The vast majority of music that comes out today is the artistic equivalent of a kid playing dress up in their parent’s closet. Want a hit song in XYZ genre? Simply add 1 part stock vocal style with 2 parts canned subject matter and 3 parts pat instrumentation, microwave for 15 seconds an bam, instant radio hit. Now, I’m not saying that this is wrong. In fact, there are a lot of people who do this formula extremely well and have produced a huge catalog of really enjoyable records.
My point is, every truly great artist eventually hits a tipping point where the substance of their music surpasses their genre. It’s a subtle thing because all the elements of the formula may still be there. This isn’t about changing styles, it’s about evolving as an artist to the point where the music itself has become more than the sum of its parts. And that is exactly what has occurred with Jason Isbell’s new record, Something More Than Free.
To be fair, I was already a fan. Isbell’s previous record, Southeastern, is on loop in my Spotify playlist and there are moments of absolute greatness on that record. But about halfway through Something More Than Free I knew that Isbell had made this transition. Lyrically, this record has layers and layers of imagery; both entirely common to everyone yet still fresh and descriptive enough to paint broad and complex landscapes and characters who tell stories that we’ve never heard, but still feel like we know all too well.
And that voice? Jason Isbell is the kind of singer whose incredible talent hits you like a sneak attack. There’s no pretense or manufactured drama; nothing stylized about his delivery. So much so that it takes you a while to notice the raw and unabashed performance that you’re hearing.
I won’t go too much into Isbell’s story, you can find that yourself. What I will do is give you a little sample of Something More Than Free and tell you that it is well worth the investment. If you’re not already a Jason Isbell fan, this will do the trick.
Hope you enjoy…