Last fall, while listening to the remastered Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit LP, I was reminded that Isbell is, in fact, an 80s kid – born in 1979. So, too, is producer Dave Cobb (born 1974). It may not be the most obvious characteristic of their music, but you can’t completely escape what you grew up with. So, shortly after 10pm MST Sunday night, when Isbell’s new single from his forthcoming album Reunions first hit my ears, this 80s kid found himself experiencing a bit of a flashback.
Typically, Isbell’s songs have shaded toward subtle and introspective. Not the case with “Be Afraid.” It’s loud, defiant and anthemic. It’s a product of its time. His songs have, gradually, become more pointed and political, and it seems that, as we approach the 2020 election, Isbell will not go quietly: “We don’t take requests/We don’t shut up and sing.”
Most notable, though, is the music itself – less country/Americana/Southern and more, well, 80s. Shimmering keys from Derry deBorja (first heard in the teaser released last Friday), which almost outrun the guitars before a windmill-ready assault toward the end, suggest, perhaps…something approaching a pop record? Whatever Reunions might ultimately prove to be, May 15th is going to be a VERY long wait. www.jasonisbell.com