Everything We Know About Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s New Album, ‘The Nashville Sound’
With the release of 2013's Southeastern and its successor, 2015's Something More Than Free, Jason Isbell proved that he is a solo force to be reckoned with. After recording with the Drive-By Truckers and his own band, the 400 Unit, for more than a decade, Isbell struck out on his own and earned a host of critical and commercial acclaim in the process; to date, Isbell as a solo act has earned two Grammys, five Americana Music Awards and countless other accolades from fans and critics alike.
Now, the Americana music man is teaming back up with the 400 Unit for the release of a new studio album, The Nashville Sound. Read on to find out everything that's known so far about the new record.
The title of Isbell's forthcoming offering is The Nashville Sound. The country singer announced the album's name on March 13, when he shared its cover art, release date and track listing.
The Release Date
The Nashville Sound will be released on June 16.
The Record Label
Isbell and the 400 Unit will release The Nashville Sound through the singer's own label, Southeastern Records, which has released his past two records. The album will be released in collaboration with Thirty Tigers for distribution support.
The Album Cover
Isbell unveiled the album cover for The Nashville Sound on March 13. The cover features him and the entire 400 Unit: keyboardist Derry deBorja, drummer Chad Gamble, bassist Jimbo Hart, guitarist Sadler Vaden and fiddle player Amanda Shires, who also happens to be Isbell's wife (and an impressive solo act in her own right).
Beloved producer Dave Cobb will return to produce his third consecutive record with Isbell. The Nashville Sound joins the likes of Chris Stapleton's Traveller and Sturgill Simpson's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, both of which found their sound under Cobb's guidance.
"It's not broke, so I wasn't gonna try to fix it," Isbell tells Rolling Stone of his partnership with Cobb. "It's really easy to find the sounds I want with Dave, and we have a good time."
Cobb, Isbell and the 400 Unit recorded The Nashville Sound at RCA Studio A.
“[The studio] survived thanks to some kind locals and the grace of God, however you see it,” Isbell reflects. “I’m happy that room’s still there, because it was a pleasure to record it, and we got some really good work done. At the end, I thought, ‘Should I be more frustrated when I’m making an album?’ It was so fun and so easy, I wondered if the album could be any good if it’s just a breeze to record.”
On March 23, Isbell and the 400 Unit released "Hope the High Road" as The Nashville Sound's first single. The song is Track No. 9 on the album.
“I know you’re tired and you ain’t sleeping well / Uninspired and likely mad as hell / But wherever you are, I hope the high road leads you home again,” Isbell sings in the chorus of “Hope the High Road. Verse lines include, “Last year was a son of a b—h for nearly everyone we know / But I ain’t fighting with you down in the ditch / I’ll meet you up here on the road.”
“I try to document where I am in my life, and right now, one of my primary concerns is, ‘What is my role as a white male in a society that really is in dire need of understanding and empathy for people who aren’t white males?’” Isbell explains, adding that the lyrics to “Hope the High Road” are a call “to be vigilant but to still stay classy, for Christ’s sake.”
“If you’re doing too much yelling and too much screaming and acting out of frustration,” Isbell adds, “you’re not effecting change in any positive way.”
The Nashville Sound includes 10 brand-new tracks, the names of which were released in a string of tweets on Southeastern Records' Twitter page on March 12. Each tweet included the name of one song, accompanied by a black-and-white photo of a Nashville landmark.
Isbell has stated that his new record was inspired by the current cultural and political climate in America. The artist has already proven on Twitter that he's a critic of President Donald Trump, and in February, he told Rolling Stone that "the album is topical, current, a record of time passed."
However, addressing the national landscape isn't the only way The Nashville Sound plans to make its mark. Isbell's prior teasing of the album reveals an edgier, more-rock 'n' roll sound than his previous solo albums.
“Lyrics and melody are still the driving force behind what we’re doing, but this time around, there’s more of a rock ‘n’ roll influence,” Isbell says. “You might shed some tears, but for once, there’s a chance you might also dance a little.”
In addition to politics, Isbell says that the birth of his daughter, Mercy Rose, in 2015 has also changed the way he sees the world; specifically, he explains, “everything began to look like a dangerous object” after she arrived.
“I also try to pay attention to the world she’s seeing,” Isbell notes. “For her, it’s as good as it will ever be, as far as I can tell … There’s nothing better than the learning process. Once you know what everything is … every day a little bit more of the magic is gone.”
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound Track Listing:
In promotion of The Nashville Sound, Isbell and the 400 Unit are hitting the road for a 35-plus-date international tour. The group will pay special homage to their album's home and namesake with a five-night residency at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium in October.
What Is Americana? Its Artists Define the Genre