Alabama songwriter Isbell finds his voice

By Lydia Jenkin

American songwriter Jason Isbell.
American songwriter Jason Isbell.

While Billy Connolly will be filling out Vector Arena tomorrow evening, next door at the cosy Tuning Fork Americana singer-songwriter Jason Isbell will be providing a more intimate experience.

It's the Alabama singer-guitarist's second time here after supporting Ryan Adams in 2012.

His international travels are a sign that after seven years with alt-country act Drive-By Truckers - leaving amicably in 2007 - and four solo albums, Isbell is getting his own name out there. His most recent album, Southeastern, has received wide acclaim. He likes it too. "It takes a little while to really be able to judge your own music, but I think it's the best work I've done. I spent more time on it, had more focus, more clarity ... and I feel like I was able to say what I really wanted to say."

It was written and recorded after a stint in drug and alcohol rehab but it's not an album that wallows in tough times. He also married long-time violinist girlfriend Amanda Shires two days after they finished recording.

Yes, there have been jokes that it's a rare case of sobriety and marriage making for great country music.

"A lot of themes on this record - like friendship, romance, abuse, and redemption - I think that they translate whether they're true stories or not. If the story is told right, it doesn't really matter where it came from, people will latch on to it.

"I don't know that you have to be experiencing pain or struggle in order to write well. I know that it works the other way around, that writing music helps me deal with difficulties, but I hope it's not necessary for me to struggle - I don't plan on having too many difficulties in the near future."

Live preview

Who: Jason Isbell
Where and when: The Tuning Fork, tomorrow, 8.30pm
Listen to: Southeastern (2013).

- NZ Herald

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