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After "rediscovering" Jason Isbell via Live From Alabama and Southeastern, I decided I needed to rectify the oversight of not procuring Here We Rest when it was released back in 2011.
Sometimes it's difficult doing that for someone who, as I said in my review of Southeastern, is progressively getting better by the record, but this one does not disappoint.
One of Isbell's strengths is his ability to move between styles effortlessly and turn in a stellar performance each time. So it is he moves from the country of Alabama Pines to the folk of Daisy Mae (a beautiful song, without a doubt) and the soul of Candy Staton's Heart On A String, without missing a beat. The latter is such a fantastic evocation of the Muscle Shoals sound, appropriate as that was where it was recorded, that I half expected Otis Redding to join in.
In between there's some humour in We've Met, the slightly more rock-inflected Stopping By and the quirky insertion of harmonium-based The Ballad Of Nobeard.
The catchiest tune is probably that for Codeine, again imbued with a measure of sorrow, leavened with humour, and made even better by the violin of Amanda Pearl Shires, who I assume also provides the country backing vocals.
The set rounds off with the excellent Tour Of Duty, another of Isbell's tales of the soldier's life post-demobilisation.
Combined with the other two records mentioned at the top of the review, this is going to keep me happy for quite some time.
There are many tracks here that feature regularly in the live shows often with the audience joining in. OK it is arguable that there may be one or two tracks slightly weaker than the others but I would say the majority of the tracks are excellent and a very clear sign of the direction that Jason Isbell is heading and that is towards the equally superb "Something more than free."
And lets not forget or underestimate the massive contribution from 400 Unit in providing the backing and of course Amanda Shires on fiddle/violin who without doubt adds a subtle extra texture to the already superb musicianship.
I admit a total bias with this review. I've loved Jason's work from his days (years) with the Drive By Truckers (another of my all time favourite bands), so I was always going to rate this album highly. The song writing of this young(ish) man is outstanding in my view, and recent awards have proven others feel the same way. This 'brand' of music is referred to as Americana these days, which is far more appropriate than 'country and western'. That said, there is a country sound which i've appreciated more as i've aged(!) and that's reflected in my favourite song from this album 'Codeine' http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B004XP2LLO/ref=dm_mu_dp_trk4. If you know Jason's work from the DBT's you'll know that he's also adept at hard-driven Rock songs as well as gentle ballads, and his work with The 400 Unit continues in that vein. This album is a nice example of all of these things, but with a strong emphasis on the southern country sound.