Bluebird on August 28, a third thing was added to the two things you have to do
in life: pay taxes, see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and then die. Amen.
By Tim Hinely
It’s been amazing to see the trajectory of ex-Drive-By Truckers
guitarist Jason Isbell since he left that band a few years ago. Both his
records and live shows have consistently gotten better (and the crowds,
bigger). On this particular night at Denver’s
Bluebird Theatre the band was armed and ready. Having the same group, the 400
Unit, that have been with him for a few years now (bassist Jimbo Hart,
keyboardist Derry Deborja and drummer Chad Gamble; guitarist Browan Lollar left
the band a year or so ago) and as much time as these guys spend on the road,
they now sound like a well-oiled machine – and a real band, too, not just a
backing combo for Isbell’s songs.
Opening with “Try” the band played a generous helping of
tunes off all three of their records including a few from last year’s brilliant
Here We Rest (“Go It Alone”, “Alabama
Pines”, etc.) as well as a few oldies (“Goddamn Lonely Love,” “In a Razor
Town,” “Dress Blues”, etc.) . They paid
homage to some of their heroes by throwing in a few covers , too (Hendrix’s
“Stone Free” and Neil Young’s “Like A Hurricane,” “Heart on a String”) and even
a few from the Drive-By Truckers’ catalog (“We Ain’t Ever Gonna Change,”
“Decoration Day”) and a set-ending song about The Band’s Richard Manuel title,
simply, “Danko, Manuel.” The band came
out for a few encores and called it a night. All in all they were in great
spirits and hammered and hammered some more, pouring and wringing every bit of
heart and soul into their set. It’s not a stretch to call Isbell one of our
country’s finest songwriters.
There has been a third thing added to the two things you
have to do in life: pay taxes, see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and then die. Amen.
[Photo via Isbell’s Facebook page]