Seasoned songwriter gets louder and more topical on new album 'The Nashville Sound'

Ever since Jason Isbell's 2013 breakout album, Southeastern, the former Drive-By Trucker has raised the bar for Americana, leading a new regime of modern-day outlaw songwriters whose dedication to craft trumps allegiances to country tropes.

While Southeastern explored Isbell's newfound sobriety with acoustic-driven tales of that rewarding-yet-harrowing transition, along with heartbreaking stories of aging, cancer-addled barflies, 2015's Something More Than Free and 2017's The Nashville Sound find Isbell using his newfound perspective to grapple with the world around him while also making full use of his band, the 400 Unit. On “White Man's World,” he comes to terms with the privilege he was born into. “There's no such thing as someone else's war/Your creature comforts aren't the only things worth fighting for,” sings Isbell, who also recently remarked to Esquire, “It's very easy to say you're tired of political discussion when all of your problems are solved.”

But he also hasn't lost his knack for writing devastatingly sad songs. On “If We Were Vampires,” a husband reveals how crushed he is by the realization that he and his wife will one day die, and it probably won't happen simultaneously: “It's knowing that this can't go on forever/Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone/Maybe we'll get 40 years together/But one day I'll be gone, or one day you'll be gone.” Good luck not welling up during that one. (Don't miss it)