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Jason Isbell's Southeastern

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Jason Isbell's Southeastern, is a rare thing -- an honest, singer-songwriter record that strikes a truly personal vein without drifting into the realm of the precious or overwrought. Isbell, wearing his proverbial heart on his sleeve, is getting the kind of press that he hasn't seen since he was part of the Drive-by Truckers. He might finally be leaving that part of his career behind, so that he can be respected on his own as the fine song writer that he has become with each successive record.

Southeastern's stripped-back arrangements allow the songs to breathe. His character sketches remain strong; in fact, they seem more grounded in reality than they have before. Isbell has created a record with truly believable characters, something he has been groping towards since Sirens of the Ditch. Here he is entirely successful because he doesn't try to experiment as much. Siren's great songs ran the gamut of rockers, blue-eyed soul, and folk. While they showed Isbell'…