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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Jason Isbell, Alan Jackson, Pitbull, Tame Impala and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Friday, July 17, 2015

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Jason Isbell

"Something More Than Free"

(Southeastern/Thirty Tigers)

Grade: A-

If there was justice in the world, or at least the music world, Jason Isbell would be country's biggest star, or at the very least the biggest of country stars would be plucking the 11 songs from his fifth solo album to turn them into the hits they deserve to be. The former Drive-By Trucker is in the upper echelon of Americana's singer-songwriters and could well be the genre's best with his vivid, detailed and often heartbreaking stories about the travels and travails of his everyday characters. But where 2013's masterful "Southeastern" was intensely personal, "Something More Than Free" has a more fictional bent, chronicling working folk in the title track, his old group in "To A Band I Loved" and plenty of romantic turmoil throughout -- not to mention tough, stark questions such as "Are you living the life you chose? Are you living the life that chose you?" "If It Takes a Lifetime" swells with hopeful resolve, while "How To Forget" is a rollicking kiss-off filled with plenty of self-recrimination. "Speed Trap Town" is a sonically nuanced masterpiece, as is the building arrangement of "Children Of Children" that rides from gentle, Neil Youngy folk into a string-laden widescreen bombast. "I'm doing what I'm on this earth to do," Isbell sings "I'm just luck to have the work." We're lucky he does, too.

New & Noteworthy:

Alan Jackson, "Angels & Alcohol" (Capitol Nashville): The country veteran wrote seven of the 10 tracks on his 20th studio album.

Pitbull, "Dale" (Sony Latin): The Cuban-American rapper jumps back into the Spanglish game for the first time in five years, with help from Don Miguelo, Fuego, Gente de Zona and more.

Karen Clark Sheard, "Destined To Win" (eOne): The Detroit gospel star and Clark Sisters member shoots wide stylistically on her latest solo album, which includes collaborations with Faith Evans and Donald Lawrence & The Co.

Cody Simpson, "Free" (Coast House): The Australian teen flips from pop heartthrob into laid-back singer-songwriter mode on a third studio album that launches his own label.

Sublime with Rome, "Sirens" (BMG Chrysalis): The eclectic group's sophomore album with latest frontman Rome Ramirez builds even further from 2011's "Yours Truly."

Tame Impala, "Currents" (Modular/Interscope): The third outing by the Australian psychedelic rockers was well worth the three-year wait.

Also Out: Bassnectar, "Into The Sun" (Amorphous); The Bird and the Bee, "Recreational Love" (Rostrum); Blinddog Smokin', "High Steppin'" (City Hall/The Orchard); Anthony Brown & group therAPy, "Everyday Jesus" (Tyscot); Chemical Brothers, "Born in the Echoes" (Astralwerks); Dead Rock West, "It`s Everly Time!" (Angel Flight); Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, "Father's Day" (Stony Plain); Anderson East, "Delilah" (Low Country Sound/Elektra); Jon Foreman, "The Wonderlands: Sunlight & Shadows" (Word Entertainment); Four80East "Positraction" (Boomtang); Galactic, "Into The Deep" (Provogue); Highly Suspect, "Mister Asylum" (300 Entertainment); Bobby Hustle, "It`s The Hustle" (Bobby Hustle Music); Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell, "Sing Into My Mouth" (Black Cricket/Brown); George Lynch, "Shadow Train" (Rat Pak); Moonshine Bandits, "Blacked Out" (Average Joe's); MS MR, "How Does It Feel" (Columbia); Ratatat, "Magnifique" (XL); The Revivalists, "Men Amongst Mountains" (Wind-Up); Smith & Wesley, "Choices & Chances" (Garage Door); Team Sleep, "Woodstock Sessions, Vol. 4" (self-released);

From The Vaults: America, "The Warner Bros. Years 1971-1977" (Warner Bros./Rhinos); Continental Drifters, "Drifted: In the Beginning & Beyond" (Omnivore); Miles Davis, "At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4" (Columbia/Legacy); Sly & the Family Stone, "At the Fillmore East October 4th & 5th, 1968" (Epic/Legacy)

Soundtracks: "Finding Neverland: Original Broadway Cast Album" (Republic); Ramin Djawadi, "Game of Thrones, Season 5" (WaterTower Music); Various Artists, "Something Rotten" (Sh-K Boom)

New Music DVDs: "Elliot Smith: Heaven Adores You" (Eagle Rock)

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