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Jason Isbell’s take on ‘The Nashville Sound’ is multifaceted

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Annie Zaleski

Three and a half stars

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

The Nashville Sound

When the Weekly spoke with Jason Isbell about his upcoming record earlier this year, he pointed to the reverb-free sound of Paul McCartney and Wings’ Band on the Run as a touchstone. That approach is most evident on the album’s folk-leaning moments: “Chaos and Clothes” and “If We Were Vampires” sound resonant and intimate, as Isbell’s conspiratorial voice frames woodshedding acoustic guitars. Overall, though, The Nashville Sound aims for a multifaceted, big-tent approach to the city’s music. Fiddle and pedal steel slow dance through the vintage country of “Tupelo,” while howling electric rocker “Cumberland Gap” and the Springsteen-esque “Hope the High Road” barnstorm with urgency.

As usual, it’s Isbell’s meticulous approach to lyrics that truly elevates his songs. “White Man’s World” is an unsparing look at the world’s structural inequalities, and calls on those with privilege to acknowledge it. Thundering orchestral rocker “Anxiety” chronicles the experience of being a bundle of nerves, and “If We Were Vampires” is even more poignant, as Isbell—with wife Amanda Shires on accompanying vocals—contemplates the sobering reality of a couple’s finite time together.

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