Tag: jason isbell

MUSIC REVIEW | Amanda Shires – Down Fell the Doves (2013)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “For someone who could easily rely on the pure prettiness of her voice, Amanda Shires doesn’t seem interested in taking that easy way out.”

Shires 1
I first became aware of Amanda Shires a few years ago when Jason Isbell released his breakthrough solo record, Southeastern.  While I found her perfectly up to the job of filling out his music with her voice and violin, I never thought of her as all that essential.  Then, I saw Isbell live without Shires joining him on the Australian leg of his tour.  That night, I was nothing short of blown away by Isbell and his band.  But as fantastic as they were, I couldn’t help but notice a bit of a hole left by Shires’ absent voice and violin.  It was a big enough hole to make me immediately more appreciative of what she does, and make me want to hear what she can do when front and centre, instead backing things is up.  Which is why I listened to Amada Shires solo record, Down Fell the Doves.

I was expecting fiddle, I was expecting ukulele.  What I wasn’t expecting was the spiritual like chant and sparse instrumentation of Look Like a Bird.  Even if I was expecting that, I wouldn’t have been expecting Shires to deliver it so well.  There’s an ominous tone to this song that makes it hauntingly attention grabbing, while never sounding like it’s trying to grab your attention.  And when her violin comes in, it only compounds that haunting non challans. (more…)

COMING SOON | Drive-By Truckers – American Band (2016)

Truckers 1

I stumbled across Drive-By Truckers thanks to an A.V Club article about bands with multiple songwriters.  That was around the release of their 2008 record, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.  An album that made me go back and listen to everything they made before then, and be aware of everything that came after.  For about five years, I really liked the Truckers.  Then, in 2014, they released English Oceans, and my music listening has been completely dominated by the band ever since.  My like turned to love, turned to obsession, with the only substantial breaks in listening to them coming via listening to Jason Isbell, who used to be a member of…  Wait for it…  Drive-By Truckers.

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MUSIC REVIEW | Parker Millsap – Parker Millsap (2014)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says; “The emotional tone behind so much of Millsap’s songs means it feels like we’ve been through something together by listening to this album.”

 Parker 2
I was recently reading a Rolling Stone article called, ‘10 New Country Artists You Need to Know’.  Each band or artist profile starts with a ‘Sounds Like’ section.  When I read one described as, “Saturday-night hellbender spirits meet Sunday-morning evangelical fervor, as sung by a young man who spends his days riding the rails”, I already knew I had to hear this bloke’s music.   When the ‘For Fans of’ section included Jason Isbell and Patterson Hood, I knew I had to hear this bloke’s music immediately.  Which is what lead me to Parker Millsap and his 2014 self titled long player.

With its gypsy ramble, Old Time Religion immediately justifies the Rolling Stone description and comparison that got me so excited about the idea of Parker Millsap.  Especially the comparison to Isbell.  Not that it sounds like Millsap is trying to copy Isbell in any way.  But more in the way that they both sound so grizzled beyond their years. (more…)

***2015 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (2015)

Isbell
Two years ago, Jason Isbell was several albums into his solo career. But I still thought of him mainly as the dude who used to be in Drive-By Truckers and I wished was still in Drive-By Truckers. Then he released Southeastern, an album that received amazing praise across the board. And even better, it lived up to that praise. Southeastern was Isbell declaring himself a legitimate solo artist who had more than broken the chains connecting him to his old band. So while I was interested in Southeastern before it came out, I was in no way expecting the watershed record that it ended up being. This time around, in the lead up to its follow up, I have been officially stoked, pumped, excited and hanging out for Something More Than Free for nigh on six months.


With the fiddle of Amanda Shires almost as prominent as Isbell’s voice and guitar, It Takes a Lifetime is exactly the kind of traditional country with a modern feel that I want from Isbell. Leading in to the singer, songwriter stuff of 24 Frames, and Something More Than Free is quickly living up to my half a year of anticipation. Isbell’s older than his years, world weary voice has always been one of his greatest assets. And delivering lines like, “This is how you make yourself vanish into nothing, and this is how you make yourself worthy of the love that she gave to you back when you didn’t own a beautiful thing”, is exactly what it was made for. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (2015)

Isbell
Two years ago, Jason Isbell was several albums into his solo career. But I still thought of him mainly as the dude who used to be in Drive-By Truckers and I wished was still in Drive-By Truckers. Then he released Southeastern, an album that received amazing praise across the board. And even better, it lived up to that praise. Southeastern was Isbell declaring himself a legitimate solo artist who had more than broken the chains connecting him to his old band. So while I was interested in Southeastern before it came out, I was in no way expecting the watershed record that it ended up being. This time around, in the lead up to its follow up, I have been officially stoked, pumped, excited and hanging out for Something More Than Free for nigh on six months.


