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Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Macon Greyson

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Jason Isbell just turned 30 this past February, so calling him an old soul might be soft-pedaling things a bit. You just can't be callow and pen a line like "She left me alone with these pills and the last of my youth."

There's also "No Choice in the Matter," a wrenching nugget of lost classic soul with melancholy horns and bluesy guitar, a lesson in love with a less-than-happy ending told from the weathered point of view of the guy on the next barstool. Exhausted closer "The Last Song I Will Write" can't help but echo "Moonlight Mile" on The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers—both songs finish off albums about the precarious relationship between duty, excess and maturity in bouts of protracted, frustrated guitar-beating. Luckily, those same Stones are also watching over rockers "However Long," "Good" and "Soldiers Get Strange," so there are quite a few kicks to be had here too. 

As opposed to 2007's solo effort Sirens of the Ditch—which came on the heels of his exit from the Drive By Truckers and breakup with his wife, DBT bassist Shonna Tucker—making a record with a band again has to have been good for Isbell. His world-weary romantic persona hasn't changed, but being with brothers in arms sounds like it's reminded him (if only a little) that he's still young enough to have fun.

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Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.