Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

No comments

Two years ago, Isbell’s Southeastern reflected maturity in his song craft and a fresh, sober perspective on things that matter.  After that largely acoustic toned album, he returns with Something More Than Free accompanied by his backing band, the 400 Unit.  The songs aJason Isbell Something More than free reviewre just as lyrically deep, but not as consistently heart wrenching.  There’s no “Elephant,” here, which is good – that one has been done.  There’s little bright and positive either, but the wider sonic palette elevates the experience.  It seems he’s become not only a more consistent lyricist, but a better band lander and even a better singer. 

His personal demons are less apparent here, but the character sketches of people in small towns, bad luck, and underpaying jobs are quite enough.  The album’s centerpiece is probably “Children of Children,” a look at the lost years of freedom and growth that teenage mothers face.  It’s not judgmental, but observational.  It’s also the finest contribution his band has made to elevate one of his songs, particularly the violin.  Here’s some lyrical snippets:

When I get home from work
I'll wrestle off my clothes
And leave em right inside the front door
Cause nobody's home to know

You see a hammer finds a nail
And a freight train needs the rails
And I’m doin’ what I’m on this earth to do

And I don’t think on why I’m here where it hurts
I’m just lucky to have the work
Sunday morning I’m too tried to go to church
But I thank God for the work

You and I were almost nothing
Pray to God that God was bluffing
17 ain’t old enough to reason with the pain
How could we expect the two to stay in love
When nether knew the meaning of
The difference between the sacred and profane

There’s a few to many years on this hotel
She used to be a beauty you can tell
The lights down in the lobby they don’t shine
They just flicker while the elevator winds

And the couple in the corner of the bar
Have traveled light and clearly traveled far
She’s got nothing left to learn about his heart
They’re sitting there a thousand miles apart

The doctor said Daddy wouldn’t make it a year
But the holidays are over and he’s still here
How long can they keep you in the ICU? 
Veins through the skin like a faded tattoo

Was a tough state trooper ‘til a decade back
When that girl who wasn’t Mama caused his heart attack
He didn’t care about us when he was walking around
Just pulling women over in a speed trap town

But it never did occur to me leave ‘til tonight
When I realized he’ll never be alright
Sign my name and say my last goodbye, then decide
That there’s nothing here that can’t be left behind

Overall, it’s not an album that builds one up or casts one down.  There are plenty who memorize his lyrics and recite them like an anthem, but it’s best suited to serious listening – and reflections of where one’s life fits, or doesn’t fit, within the frame.

No comments :

Post a Comment