When I listen to Jason Isbell I'm always struck by the authenticity of his music, everything he writes about is imbued with all the travails that he has experienced in his life. It's not just personal, his ability to shine a light on the microcosm of small town America is unparallelled at the moment. Isbell captures the uncertainty of life especially in small town America where there seems to be a crisis of identity, the old versus the new.
If It Takes A Lifetime sounds a little like Joe South's Games People Play it's about drifting too far from home from the ties that bind and protect, sometimes the idea of the open road offering salvation offers only a bloody nose.
I got too far from my raising, I forgot where I come from
And the light between right and wrong was so fine
Well I thought the highway loved me
But she beat me like a drum
My day will come, even if it takes a lifetime.
24 Frames has Isbell reflecting on his life, like a movie retracing the steps of his past, broken relationships, reconnecting with family, it's also the idea that there really is no plan in life, it's a chaotic but at time beautiful mess.
This is how you make yourself call you mother
And this is how you make yourself closer to your brother
And remember him back when he was small enough to help you sing.
How To Forget finds Isbell trying to forget the pain of his past, it's an honest revelation of the broken relationships in his past.
I was strained, I was sad, didn't realise what I had
I was sick, I was scared, I was socially impaired
It was years ago
My pasts a scary movie I watched and fell asleep
Now I'm dreaming up these creatures from the deep.
Something More Than Free has a melancholy sentiment, we are often resigned to our lot in life, we accept it and are thankful for what we have because there are those who have a lot less. Jason wrote this song about his father who worked six days a week and on Sunday's was too tired to attend church. In the south the idea of going to church on Sunday's to be thankful is ingrained in that part of America. Speed Trap Town is a beautiful slice of small town America where there is that feeling of being trapped, unable to leave and yearning for something more beyond it's small confines. In his hands it becomes an aching testament to how hard it is to leave, that constant fear of what is beyond the county line. Something More Than Free sees Isbell expanding on the idea of fear and acceptance, the fear of what is ahead and acceptance over regret for the past.