Album Review: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - “Live From The Ryman”

Isbell provides ample details why he’s become one of America’s most-cherished singer/songwriters with his performance at Nashville’s most-iconic venue.

Often compared to the greats of the songwriter world, Jason Isbell showcases his skill as a songwriter with the rocking “Hope The High Road,” a perfect, Springsteensian-like song with honest, pointed lyrics. The song, from Isbell and his band’s Grammy-winning The Nashville Sound, is one of five songs featured in this setlist while the majority of the setlist comes from. “White Man’s World” is honest in the truths that come from the world which we live in and that’s something you can take to the bank with every song on Live From The Ryman.

For anyone who has seen their life travel through ups and downs, “Flagship” is the opposite of that. It’s a unique love song in that the acoustic and fiddle (from Amanda Shires)-laced song is about not becoming bitter or having those ups and downs in a relationship. It’s about enjoying life and staying deep in love. “If We Were Vampires,” the “flagship” song of this set, is another song which tells of the kind of love most people only dream of, but does so with honesty in the lyrics.

If there were ever a perfect primer into an artist’s career, especially without many real ‘best of’ or ‘greatest hits’ compilations coming out these days, then a live album like Live From The Ryman is it. This live, full-band effort brings life to these songs that often are stronger than anything from virtually any songwriter this side of John Prine. Expertly played and performed, Live From The Ryman is the perfect introduction to the past five years of Jason Isbell’s career and — if you haven’t listened to any of his albums before now — it’ll do two things: make you listen to more and make you want to go see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit live.