By the time of Southeastern’s release, Alabama singer/songwriter Jason Isbell had spent as much time out of his old band, The Drive-By Truckers, as he had in it. After a clutch of celebrated releases with his new backing band, The 400 Unit, Southeastern is his first full-on solo effort, and dominated by quiet ballads and exceedingly personal songwriting. Whether writing about his own struggle with substance abuse or the trials of other carefully drawn characters—like the cancer patient at the center of “Elephant” or the protagonist of "Live Oak," who feels strangely stuck between his troublesome past and his reformed present—the album contains Isbell’s most introspective tunes to date. All told, Southeastern is a collection from a cuttingly crafty songwriter at a crucial point in his life and at a high point of his career.

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