Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One of the Good Ones

As I may have mentioned before, I'm a gigantic music nerd.  I have entire novels I've revamped because of one or two songs. 

This is one of them:
"Danko/Manuel" - The Drive By Truckers (or in this case, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit).

Which brings us to my subject today. 

Jason Isbell is in my top five favorite musicians.  Why?  Because he's close to home.  He's from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and he's got the accent and the history to prove it.  He's well-educated too.  A fellow English major.

But above all, the man has a poet's soul.  A poet's soul and a Southern accent are enough to make me a fan for life, but on top of this, he's got that power of observation that is so rare in musicians these days, but should be a requirement for them.  Just like writers, musicians have to know the pulse of the world.  Have to see the problems and savor the perfections.  Isbell is one of the few. 

He used to be in a band called the Drive-By Truckers.  I was already a gigantic fan of theirs because they tell the truth - the gritty, dirty truth.  But they tell it with reverence.  There's an air of veneration in even the darkest of their songs.  Veneration for the South, for past generations, and for the truth.  It's downright unbelievable. 

Perfect example:  "Outfit" (one of Isbell's from his Truckers period.)

Isbell left the Truckers a couple years ago, but neither he nor the Truckers have lost any of their edge or appeal.  Although granted, I do miss Isbell's influence on the rest of the Truckers and vice versa.

To the point, I love Isbell because he's the perfect representative for folks like me and my friends and my family.  Folks in this area have precious little to represent us, and to have a gift like Isbell pop up out of the blue maybe eight years ago is a downright blessing.  He takes the stereotype of a hillbilly/redneck and both destroys and explains it in his music, his lyrics, and even interviews. 

Like this one - I just saw this interview today when I was bored at work and surfing youtube.  Tell me you don't love a phrase like "blatent escapism" delivered in a North Alabama accent:
(sorry about the ad at the beginning)

Besides that, though, the man has a soul.  He's one of the most personable people I've ever seen on a stage, and you know he's got a story to tell.

He's one of those people who you just want to talk to.  If I ever meet him (after I get over the daze of actually meeting him), I won't gush and tell him how great he is.  I want to ask him where he came up with his outright dark, sinister story songs like "Decoration Day."

And how in the world the same mind (along with his brain trust, the 400 Unit) came up with something as personal and real as "Streetlights."

So just a suggestion.  If you're bored with the music you're hearing and wanting to try something new; if you're from the rural South and wonder why nobody has the balls to tell its story; or if you want to know what it's like to be from the rural South, download some Drive-By Truckers (I recommend The Dirty South or Decoration Day to start) or some Jason Isbell (all of his - download it now). 

Sorry to regale my loyal readers with so much fangirl geekery, but sometimes, it's just got to be done. 

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