Hate country music? Go see Jason Isbell.

We are the midst of a country music renaissance. No, not the pop-country garbage that is all over the radio and has 19-year-olds doing keg stands in amphitheater parking lots all summer. I am talking about real country music. The kind that feels like it belongs to the generation following Waylon and Willie and skipped the last 25 years of Bud Lights and pickup trucks. Folk-rock, or alt-country, or Americana or whatever started gaining mainstream traction a few years ago when Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers and the like brought their banjos into America’s collective conscious, but the past year has seen a more traditional type of country music be brought to the forefront with artists like Sturgill Simpson garnering accolades all over the place.

Jason Isbell is another one of those new-age/old school country artists and his new album Something More Than Free is nothing short of a masterpiece. The follow up to 2013’s Southeastern, another near-perfect album that was as beautiful as it was depressing, tells different stories that Isbell says are less personal but are just as attention-grabbing. Slightly more upbeat than Southeastern, Isbell has fused beautiful melodies and great vocals to craft some of his best songs to date. The first single off the album “24 Frames” is a sure-fire hit and the title track is equally as impressive. For my money, the best song on an album of great ones is the first one: “If It Takes a Lifetime.” It really paces the album with a catchy melody, Isbell’s patented storytelling and some twang that allows it to feel at home on both country and alternative radio.

The former Drive-By Trucker is just as impressive on stage as he is on record and folks in Philly will be able to get a taste of that Wednesday at the Electric Factory (moved from The Mann’s Skyline Stage). Isbell will undoubtedly play a good chunk of the new album, mixed in with some Southeastern favorites likes “Cover Me Up” and “Stockholm” and some older Drive-By Truckers tunes like “Decoration Day” and “Alabama Pines.”

Isbell will be supported by another stellar singer-songwriter, Blake Mills. Mills was a co-founder of the California-based band Simon Dawes with Taylor Goldsmith, before they broke off and Goldsmith formed Dawes. Mills is impressive in his own right forming a solid one-two punch. You may not get Luke Bryan-level tailgating at Electric Factory on Wednesday, but you will definitely get better country music.

Wed, July 29th – Jason Ibell w/ Blake Mills – Electric Factory – TICKETS


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