Bubbling Under the 75 Best Songs of 2011: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

[5 December 2011]

By Chris Conaton

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Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

80. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
“Alabama Pines”

Jason Isbell’s career since leaving the Drive-By Truckers has sometimes seemed like the work of a man who hasn’t quite reached his full potential. But this simple country song highlights his best qualities as a songwriter. Essentially it’s a love letter to Alabama, namechecking many of the state’s small towns. But Isbell adds depth to his narrator, sketching out his background as a brokenhearted man in just a handful of lines scattered among the Alabama references. The song’s melody emphasizes Isbell’s rich voice, particularly in the soulful, conversational verses. Meanwhile, small musical touches like the catchy, easygoing lead guitar riff and Amanda Pearl Shires subtle fiddle work give the song the extra character that helps elevate it to one of the year’s best.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/152010-bubbling-under-the-75-best-songs-of-2011-jason-isbell-the-400-unit/