Like the two albums before it, Here We Rest shines a light on Jason Isbell’s softer side, illuminating the sad-faced country tunes and bluesy ballads that rarely popped up during his time with Drive-By Truckers. Written in northern Alabama during a break in Isbell’s touring schedule, these songs focus on the archetypal characters that populate most struggling Southern towns: the barflies and ball players, the heartbreakers and the heartbroken, the war vets who return home and the starry-eyed kids who leave. Isbell’s hometown was hit hard by the Great Recession of 2008, and he captures his subjects somewhere between the realization that their lives have been impacted and the sad resignation that they’ve been irrevocably changed. The details are bittersweet, but there’s an air of resilience, too, which Isbell underscores with a sympathetic soundtrack of folk, country, and bar band rock & roll. Relying on the acoustic guitar as much as its electric cousin -- and allowing his four-piece band, the 400 Unit, to flesh things out with organ, fiddle, backup harmonies, and shuffling rhythms -- he keeps things loose and rugged, with songs like “Codeine” and “Daisy Mae” standing out as particular highlights. Here We Rest may not be beer-drinking music, at least not in the same way the Drive-By Truckers albums are beer-drinking music, but it’s as sharply literate as some of Patterson Hood’s best work -- and listeners who focus on Isbell’s lyrics may find themselves weeping into their whiskeys as early as the second track.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey