Album Review::Jason Isbell – Sirens of the Ditch

Jason Isbell’s record “Sirens of the Ditch” comes out July 7th on New West Records. For longtime fans of his work with the Drive by Truckers, Sirens will be both familiar Isbell style and a departure as well. Brand New Kind Of Actress is a catchy power pop song that gets more and more engaging every time you listen to it. Then the slithering bar song Down In A Hole follows with a count in and mellows out the tone. Next comes the mid tempo straight up rocker Try, with its’ bombastic guitars that slip in and out of the mix. The piano centered Chicago Promenade follows with double tracked v0cals on the chorus, revealing even more of Jason’s pop side, on what is surely one of the best tracks on the record. Dress Blues, a song about a guy he went to high school with, who went in the Marines and didn’t make it back from the war, comes next and is certainly the highpoint of the record. Dress Blues is a picturesque memorial that is so vibrant in its’ brush strokes that one kept help but imagine the service. Grown is a mid-tempo song filled up with acoustic guitar, piano, drums, and bass. Another focal point of Sirens is the Randy Newmanish Hurricanes And Hand Grenades, which is a contemplative tune that sounds like it was written at closing time at the bar while the chairs were being turned upside down, and everyone else had to leave. There is still some magic to deliver as the stunning In A Razor Town mixes interplay between slide, acoustic guitars, and soft spoken vocals. Shotgun Wedding returns to pop with more hooks and loud guitars. The Magician takes us home again with its’ tinges of bluegrass and “beat it on down the road” feel. Sirens closes with the meditative The Devil Is My Running Mate, and leaves questions and the feeling that nothing is known.

For longtime fans, it may take a few listens before Sirens starts to dig in, but it will. It is somewhat of a departure from his prior work, and mandates that you look at it through a different lens. What you get here is a diverse collection of songs that show a varied sense of taste, and make for a real solid debut.
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