Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
Grimey’s Parking Lot; Nashville, TN
Review by Julian Ciany.
This past Friday, Jason Isbell released his much anticipated follow up to his critically acclaimed 2013 album Southeastern, entitled Something More Than Free. To celebrate, he performed the album to a packed crowd behind Grimey’s Record store in the back parking lot. Be sure to pick yourself up a copy of the album and check out our review below.
Standing for hours in the blazing hot sun to see an artist is something that is usually set aside for Bonnaroo and other midsummer festivals. However the occasion of Jason Isbell’s celebration gave way to such circumstances. There was a long line of people who had been waiting almost all day to guarantee their entry into the parking lot. At four p.m., the gates were opened as hundreds of Isbellites rushed into the concert space. But the wait was far from over. Isbell wasn’t scheduled to take the stage until 5:30. I weaseled my way to find a spot in the front, sat down on the burning hot pavement, and gleamed with satisfaction over my newly purchased Isbell and Tame Impala vinyl.
After multiple updates from the Grimey’s staff about the post-show artist signing and the importance of staying hydrated throughout the evening, Jason Isbell came on fashionably late at 5:45. He proceeded to work through a considerable chunk of the new album. His band provided perfect support to Isbell’s heartfelt songwriting. The onstage relationship between Isbell and his other guitar player, Sadler Vaden, was impeccable. There were many occasions where Isbell took the lead, sometimes using the slide on his guitar in a way that greatly resembled that of slide virtuoso Duane Allman. But other songs then opened the way for Vaden to step up to the plate and take a solo. Bassist Jimbro Hart and drummer Chad Gamble held a tight bond and kept a solid foundation behind Jason. The songs managed to get everyone anxious to go home and unwrap their brand new copies of the album. It was clear that Isbell’s storytelling and ability to paint a vivid picture for his listener continue to shine on this record. as there were many moments in the set that proved this. The single “24 Frames”, an address to a friend whose world is falling down around him, was one of the highlights, featuring Isbell’s wife Amanda Shires on an essential fiddle part and harmony vocals. This album debut proved that the record is full of different moods and personalities. The title track is a working man’s cry for relief, while “Speed Trap Town” is an ode to the last days of youth and the first years of adulthood.
After they played the new songs, Isbell and the 400 Unit brought a few old tunes to the mix to end the show, including a classic from Isbell’s former band The Drive By Truckers, “Decoration Day”. This brought a promising tone to conclude the set. Isbell is looking forward towards the future, but never forgetting his past. When they were finished, those with a bracelet rushed back into Grimey’s to get their record’s signed, while the rest of us went home to just sit back and listen to it. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit will be back to Nashville in October for a sold out four night stand at the Ryman Auditorium.