Reunions by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit [8/10]

Jason Isbell and I haven’t crossed listening paths before and, based on “Reunions,” that’s my bad, for he is a terrific, earnest singer-songwriter in the vein of a Nashville-tilting Tom Petty or The Avett Brothers. His voice rings out true and high, his songs are impassioned slabs of honesty and narrative, and his band rocks hard and smoothly. Isbell’s soaring voice calling “What’ve I Done to Help” high in his register, on the haunting opening track (over six minutes long), is an immediate highlight but there is not a lowball track. Gentler songs, generally nostalgic, like “Dreamsicle” and “Only Children,” hold up the gaps between the stirring anthemic self-examinations such as “Be Afraid” (on which he roars: “Be afraid / be very afraid / but do it anyway / do it anyway”). Apparently Isbell is a recovered alcoholic and on “It Gets Easier,” he hollers the pain of the continuing call of the bottle. What a rousing treat discovering “Reunions” has been!

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