Weathervanes by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit


by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

This album has been added to 3 public lists:

  • Montage of album covers from Best, Favorite, & Most Interesting Albums Of 2023 list

    Best, Favorite, & Most Interesting Albums Of 2023

    Mark Harrison

    #1 (TIE)

    • TOP ALBUM OF 2023/TIE choice for the top album(s) of 2003. This year, after much debate, I couldn't decide between the top two (which are listed alphabetically), so I went with a tie. Cheating? Maybe. But it's my list, so I can do what I want. It was a difficult year to pick top albums because it's been an insanely strong year for new music releases.

    • 2023 TOP ALBUM SELECTION: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Weathervanes.

    • Genre: Americana, folk rock, alt-country, roots.

    • Influenced by: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Chet Akins, John Prine, Townes Van Zandt, Bill Monroe, Jackson Brown, (lyrically) Cormac McCarthy.

    • Similar artists: Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt, James McMurtry, Sturgill Simpson.

    • About this album: What a year it’s been for Jason Isbell. He had an acting role in a movie that’s a strong bet to win the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture, was featured in an HBO documentary, was nominated for three Grammys, and – perhaps most importantly of all – got himself some new chompers. The ninth studio album by American singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, and the sixth accompanied by his backing band the 400 Unit (possibly the last to feature bassist Jimbo Hart, who announced his departure from the 400 Unit in November). Isbell wrote the tracks while starring in Martin Scorsese's multi-Oscar nominated 2023 film Killers of the Flower Moon. Upon announcing the self-produced album, Isbell billed it as “life and death songs played for and by grown-ass people.” It’s very much an Americana/American roots music album, but there are definite rock influences at play. Kevn Kinney, lead singer and guitarist of rock band Drivin N Cryin, joined Isbell and the 400 Unit for the 2023 tour in support of Weathervanes and those shows included a blistering version of DnC’s Look What You've Done To Your Brother, a version of which Isbell and the 400 Unit also recorded for the Kevn Kinney Tribute album, Let’s Go Dancing, Said the Firefly to the Hurricane. The album was intended as a sort of showcase for the 400 Unit, who Isbell introduces at live shows as a “rock n’ roll band” and here they are as indispensable as the E. Street Band is to the Boss, Crazy Horse is to Neil Young or the Heartbreakers were to Tom Petty. But, as usual, it’s Isbell’s songwriting that stands out. One wonders if he is even capable of writing bad material. Maybe, someday, he’ll borrow a page from Dylan’s book and release an intentionally bad album or two just to prove a point, but that day isn’t today. Lyrically, this album feels like the ghosts of Cormac McCarthy, Jack Kerouac, Townes Van Zandt, and Guy Clark meeting up at the Old Quarter and swapping tales. Is it a better album than “Southeastern?” Heresy, surely. That’s the problem with dropping your tour de force masterpiece when there’s still a whole lot of career road stretching out ahead – post Blood On The Tracks Dylan albums will forever be compared and contrasted to BOTT; post Southeastern albums will forever be compared and contrasted for Isbell. I’ll leave it to better minds than mine to debate the ranking order of Isbell’s albums (I just about lost my mind just trying to rank this list), but Weathervanes is undoubtedly destined to occupy a high position. And, sooner or later, the next one will inevitably come along to crank the debate up anew. Meanwhile, we have yet another extraordinary (and extraordinarily literate) album from one of America's greatest living singer-songwriters.

    • Metacritic Score: 82 (Universal Acclaim).

    • Grammy Nominations: Best Americana Album, Best American Roots Song (Cast Iron Skillet), Best Americana Performance (King Of Oklahoma).

    • Song To Stream: Strawberry Woman, Cast Iron Skillet, Volunteer.

  • Montage of album covers from Give country a chance. list
  • Montage of album covers from Best of 2023 list

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