Something More Than Free, Jason Isbell’s follow-up to 2013’s Southeastern is not yet out but you can listen to it here (courtesy of NPR).
(Well, you COULD have listened to it for free when I wrote this in 2015. Hopefully, you have bought it by now and have listened to it a million times like I have — naomi)
I’ve only given it one listen so far but I can tell I’m going to be listening to it a lot more. Takes me a while to really absorb all the lyrics – and lyrics are Isbell’s forte. (Check his Twitter feed – hilarious and insightful). Have to listen to it in the car when no one else is there.
Already, I can tell I’m not going to be disappointed. And I’m loving the fiddle – assuming that is Amanda Shires . . . How convenient for Isbell to marry one of the best Americana fiddle players out there.
What a breath of fresh air! Spent the day in the car yesterday with a little tyrant who punched country station after country station on my poor car stereo. I was starting to believe that there isn’t a country song out there that isn’t about some guy trying to get a girl in his truck with some beer and a good country song so they can drive down that dirt road and do whatever all night. Because, you know, that is what the South and manhood is all about. And women are the accessories.
Contrast that with Isbell’s thoughtful lyrics that let you know what life is really all about. “Something More Than Free” is the real working man’s anthem that the country songs today try to be. It’s about going to work day in and day out. It’s about that feeling of release when you get home from work and touches on the hell raising that comes with that but it’s also realistic. A ballad instead of the usual hell-raising song you hear on Howling Wolf Big Hat Country but it’s real. “I don’t think of why I’m here or where it hurts, I’m just lucky to have the work. And every night I dream I’m drowning in the dirt, but I thank God for the work.” “Cause a hammer needs a nail and the poor man’s up for sale. ” “What I’m working for is something more than free.”
And his love song to an old girlfriend, “Are you living the life you chose? Are you living with a man who knows you like I thought I did back then?” It’s got Jack and Coke in it, yeah, but the woman gets to think for herself and there is more to her than her long hair and Daisy Dukes.
Thank you, Jason. You’re restored my faith in “country music.”