Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Album Review: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Georgia Blue

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
Georgia Blue
***and1/2 out of *****

Most of the time, PR for an album is all fluff, but for Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit's most recent offering, Isbell himself wrote about the process, the inspiration and the limitations in a clear and illuminating way: 
Georgia Blue is a labor of love. On election day 2020, when I saw that there was a good chance the state of Georgia might go blue, I came up with an idea: to record an album of Georgia-related songs as a thank you to the state and donate the money to a Georgia based non-profit organization.

I will admit my motivations were a bit selfish. For years, I’ve been looking for an excuse to record these songs with my band and some friends. The songs on this album are some of my favorite Georgia-related songs, but the tracklist is not meant to be comprehensive. I would love to cover Outkast and 2 Chainz, but I don’t think the finished product would be very good. We’re a rock band, so we covered rock songs. We have roots in blues and R&B, so we enlisted some brilliant artists to help us pull off songs by Precious Bryant, James Brown, and Gladys Knight.

This cover album allows the band to try new things all for a great cause. They open up with REM's "Night Swimming" Bela Fleck's banjo picking, strumming guitars and strings make for deep layers of sound while "The Truth" by Precious Bryant bounces along with a country jaunt led by Adia Victoria. The acoustic strums and eerie vocal harmonies float along with Brandi Carlile and Julien Baker helping out on The Indigo Girls "Kid Fears" while Cat Power's "Cross Bones Style" puts a modern spin on those strings, digitizing them up with the help of Amanda Shires

The big rock sound enters the fray with the sweet sounding "Honeysuckle Blue" with 400 Unit guitar man Sadler Vaden leading the way while "Driver 8" finds a smooth version of the REM track book ending things while "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" fits the outfit like a glove. The best Black Crowes song also gets a stirring cover complete with Steve Gorman helping out on drums as "Sometimes Salvation" blares out power, riffs and passionate vocals as the band slays the song on all fronts.  

The band also does a sweet job with their R&B covers as Brittney Spencer gives it her all on "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" supported by horns along with Isbell's weeping guitar in the distance and "Midnight Train To Georgia" which finds John Paul White supporting the polished effort. Isbell himself delivers his powerful vocals on the iconic "I've Been Loving You Too Long", putting in a top notch performance. 

A unique album worth hearing from a band on top of their game just playing some of their favorite songs with friends, for a State they love and giving the funds to very worthy causes. Nothing negative to say about any of that. 

Support the artists, buy the album and peep some video below:

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