After a splash at no. 1 on Billboard.com’s top country, folk and rock music charts last month, Something More Than Free, the fifth-studio album from former Drive-By Truckers‘ bandmate and soon-to-be father Jason Isbell, is still making waves.
Whether or not you have heard the album yet, it isn’t hard to recognize why the album is still at no. 1 on Billboard’s Folk music charts and no. 3 on iTunes top downloads. Something More Than Free is like going on a long-trip through the annals of Rock and Roll history and Jason Isbell is your guide.
From the very first track on this musical journey, “If it takes a lifetime,” Isbell flexes his Muscle Shoals, Alabama roots with this twangy country melody that channels the sounds of musical legends such as Willie Nelson and Levon Helms.
Isbell’s first single “24 frames,” takes the album in a different direction with a building acoustic rhythm sprinkled throughout with electric guitar riffs and layered vocals that make it sound an awful lot like something Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band would perform.
Bridging the gap between country and pop music, “The Life You Chose,” is an infectiously catchy tune with an upbeat melody that will have you whistling the chorus for days. Meanwhile, the song “Palmetto Rose” could easily be mistaken as a Jerry Lee Lewis or George Thorogood tune, for its rockabilly introduction and old school rock’n’roll guitar riffs.
The album’s title track, “Something More Than Free,” is a heartfelt country rock ballad that really speaks to anyone who has ever struggled to get by, with a timeless message that “I thank God for the work.”
Newly sober after ten years of alcohol dependency, Isbell told Rolling Stone Magazine in a recent interview that his new album is “a bit more celebratory” than his 2013 album Southeastern. And what’s not to celebrate? Excited for fatherhood, Isbell sings “when I get my reward my work will all be done, and I will sit back in my chair beside the father and the son.”
Isbell shifts gears again with “Children of Children,” a story of a young child and his 17-year-old mother told through a 1960’s style folk-rock anthem that parallels musicians such as Graham Nash or Neil Young.
According to Andrew Leahey’s article, the last song, “To a Band That I Loved,” is dedicated to one of Isbell’s biggest influences, Centro-Matic, an alternative country band that he previously played between tours with the Drive-By Truckers.
“You really don’t hear good eulogies for your favorite bands,” Isbell told Rolling Stone. “Back in the day, I used to ride out with them and play guitar in their band, when the Truckers weren’t touring. I felt some real grief when they split up.”
As of press time, Something More Than Free has an 87 out of 100 rating on Metacritic.com, a website that aggregates reviews from top critics and publications.
The Boston Globe‘s Sarah Rodman gave Isbell a rave review, saying that he “continues his winning streak with the quieter but equally captivating Something More Than Free.”
Entertainment Weekly also gave it an A rating. “The sepia-toned title track is yet another career definer from one of America’s most unsung voices” said Madison Vain of Entertainment Weekly.
Pitchfork.com on the other-hand, gave the album a 5.8 out of 10, citing that “the music does little to distinguish these characters or enliven the lyrics.”
Despite all the cheering and jeering, one thing is certain, this is not the last America will hear of singer-songwriter Jason Isbell.