Jason Isbell – Sirens of the Ditch

I was listening to this with Raenie in the library’s underground parking garage when I got a little bit embarassed all of a sudden. We were listening to a bad, 12-bar/leather pants “blues workout” replete with swinging johnson posture. That song’s a lamentable anomaly, I’ve decided.

And it’s odd, cuz Isbell cops some real “sensitive man” moves throughout this very good, very bad record. It’s released by one of them “roots” labels that’s clearly gunning for success to the tune of XM radio syndication or whatever. And accordingly, it’s got telltale dobro, brushes-on-snare, “Yeah, I wear Wranglers” pretense in terms of production. All that sonic branding confirms my suspicions that most alt-country fans are low-level cmptr workers, living in a subdivision with an adjustable rate mortgage,* mebbe in a suburb of Seattle.

What’s problematic in light of all this is that the songwriting’s good, and he’s a pretty wrenching vocalist. When I say the songwriting’s good, I mean, like, there’s pretty amazing rhyme schemes (ABBA BCAC) and slant rhymes galore. And it’s evocative and there’s even a passable anti-war song et. al.
This is my first Truckers-related purchase, and I like it despite all the cheese drippings. I came to it – like so many other things – through a vague Son Volt connection. I bet you Isbell’s live show – feat. Derry DeBorja from le Volt – is much more of a rockist affair.

Other Son Volt news: Long time badass sideman and Gob Iron Road Warrior Marc Spencer will be joining Son Volt for the coming 2008 tour (on “steel/keys”). If yr me, this is news. News of the “awesome” variety. jaymark600_copy1.jpg

* by the way, i love the fact that just as raenie and i might possibly, sort of be in the kind of situation in which we might pursue an idea of pursuing a house to own, the market goes toxic.

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6 Responses to “Jason Isbell – Sirens of the Ditch”

  1. minx Says:

    “All that sonic branding confirms my suspicions that most alt-country fans are low-level cmptr workers, living in a subdivision with an adjustable rate mortgage,* mebbe in a suburb of Seattle.”

    Minus the Seattle part, this is the demographic E and I witnessed at the Ryan Adams show.

    Is this main audience for Alt Country?

  2. lexdexter Says:

    yes, that crowd and, like, 1 out of every 3 PhishHeads has some sort of epiphany about Uncle Tupelo or Willie Nelson or something, and proceeds to hijack all our beer parties for the next half-decade.

    but yeah, i think that alt-country fans like springsteen fans often have this sort of middle-class, fetishized idea of the working class, or the poor, or “rednecks,” and that makes this kind of music seem charming in all its near-authenticity.

  3. lexdexter Says:

    also, it’s weird to me that indie rock as such has become no less domesticated an alternative. the idea of being a slacker pothead who wasted his/her education to the tune of ironic banalities is being shown for the essentially conservative posture/consequence we know it to be.

    i’m telling you, i feel like most the people i know in eugene are are keeping it real with their own, age-appropriate version of an SST and/or Dischord style ethic….it’s actually kinda 1988-1992 out here in that way, but i don’t mean ‘grungy.’ on the contrary, i feel like a lotta portland rockers are gonna wake up in the 2010s and realize that they got really into leopard print synth-y new wave for a long time, and wonder how it could’ve swallowed so much of their lives.

    also, there’s solace to be taken in the multitude of smart, New Heavy bands like Jesu, Dead Meadow, Battles, etc.

    and Tortoise have never faltered, also. and have maintained a really productive milieu of side projects and kindred studios. Tortoise, man. they were early to embrace “techno” elements, but they did it in a totally more savvy way… calling them techno would be like comparing eno’s synth work in roxy music to duran duran style action.

  4. minkles Says:

    Let’s not forget !!!. I’m glad you introduced me to them. Imagine the embarrassing potential of bobbing my head to them while in my studio working – I almost feel, strangely enough, like a 1991 teen techno junkie.

    I haven’t heard Jesu, Dead Meadow, or Battles. But I’ve gotten deeply into Labradford, Flying Saucer Attack, Gregor Samsa (check it out), Mogwai, Tortoise, Rothko, and loads of other bands that fall on a continuum of scratchy and minimalist ambient noise, sythesizer backdrops, and euphoric blitzes of feedback. I owe that kindling to the CD batch you sent me and my subsequent investigation of other bands.

    And guess what? E and I have been rocking Belle Sebastian’s newest album a lot.

  5. wobs Says:

    I’m quietly taking offense at your Phish-head remark. For the record, I was into Willie and Uncle Tupelo well before I started taking acid and getting my freak on to Phish.

  6. david Says:

    I agree the Isbell album is hit and miss, but all the misses are at the beginning so you can skip em pretty easy. Tracks 4-11 are great. “Dress Blues” is the finest contemporary anti-war song I’ve heard, emotional without being strident. But overall I think his songs with the Truckers are his best so far, check out “Decoration Day” on the alb of the same name, also “Danko/Manuel,” “Day John Henry Died,” and “Goddamn Lonely Love” on The Dirty South (really the only songs I like on that album).


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