Album: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, (Lightning Rod)

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The Independent Culture

The strangely fruited tree on the cover gives a clue: this is southern rock rich in the mythology and ambiguous morality of its region.

Isbell may be familiar from his sojourn with Alabama's Drive-By Truckers. You can see why they joined forces: this is literate, passionate, ballsy music thick with the determination to stay real even as it toys with Big Ideas. It swelters in its own seriousness. And if the 400 Unit is a unit without great athletic thrust, that doesn't mean they don't reach where they're headed.

Pick of the album: 'Cigarettes and Wine': a beautiful soul ballad of loss