Jason Isbell on Austin City Limits ©️KLRU photo by Scott Newton

Jason Isbell

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Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires by Adam Dodson

TAPING SETLIST

Jason Isbell Taping Set List

Jason Isbell’s authenticity, his intellect and his rootedness in both tradition as well as modernity make his songs strike listeners deeply. Tonight he returns to the Austin City Limits stage with his band the 400 Unit. Isbell and the 400 Unit’s acclaimed new album, The Nashville Sound, is a beautiful piece of American music-making. As with Isbell’s 2013 breakthrough, Southeastern (which Isbell showcased on his debut ACL appearance in Season 39) and his double-Grammy-winning follow up, 2015’s Something More Than Free, The Nashville Sound was produced by Dave Cobb. Isbell says that he and Cobb created a simple litmus test for the decisions they made in the two weeks they spent at RCA Studios (which was known as “The home of the Nashville Sound” back in the ’60s and ’70s): they only made sonic moves that their heroes from back in the day could’ve made, but simply never did.

It’s a shrewd approach — an honest way to keep the wiz-bang of modern recording technology at arm’s length, while also leaving the old bag of retro rock ’n’ roll tricks un-rummaged. It’s also the best way to keep the spotlight on Isbell’s stock-in-trade: great songs. Simply put, Isbell has a gift for taking big, messy human experiences and compressing them into badass little combustible packages made of rhythm, melody and madly efficient language. The songs are full of little hooks — it could be a guitar line that catches one listener, or a quick lyric that strikes to the heart of another — and an act of transference takes place. The stories Isbell tells become our own. The music is coming not from Jason and the band, but from within us. Lyrically, The Nashville Sound is timely. Musically, it is timeless.

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