Music » Critics' Picks

Jason Isbell

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As teen-tycoon Phil Spector spirals ever more madly into absolute denial, not even a song as bitter and catchy as Jason Isbell's "Brand New Kind of Actress" could save him. (In fact, denial — and maybe another mistrial — is all the producer has left.) The ex-Drive-By Trucker seals Spector's fate in the song, repeating the refrain "Put the piece away, put the piece away..." atop a James Gang riff. Freed from the Truckers' Southern-rock storytelling, Isbell uses his solo debut, Sirens of the Ditch, to put a pop sheen on blues-metal and piano soul, while addressing the class politics that made "Decoration Day" and "The Day John Henry Died" among the Truckers' finest songs. New anti-war statements such as "Dress Blues" and "The Devil Is My Running Mate" are further, essential reminders of a world Isbell isn't about to forgive or forget.

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