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Jason Isbell at Joe Louis Arena, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Since he left Drive-By Truckers in 2007, Jason Isbell has quietly become one of the Americana genre’s kings.

The singer, songwriter and guitarist has released six critically acclaimed studio albums, including “The Nashville Sound” that came out last month, and won two Grammy Awards and six Americana Music Awards. He’s also up for Artist of the Year for the latter, which will be announced later this year. He also works occasionally in a duo with his wife, Amanda Shires.

• Isbell, 38, says to him “The Nashville Sound” is “a document. I wanted to make a record of this time and what’s important to me. I think that’s my ultimate goal with all these albums -- and outside of that, trying to write the best songs I can.”

• Isbell recorded “The Nashville Sound at famed Southeastern Recording studios, with his band the 400 Unit and producer Dave Cobb, and the room made a significant impact on the album. “It’s an incredible place and a big part of why we named the album ‘The Nashville Sound,’” Isbell explains. “That’s what they used to say about the studio; It was ‘the home of the Nashville sound.’ It’s this giant, official Nashville recording studio so the whole band could set up and look at each other and play at the same time. But I also wanted it to mean something different; I wanted that title to reflect the difference between what Nashville used to be or what people might think of it as and what’s coming out of Nashville now, which is all over the map stylistically.”

• Some listeners and critics have read political meaning into some of Isbell’s new songs, but he says they’re not so clear-cut. “I don’t see it as political,” Isbell says by phone. I think about beliefs more than politics. If I’m going to tell people where my head is right now, I’m going to have to mention the social climate in the country these days. But the story is always, I think, about traveling through the world as a human person and how you relate to the world and other humans. Those interpersonal relationships are where the stories happen. The setting shouldn’t be the story.”

• Isbell considers this summer’s Outlaw Music Festival a great way to help launch “The Nashville Sound.” “I will not anticipate; I will just participate,” Isbell says with a chuckle. “To see myself on a (bill) with Willie (Nelson) and (Bob) Dylan, that’s enough right there. I’ve seen Willie many times; I’m always happy to be in the same room. And Dylan...What can I say. I know it’s gonna be great.”

• Isbell isn’t putting great odds on himself to win the Artist of the Year at the Americana Music Awards in September. “Is Chris Stapleton nominated for anything?” he says with another laugh. “It’s nice of them. I like those folks a lot, so I’m going to play along. And my wife is nominated for an award, so I’ll be there anyway.”

If You Go

• The Outlaw Music Festival with Willie Nelson & Family, Bob Dylan & His Band, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Lukas Nelson & the Promise of Real

• 3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 8.

• Joe Louis Arena, 19 Yzerman Drive, Detroit.

• Tickets are $39.50-$129.50.

• Call 313-471-6611 or visit olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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