Jason Isbell took solo credit on his breakthrough albums Southeastern (2013) and Something More Than Free (2015), while 2017's The Nashville Sound is credited to Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. Give the album a spin and it doesn't take long to figure out why. While this is as impressive a showcase for Isbell's talents as a songwriter and vocalist as his previous two albums, this set delivers a richer and more eclectic sound, and this time around, the performances matter just as much as the songs. The Nashville Sound is a less explicitly autobiographical album than Isbell's earlier releases, and the more varied tone of the ten tracks helps to emphasize the thematic strength of Isbell's storytelling, with the electric guitar work of Isbell and Sadler Vaden, the keyboards of Derry Deborja, and the violin of Amanda Shires lending these numbers a wide range of tones and moods. From the crashing dynamics of "Anxiety," the understated dread of "White Man's World," and the spare acoustic approach of "If We Were Vampires" to the guitar-fueled fury of "Hope the High Road," the New South vs. Old South rock of "The Cumberland Gap," and the bittersweet bluegrass-styled confessions of "Something to Love," this is a set of outstanding songs that registers as the work of a great band, as well as the craft of a world-class tunesmith. Isbell was already a gifted artist when he first gained public visibility with the Drive-By Truckers, but The Nashville Sound finds him growing from strength to strength, and it reaffirms his place as one of the best and most emotionally affecting artists working in roots music today.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming