Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Georgia Blue
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Georgia Blue (Southeastern, 2021)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Jason Isbell deserves kudos for putting a unique spin on the benefit album. Instead of throwing together a bunch of many times unrelated celebrities to pitch in, Isbell has brought together talented performers to cover Georgia-related songs and songs by Georgia-based artists. All proceeds support Black Voters Matter, Fair Fight and Georgia Stand-Up. Even if you may not support these groups, you will still enjoy this set of mostly familiar songs.

The album opens and closes with two R.E.M. songs. Opener is the gentle, reflective "Night Swimming" and the closer, "Driver 8." In between, Isbell either sings or has guests singing some of the greatest pop songs in history. Brittney Spencer performs James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's Man's World," which is a little unusual coming from a female perspective. Spencer also shines, along with John Paul White, on Gladys Knight & The Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia," which comes complete with a soulful horn section.

Although there are plenty of golden oldies included some of these selections lean toward the more obscure side. Vic Chesnutt, for instance, is saluted with "I'm Through," while Isbell's wife, Amanda Shires, takes on Cat Power's "Cross Bones Style." And not everything is sung, either, as Isbell - the guitarist - skillfully navigates his way through The Allman Brothers Band's "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," which is as much jazz fusion, as it is Southern rock.

As good as this album is – and it is quite good – it may not fully satisfy Isbell fans like an Isbell album proper. He just sings so much more authoritatively when performing songs, he writes. Even so, it's still tough not to love this one as it features some of our favorite artists, singing some of our favorite songs.

CDs by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Weathervanes, 2023 Georgia Blue, 2021 Reunions, 2020 Live at the Ryman, 2018 The Nashville Sound, 2017 Southeastern, 2013 Here We Rest, 2011 Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, 2009

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