda Shires) percussion (Chad Gamble) and keys (Derry deBorja) to the stories within stories, everywhere you turn there’s something new to feel. Weathervanes is what a stereo’s repeat button was made for.
You can catch Isbell acting in Scorsese’s upcoming epic western Killers Of The Flower Moon (alongside fellow musician Sturgill Simpson) later in the year and see his HBO documentary, ‘Running With Our Eyes Closed’ now, with Isbell sharing details of his marriage and his creative writing process.
Tracklist: 1. Death Wish 2. King of Oklahoma 3. Strawberry Woman 4. Middle Of The Morning 5. Save The World 6. If You Insist 7. Cast Iron Skillet 8. When We Were Close 9. Volunteer 10. Vestavia Hills 11. White Beretta 12. This Ain’t It 13. Miles Record Label: Southeastern / Thirty Tigers Release Date: Friday June 9th Buy ‘Weathervanes’ now