Album Review | Jason Isbell – Southeastern

I’ve heard love songs make a Georgia man cry
On the shoulder of somebody’s Saturday night
Read the good book, studied it, too
But nothing prepared me for living with you

“Did we leave our love behind?” Jason Isbell asks on “Flying Over Water,” one of Southeastern’s electric and finest moments. This is mostly a quiet collection of songs, however, and I mean that in the most endearing way possible, because it’s also one of the best albums I’ve listened to in 2013. Quiet doesn’t have to mean sleepy, and Southeastern will keep you up more than it will put you to bed.

On the opening “Cover Me Up,” one thing is obvious: Isbell’s voice has never sounded better, and the words he’s singing clearly mean something to him. There is passion all over this album, on the stirring “Elephant,” and the sobering “Live Oak.” If I wasn’t convinced of Isbell’s songwriting talents before, I am now.

Isbell, as you may have heard, has given up the bottle, and I must assume that development had a direct effect on lyrics such as these:

I should say, I keep your picture with me every day
The evenings now are relatively easy
And here with you there’s always something to look forward to
My lonely heart beats relatively easy
My lonely heart beats relatively easy

Those words are taken from the closing “Relatively Easy,” a stunning song that ties loose ends and is a perfect example of the beauty of simplicity and honesty in music. Isbell has mastered this kind of pure art on Southeastern, and the world, as they say, is now a better place.

Stream Southeastern here.

Jason Isbell (w/American Aquarium) will be at Off Broadway in St. Louis on June 19th. Purchase tickets here.

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