With the fiddle of Amanda Shires almost as prominent as Isbell’s voice and guitar, It Takes a Lifetime is exactly the kind of traditional country with a modern feel that I want from Isbell. Leading in to the singer, songwriter stuff of 24 Frames, and Something More Than Free is quickly living up to my half a year of anticipation. Isbell’s older than his years, world weary voice has always been one of his greatest assets. And delivering lines like, “This is how you make yourself vanish into nothing, and this is how you make yourself worthy of the love that she gave to you back when you didn’t own a beautiful thing”, is exactly what it was made for. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (2010)

isbellcover

With Sirens in the Ditch, Jason Isbell made a clean break from his days in Drive-By Truckers.  As great as his collaborations with that band were, Sirens was a pretty good argument to be made that Isbell was always meant to be a solo artist, with complete control over the music he made.  It had signs of his best Truckers songs, while also showing that his split with the band was inevitable as their musical directions grew further and further apart.  With Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, he stretched his legs even more.


The album slinks in with the odd but effective combination of dirty slide guitar and bright piano on Seven-Mile Island.  There are plenty of instruments, but they’re all turned right down, providing the perfect showcase for Isbell’s weary beyond its years voice.  Followed up by Sunstroke, a tender, piano driven ballad, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit is generally on the quieter side of the Isbell spectrum.   While I generally love his rockers more than his softies, these songs make a great paring and a great intro to this album. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Drive-By Truckers – The Fine Print: Oddities and Rarities 2003-2008 (2009)

Truckers

The idea of a “Collection of Oddities and Rarities” would normally stink of lazy cash in to me.  But since I’ve spent the last year or so obsessed with Drive-By Truckers and listening to pretty much nothing but Drive-By Truckers (when not listing to things to write about on Bored and Dangerous), I’m more than willing to give these dudes the benefit of the doubt.  More than that, I’m prepared to love The Fine Print before I even hear a single note.  How’s that for objective, sycophantic criticism?


Opening with a slide guitar filled yarn in that quintessential Patterson Hood style, George Jones Talkin’ Cell Phone Blues is just one more chapter in his massive novel of the south and the people who populate it.  Hood can tell a more compelling tail, filled with more fully formed characters in a three or four minute song, than most movies accomplish in two hours.  Then it’s time to let his southern rock influences shine on Rebels.  Less country, more rock fan friendly, it’s still just as heavy on story and character. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell – Sirens in the Ditch (2008)

Isbell

For three albums and about as many years, Jason Isbell was such an integral part of Drive-By Truckers, that his tenure  there is one the most definite and definable periods in that band’s history.  And as important as he was to that time in that band, hearing Isbell’s contributions to A Blessing and a Curse, his last album as a Trucker, it’s clear that he and the band were moving in different directions.  It’s a great album, and Isbell’s contributions are solid, but a lot of those songs sound like they’re from a different band.


Seven years later, he would release Southeastern, an amazingly well reviewed album that would take the newly clean and sober Isbell to a new level as a respected and popular solo artist, singer, songwriter and legitimate headliner performer.  But in between, there were a few years and a couple of albums of Jason Isbell figuring out who he was as a solo artist, singer and songwriter.  The first of those albums was Sirens in the Ditch. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Zac Brown Band – Uncaged (2012)

uncaged

I’d never heard of Zac Brown Band until they appeared on the Foo Fighters Sonic Highways series. But according to that, Zac Brown is massive in America, playing to massive crowds in massive, sold out venues. That got me a little interested. But it took a tweet from Jason Isbell about them covering one of his songs that made me know I needed to give Zac Brown Band a go. Which is exactly what I did with Uncaged.


Things start on shaky ground. With a weird combination of calypso rhythms, country fiddles and impeccable harmonies, Jump Right In sounds like the worst kind of middle of the road, corporate, safe music in existence. But Uncaged immediately improves with the title track. It’s just as polished and impeccable, but it has so much more life to it. While Jump Right In sounds like it was written by a computer, you can actually hear real people with heartbeats behind Uncaged. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Ben Howard – I Forgot Where We Were (2014)

Ben Howard

Finding new and different bands and artists to listen to is one of the main reasons I started writing this blog.  But the thing with new and different is, they’re unknown, so how do you find them?  Sometimes it’s something with too much buzz to ignore, sometimes it’s me finally get around to an artist or genre I’ve knowingly neglected for too long.  Sometimes, it’s a random tweet by Jason Isbell off handedly mentioning an artist or album.  And by sometimes, I mean one time.  And by one time, I mean that time he mentioned Ben Howard and I Forgot Where We Were.


Coming with Isbell’s recommendation, and based on the no nonsense cover art, I was expecting some pretty straight forward, probably guitar based troubadour type stuff.  But straight away, Small Things offers a lot more than that.  Effected guitars, moody piano and layers of atmosphere.  It’s a sound backed up by Rivers in Your Mouth, just with added drums for a little more momentum. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Secret to a Happy Ending (2009)

Secret

“Rock and roll means well, but it can’t help tellin’ young boys lies”.

For most of my life, country music seemed like the least appealing genre of music ever committed to tape. Then I found a band called Drive-By Truckers and realised that country music can be kind of amazing. For 25 odd years now, they’ve been plugging away, building an ever growing following and getting more and more successful. It’s that slow and steady rise that makes the Drive-By Truckers story such a great one to tell with The Secret to a Happy Ending.


