Jason Isbell’s star has been rising for some time now, and with his latest release The Nashville Sound, the Alabama-born country singer and former Drive-By Truckers member appears to have truly broken into the mainstream. His first album credited to him and his band The 400 Unit since 2011’s Here We Rest (both 2013’s Southeastern and 2015’s Something More Than Free featured the band, but were billed as solo releases), The Nashville Sound contains some of Isbell’s most rocking solo moments yet. When Isbell was last at Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2015, it was as an opener for My Morning Jacket, a band making its first foray into headlining amphitheater-sized venues. This time it was Isbell’s turn, playing to a packed audience on a hot late-June night in Columbia.
The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle has never been one to shy away from heavy-themed albums, with many of his recordings revolving around stories drawn from his own experiences of abuse, addiction, and mental illness. At first glance, then, an album about professional wrestling (the recently released Beat the Champ) might sound like fluff material in comparison. Yet a closer look at the album’s thirteen tracks reveals stories about murder (“Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan”), stabbing someone in the eye (“Foreign Object”), and an old wrestler deteriorating in his final years (“The Ballad of Bull Ramos”). Weighty stuff.
All photos by Joy Asico (firstname.lastname@example.org/www.asicophoto.com)
On Friday afternoon, under a cloudy and drizzly sky, Kingsley Flood kicked off the Newport Folk Festival from the Fort Stage to a crowd that couldn't wait to get started. Almost as soon as the band began to play, the crowd began to dance along. "Sun's Gonna Let Me Shine," "Pick Your Battles," and "The Fire Inside" were a perfect antidote to the damp weather. It was the perfect way to begin a festival and created pretty high expectations for the rest of the weekend.
The six-piece band hailing from Boston and Washington, DC, kept the momentum strong throughout the set, even while pausing to dedicate "Battles" to a friend, or ask if anyone liked country music, because "Devil's Arms" was a country song for people who don't like country. Lead singer Naseem Khuri and Jenée Morgan, on violin, saxophone and vocals and occasionally tambourine, were almost never still, radiating an energy from the stage that the crowd picked up on and echoed back. People put small children on their shoulders to dance in front of the stage. "I Don't Wanna Go Home" closed the set on a rowdy note, and a perfect sentiment for the rest of the festival day.
Well, looks like we've got a few high-ish profile releases this weak with the new effort from The Mountain Goats, as well as a new one from Peter Bjorn and John (read our review). Beyond that you've got your obligatory Britney Spears record, confirmation that the band Sum 41 is still around (really? who knew?) and WHITESNAKE. No shit. Not to be outdone, the dynamic duo of Ashford and Simpson are keeping on keeping on and also have a new release, which we can only hope is a James Murphy produced 12 inch remix of "Solid" or something. But really, it's not. And it's called "Street Opera". Sigh.
Lastly though, we've got an album whose very existence not only bends the laws of reality with it's unpossibly contradictive title, it does so with hair that will make even a grown man like myself weep.