To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyses reviews to verify trustworthiness.
Buyers of this set should not expect a proxy DBT record. Whilst on the one hand it demonstrates that a record by one (former) third of Drive By Truckers' writing trio doesn't amount to a DBT album written by one hand, on the other it does show, to his credit, that there is more to Jason Isbell than DBT.
In my opinion none of the tracks on this collection reaches the heights achieved by the best of Isbell's DBT songs such as Decoration Day, Goddamn Lonely Love or Easy On Yourself. Nevertheless, in its own way this is an excellent piece of work, with catchy tunes and an eclectic set of styles from the Stones to Stax via Country and Heavy Blues/Rock.
There are some nice appearances from a variety of mates, including Shonna, Patterson and Brad (what, no Cooley?) from DBT, ex-MGs keyboardist Spooner Oldham, and David Hood, Patterson's old man, I believe.
Some impressions of a few of the tracks.
Brand New Kind Of Actress opens the set with a sound reminiscent of the Stones and some catchy lyrics. Next, Down In A Hole is given a soulful backing by Oldham's B3.
Try is a blues reminiscent of Robert Johnson's approach to song construction, or maybe Lucinda Williams. Interestingly I notice that, while I would put them on the same shelf, my Windows Media Player shows Isbell's Sirens as Rock and Williams's West as Folk. Not sure how that works. A&R moves in mysterious ways, I guess.
The poignant lyrics on Dress Blues will move you whether or not you backed the Iraq intervention. It should, anyway. This is one of the stand-outs for me. It's Country, not Rock, with some affective pedal steel, and it's about the premature death of a young marine - "You never planned on the bombs in the sand, or sleeping in your dress blues" - and his funeral.
Grown, whose lyrics provide the CD title, reminds me of Steve Miller, I think possibly because of the repeated "wha-o-oo" at the beginning of the chorus, but also Isbell's voice and the rhythm.
Hurricanes And Hand Grenades features some great lyrics. It's a blues/soul composition with some nice guitar and gospel organ in the background courtesy of Tommy Patterson. A bit of a barroom piece. Kind of "set `em up Joe" feel about it; an echo of Goddamn Lonely Love. I get the feeling that a few years ago Rod Stewart could have covered it well. Nowadays let's keep it away from him!
In A Razor Town is a thoughtful country ballad with some great slide and dobro, Shonna Tucker's backing vocals are just right, and together with the closer, The Devil Is My Running Mate, this is one of the other two standouts. This last song on the CD is delivered, courtesy of multitracking, by Isbell on his own playing all the instruments and singing. It's slow, with some forceful acoustic guitar to the fore.
In the final analysis, a worthwhile addition to the collection. Nothing bad, and some songs I reckon will prove to be built to last. Disappointing though that nobody saw fit to include lyrics in the packaging. They'd be worth having in print.