Album of the Week: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit


Jason Isbell just turned 30 this past February, so calling him an old soul might be soft-pedaling things a bit. You just can't be callow and pen a line like "She left me alone with these pills, and the last of my youth." That's from "Cigarettes and Wine," Isbell's ode to a bygone female bartender/mentor and one of a few songs from his band the 400 Unit's self-titled album that makes it clear he respects his elders quite a bit.

There's also "No Choice In the Matter," a wrenching nugget of lost '60s/'70s soul with melancholy horns and bluesy guitar, a lesson in love with a less-than-happy ending told from the weathered point of view of the guy on the next barstool. Exhausted closer "The Last Song I Will Write" can't help but echo "Moonlight Mile" on the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers - both songs finish off albums about the precarious relationship between duty, excess and maturity in bouts of protracted, frustrated guitar-beating. (The piano also takes its fair share of abuse.)

Luckily, those same Stones are also watching over rockers "However Long," "Good" and "Soldiers Get Strange," so there are quite a few kicks to be had here too. As opposed to 2007's solo effort Sirens of the Ditch - which came on the heels of his exit from the Truckers and breakup with his wife, DBT bassist Shonna Tucker - making a record with a band again has to have been good for Isbell. His world-weary romantic persona hasn't changed, but being with brothers in arms sounds like it's reminded him (if only a little) that he's still young enough to have fun.

With Red Cortez, 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, at Walter's on Washington, 4215 Washington, 713-862-2513 or www.superunison.com.

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