the backstory: Jason Isbell’s “Alabama Pines”

Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins

Earlier this month, former Drive by Truckers frontman Jason Isbell released his second record with his new band, The 400 Unit. The new album, Here We Rest, is all about the hard times in Isbell’s home state of Alabama, mostly due to the economic downturn. Things got even harder in Alabama with yesterday’s tornados, which devastated my college town of Tuscaloosa.

I’ve been listening to this album all week and really like it. I like it even more than the band’s last and self-titled album. It’s pure southern Americana and Isbelle’s voice is hard to top. The first track on the new album is by far my favorite and titled “Alabama Pines.” Here’s the backback story on that one:

The characters that populate Here We Rest are wrung out. In “Alabama Pines”, the protagonist has found himself on the outside of the life he once knew. He is living in a small room and in a state of emotional disrepair – estranged from the woman that he loved, as well as friends (“I don’t even need a name anymore/When no one calls it out, it kinda vanishes away”). He is beginning to recognize that his own remoteness and obstinacy has played a large part in his current state of affairs, and longs for “someone to take him home through those Alabama pines.” He’s not quite clear how to get back there himself.

Place plays a prominent role in the songs on Here We Rest. Jason was home considerably more this year, having toured less in 2010. After being on the road for 200 or more days for more years than he cares to count, he stayed home mostly to write and record this album. “I could probably live anywhere, but I love it here,” says Jason. “Being home is very different than being on the road. You learn a certain discipline that has its entire context within the touring lifestyle. This was the first time that I’ve been an adult in my own house, in my own community. Plus on the road, you have your whiskey waiting for you when you get to the gig. Here you have to go get it.”

Bama, I miss you and thinking of you this week. Read more stories behind the album in the press release here. Buy “Here We Rest” on Amazon for only $3.99 at the time of this posting.