Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Singer/songwriter Jason Isbell is a man of the road. He spent six years touring with the alt country band, the Drive-By Truckers. And as a solo performer, he's been known to spend more than 200 days a year on the road. To write his latest album though, Isbell actually unpacked his bags in Alabama, and the result is called "Here We Rest."

Meredith Ochs has our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALABAMA PINES")

JASON ISBELL: (Singing) Well, I moved into this room, if you could call it that, a week ago. I never do what I'm supposed to do. Hardly even know my name anymore. When no one calls it out, it kind of vanishes away.

MEREDITH OCHS: "Here We Rest" was the original state motto of Alabama, where Jason Isbell was raised, and where he still calls home. It's the perfect title for his new CD. Finding himself in familiar territory, he re-examines his past, attempts to rekindle relationships and retrace old patterns, and fights the feeling of being a stranger in his own town.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALABAMA PINES")

ISBELL: (Singing) If we pass through on a Sunday, better make a stop at Wayne's. It's the only open liquor store north, and I can't stand the pain of being by myself without a little help on a Sunday afternoon. Well, I needed that damn woman like a dream needs gasoline, and I tried to be some ancient kind of man, one that's never seen the beauty in the world, but I tried to chase it down, tried to make the whole thing mine. Somebody take me home through those Alabama pines.

OCHS: Moving back home from anywhere after years away requires a period of readjustment. And on this song, Jason Isbell explores the path of a soldier returning from war.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOUR OF DUTY")

ISBELL: (Singing) I'm arriving on the day's last train, stepping on the platform, trying to see you through the rain. I don't know the ways you've changed since I left, and I really don't care. I've done my tour of duty, now I'm home and I ain't going anywhere.

OCHS: But unlike Isbell, who wrestles with fitting back into his old life on the rest of the album, this soldier is determined to put his tour of duty behind him.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOUR OF DUTY")

ISBELL: (Singing) And I promise not to bore you with my stories. And I promise not to scare you with my tears. And I never would exaggerate the glory. I'll seem so satisfied here.

OCHS: One of the reasons Jason Isbell parted ways with the Drive-By Truckers was to follow a divergent musical path from their take on Southern rock. He wanted to incorporated more of the country soul that he grew up around, and on this CD, he does.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEART ON A STRING")

ISBELL: (Singing) I was out there all alone. I was searching for a friend.

OCHS: He recorded part of it at the legendary FAME Studios. FAME has made an indelible mark on American music since the 1950s, cranking out hits by everyone from Aretha Franklin to Paul Anka. Isbell gets the sound and vibe of the place perfectly on this song. As you can hear, music is the one part of coming home that's not a struggle for him.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEART ON A STRING")

ISBELL: (Singing) Well, I can't free my heart from you, baby, 'cause you keep...

BLOCK: The new album from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit is called "Here We Rest." Reviewer Meredith Ochs is a DJ and talk show host on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEART ON A STRING")

ISBELL: (Singing) 'Cause you keep it hanging on your...

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: