“A heart on the run keeps a hand on the gun you can’t trust anyone
I was so sure what I needed was more tried to shoot out the sun
Days when we raged, we flew off the page such damage was done
But I made it through, cause somebody knew I was meant for someone

Girl, leave your boots by the bed we ain’t leaving this room
Till someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom

It’s cold in this house and I ain’t going out to chop wood
So cover me up and know you’re enough to use me for good

Put your faith to the test when I tore off your dress in Richmond all high
But I sobered up and I swore off that stuff forever, this time
And the old lovers sing ‘I thought it’d be me who helped him get home’
But home was a dream, one I’d never seen till you came along
Girl, hang your dress up to dry we ain’t leaving this room
Till Percy Priest breaks open wide and the river runs through
And carries this house on the stones like a piece of driftwood
Cover me up and know you’re enough to use me for good

Girl, leave your boots by the bed we ain’t leaving this room
Till someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom
It’s cold in this house and I ain’t going out to chop wood
So cover me up and know you’re enough to use me for good
Cover me up and know you’re enough to use me for good.”

~Cover Me Up
Jason Isbell, Southeastern

All I want to do is listen to this record and feel the tears wet my eyes, never falling.

In an age when any kid in a plaid shirt with a banjo (and an iPhone to prove it to the watching world at large) thinks he’s an Americana star waiting to be discovered, it is truly a gift to fans of the genre everywhere when a real talent like Jason Isbell breaks through like did. Already there’s plenty of stories about how this album was borne of his sobriety, and of how his days with the Drive-By Truckers are memories blurred by alcoholism. Now that “Southeastern” is done and given to the world, though, another story is just beginning. Because I think this can be an album that re-inspires folk and country to be better. I think this raises the bar.

Start to finish, every song tells a story. Emotions are laid plain on the table and neither dressed up nor down. Where in pop country you’d hear cliches, with Isbell you hear tales. His use of details is incredibly natural; the rooms and the landscapes he sees are sketched with phrases then painted in with acoustics and fiddle strings. Melodically, these songs were made for singing, and occasional harmonies and keys add some soul.

Some of the most poignant lines are the smallest lines, like a subtle afterthought (“What good does knowing do/with no one to show it to?”). There is love and there is loss, there are heavy hearts and there is hope. And yes, there is some slide guitar.

Isbell is definitely in the Americana/alt country category for me (think Whiskeytown), however if you don’t like folk or country, I do think you’d probably have to get past that to really appreciate these songs. But for songwriting geeks or any one with a penchant for a sad story, they will find what they’re looking for.  I’m sure there are exclusive listeners of pop punk and metal who I share favorite bands wtih who would totally write me off for appreciating this. But I don’t get that exclusivity, not when you’re looking to music to give you the stories and feelings to find yourself in, or appreciate the crafted expression that goes into writing something someone else may find worthwhile.

Jason Isbell is a storyteller, the truest kind American music can ever hope to find.

Lately I’ve been doing my best to leave my mistakes and regrets back where they belong. Major things, minor things, from hurting the ones I loved to spilling a drink on a host’s table and never really apologizing to missing an opportunity that I just wish I’d taken. Sometimes forgetting doesn’t work so well, other times, I see how far I’ve come. Listening to “Southeastern,” I keep coming back to why it’s so important to keep moving forward, because you never what light lies on the other side of the dark.

“Take my hand, baby, we’re over land
I know flying over water makes you cry 
Where’s that liquor cart, maybe we shouldn’t start
But I can’t for the life of me say why did we leave our love behind?”
~Flying Over Water,
Jason Isbell, Southeastern