Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
After leaving the band Drive-By Truckers and giving sobriety a try, Jason Isbell made the best records of his career. His solo output has not only garnered critical acclaim, but has also been a commercial success for the once underground singer-songwriter. Now a bone fide Grammy Award winning artist, Reunions is his fourth outing with go-to producer Dave Cobb, who has guided him through his strongest output to date.
The biggest problem with Reunions is that Isbell is now making records that sound like they should be winning Grammy Awards. While this may be Isbell’s most slick album, it is certainly his most stale. Isbell had been open about his rediscovered appreciation of the music of the 80s, and it has certainly crept its way into the sounds on Reunions.
Even when being able to look past the production, there are just a bunch of songs that aren’t very good. What’ve I Done To Help borders on prog-rock with an easy listening tone. It’s is truly horrid! In a similar vein, Overseas could have more easily been titled ‘overblown’. In another attempt to write a rocker, Isbell falls too far into the world of Dire Straits with dated guitar sounds and tuneless solos.
There are a couple of moments that ensure that Reunions isn’t a total write off. Dreamsicle is the lyrically heavy, heart wrenching, farm-emo that is right in Isbell’s pocket. He has added a little Nashville-pop to his palette this time around, but the song doesn’t suffer for it. The delicate ballad Only Children is another high point with Isbell reminiscing about his younger self and a penchant for being self-obsessed.
Reunions still finds its author pondering how to be a better husband, father and person, but doesn’t have any of the grit of it’s predecessors, and for the most part is a dull and dry listen. It is said that Jason Isbell inadvertently swallowed some mouth wash during the writing and recording of Reunions, and that act in itself is the most interesting and dangerous thing to do with this album.