Focusing mainly on singers and guitarists Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell, it’s a history lesson on the band, how they came to be and the ups and downs along the way, leading up to the firing of Isbell. Sometimes, seeing how art is made can take some of the magic and mystery out of it, but the southern story telling charm of every Trucker means this look behind the curtain gives their songs even more dimension. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW Mike Cooley – The Fool on Every Corner (2012)

cooley
Here he is, the last part of the holy trinity that comes to mind when I think of Drive-By Truckers.  While Patterson Hood seems to be the guy in charge and brings the raucous, outlaw edge.  And Jason Isbell, before his sacking and as a solo artist, is all about exquisitely crafted song writing, the third piece of the puzzle brings the vintage, world weary side of country.  And that’s even more apparent in Mike Cooley’s only solo release to date, The Fool on Every Corner.


Recorded live in front of what sounds like a pretty intimate venue, this really seems like the best, and only way, to present the music of Cooley.  No backing band, no elaborate production, no frills.  Which is perfect.  Cooley writes the kind of songs that are presented best when presented simply.  Just Cooley, his lyrics, his voice and his guitar…  Or banjo.

Loaded Gun in the Closet eases The Fool on Every Corner in.  The gentle guitar picking and soft, almost closed jaw vocals of Cooley are a jarring, but great contrast, to this dark story of abuse and tragedy.

When you call a song Cottonseed, you’d better build it around some down home, cotton pickin’ banjo, and Cooley really delivers here, with the story of a man with a, “45 underneath his coat and another one in his boot”.

I’ve never doubted Cooley’s bonafides as a true country music disciple when I’ve listened to Drive-By Truckers.  In fact, I’ve always found his contributions to be the most traditional.  But hearing him here, especially on songs like Guitar Man Upstairs and Cartoon Gold, without a band, without the rocking solos and without the amazing controlled chaos of that band, his love of the old world of country is undeniable.

The only time the small venue and faithful live crowd setting works against The Fool on Every Corner is on the apparent crowd favourite Marry Me.  I really don’t need to hear some over eager, probably drunk dickhead in the crowd add his own tone deaf backing vocals.

There’s a sincerity and weight that comes with the voice of Mike Cooley.  Very few singers could get away with a line like “The price of being sober is being scared out of your mind” in Shut Up and Get on the Plane.  In the wrong hands, and most hands would be the wrong hands, it would sound self conscious and obvious at best, unearned and clichéd at worst.  But when delivered by Cooley, it sounds like a legit life lesson, learned the hard way.

While it might be made up primarily of songs Cooley had already recorded with Drive-By Truckers, The Fool on Every Corner is in no way redundant or inessential.  Stripped down to their bare essentials, every song here has new life and new reasons to listen.  It also highlights just how strong these songs are when they still sound so interesting and complex, even though they’re nothing more than Cooley, his lyrics, his voice and his guitar…  Or banjo.

Mike Cooley

MUSIC REVIEW | Patterson Hood – Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) (2009)

patterson-hood-murdering-oscar-and-other-love-songs
When I think of Patterson Hood’s contributions as the leader of Drive-By Truckers, I think of the dirtier, seedier, heavier, southern rock side of everything they do.  While Mike Cooley’s guitar and solos can be as dirty and nasty as the best of them, they generally shine the most on tracks written by Hood.  Which is why the opening, title track of Murdering Oscar, Hood’s second solo album,is such an appropriate way to kick things off.  Sludgy guitars, unrepentant lyrics and a dark shadow laying over everything.


Songs like Screwtopia, Granddaddy and The Range War make me think Hood sees his solo albums as a place to slow things down a little, relax and chill out a bit.  A lot of the Truckers albums, and especially their live shows (from what I’ve seen online, anyway) are all about hard drinkin’, hard rockin’, ass kickin’ southern rock.  Even when the band slows down, they tend to be Mike Cooley tracks, not Hood contributions.  But Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) show he does have a more tender side and is more than capable of letting it show.

At times, this quieter approach works to highlight Hood’s vocal limitations, but more often, the little wavers and slightly out of reach notes work more to add a vulnerability that perfectly matches the melancholic weary that fills so much of this album.

Heavy and Hanging ads a few more layers of instrumentation and volume to make for a combination of heavy and haunting foreboding, with a jarringly melodic chorus, where despite their clashing tones, these two disparate sounds somehow work together to make each even better.

Ending in real style, Back of a Bible is the perfect example of a genre working to its strengths, indulging in the kind of quirks that would seem like cheap tricks and gimmicks in any other style of music.   Arch lyrics, like, “Wrote you a love song on the back of a bible” could only work when sung with a world weary southern drawl, over the top of muted, barley strummed guitars and loose, hollow drums.

Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) is really good.  Actually, it’s really great.  The only thing that stops me from absolutely loving it, is the unavoidable, and possibly unfair, comparison to Hood’s day job as a Drive-By Trucker.  As much as I like the songs here, I can’t help thinking that I prefer my Patterson Hood songs turned up to eleven and soaked in moonshine fuelled rock excess.

Patterson Hood