Jason Isbell has long outgrown the designation “that guy who used to be in Drive-By Truckers” and evolved into one of the best songwriters to come out of the past couple of decades. And nowhere is that more obvious than on Isbell’s seventh LP, Reunions, his most expansive yet. The sound is simply massive at times and shockingly intimate elsewhere.
And while the music is certainly impressive thanks to The 400 Unit, like every record before it, it’s Isbell’s lyrics that make the album impossible to forget. Whether he’s singing about his sobriety (“It Gets Easier”) or being a father (“Letting You Go”), there’s a deeply confessional connection Isbell makes with his listeners that is nearly impossible replicate (god knows, many have tried and failed).
The album opens with the nearly seven-minute-long slow build “What Have I Done to Help,” a lament about our willingness to simply shake our heads in disbelief and then turn our attention elsewhere to a slew of social tragedies (“Climb to safety, you and me and the baby/Send our thoughts and prayers to loved ones on the ground/And as the days went by we just stopped looking down…”)—disturbingly relatable.
Isbell and his band once again brought in Dave Cobb to produce their fifth collaboration, and as a result, Reunions fits seamlessly into the band’s growing catalogue, easily one of the most consistently solid musical track records to come along in a while. Thirteen years ago, Isbell split from Drive-By Truckers and discovered his own voice. He’s clearly showing no signs of letting up as Reunions is possibly his best album yet.