By Soda Canter
Weathervanes is an astonishing record. A wide display of Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit's dedication to constantly seeking new depths to explore in their art but more importantly their lives.
1. Death Wish
2. King of Oklahoma
3. Strawberry Woman
4. Middle of the Morning
5. Save the World
6. If You Insist
7. Cast Iron Skillet
8. When We Were Close
10. Vestavia Hills
11. White Beretta
12. This Ain't It
After breaking through in 2017 on the Grammy award winning The Nashville Sound, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit followed up with the critically acclaimed Reunions in 2020 and charity cover album Georgia Blue in 2021. Both latter efforts were disparate and gave little insight towards the future path of the band as they dealt with the added stress of the newfound notoriety of Isbell individually and the 400 Unit themselves as sought after elite musicians.
Where their last album of original material wrestled with this struggle of the unknown, Weathervanes grounds itself with an open-armed acceptance of life’s constant shifting with the wind. The purest essence of this stellar new collection doesn’t negatively grapple with change necessarily but instead finds celebration in the uncharted direction of a life.
Unsurprisingly, Isbell continues to meticulously advance his talent as an unparalleled storyteller. Yet the true dazzling component of Weathervanes is the noticeable shift in barrierless collaboration between Isbell and the 400 Unit. Lyrics, voice, and music are so closely intertwined that they feel as if they were conceived as one. As expected, Isbell remains the steady conductor but overall, the band has never sounded this intimately unified.
This is demonstrated immediately on opener ‘Death Wish’, that details the journey of fully loving someone battling depression. The raw honesty of the lyric matched by the intensity of the band presents a full unraveling of guttural truth. These truths lead to deep character studies with the sweeping, stadium scream worthy chorus of ‘King of Oklahoma’ paired perfectly with the tender touch of ‘Strawberry Woman.’
Though Isbell always pushes his lyrical craft to find meaning in worldly lessons; the turning fear into action stance of ‘Save the World’ is an affecting representation of our current state of affairs, whereas ‘Cast Iron Skillet’ takes a breath to pause and quietly unpack the misguided lessons learned from a Southern upbringing. This isn’t to say that Isbell and the 400 Unit aren’t having a good time. The soulful rock of ‘This Ain’t It’ is a thumping showcase of unbridled talent and closer ‘Miles’ is a delectable 70’s inspired dessert.
Weathervanes is an astonishing record. A wide display of their dedication to constantly seeking new depths to explore in their art but more importantly their lives. No matter where the wind takes them next, it’s evident that we are witnessing the forming of legends.
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit's 2023 album, Weathervanes, is out on June 9th via Southeastern Records marketed and distributed by Thirty Tigers.