Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
June 22, 2023
Show starts at 8:00 P.M. Doors open at 6:30 P.M.
with support S.G. Goodman
A Jason Isbell record always lands like a decoder ring in the ears and hearts of his audience, a soundtrack to his world and magically to theirs, too. Weathervanes carries the same revelatory power. This is a storyteller at the peak of his craft, observing his fellow wanderers, looking inside and trying to understand, reducing a universe to four minutes. He shrinks life small enough to name the fear and then strip it away, helping his listeners make sense of how two plus two stops equaling four once you reach a certain age — and carry a certain amount of scars.
“There is something about boundaries on this record,” Isbell says. “As you mature, you will attempt to keep the ability to love somebody fully and completely while you’re growing into an adult and learning how to love yourself.”
Weathervanes is a collection of grown-up songs: Songs about adult love, about change, about the danger of nostalgia and the interrogation of myths, about cruelty and regret and redemption. Life and death songs played for and by grown ass people. Some will make you cry alone in your car and others will make you sing along with thousands of strangers in a big summer pavilion, united in the great miracle of being alive. The record features the rolling thunder of Isbell’s fearsome 400 Unit, who’ve earned a place in the rock ‘n’ roll cosmos alongside the greatest backing ensembles, as powerful and essential to the storytelling as The E Street Band or the Wailers.
They make a big noise, as Isbell puts it, and he feels so comfortable leaving them be a main prism through which much of the world hears his art. He can be private but with them behind him he transforms, and there is a version of himself that can only exist in their presence. When he plays a solo show, he is in charge of the entire complicated juggle. On stage with the 400 Unit, he can be a guitar hero when he wants, and a conductor when he wants, and a smiling fan of the majesty of his bandmates when he wants to hang back and listen to the sound.
The roots of this record go back into the isolation of the pandemic and to Isbell’s recent Eme on the set as an actor on MarEn Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. There were guitars in his trailer and in his rented house and a lot of Eme to sit and think. The melancholy yet soaring track “King of Oklahoma” was written there. Isbell also watched the great director work, saw the relationship between a clear vision and its execution, and perhaps most important, saw how even someone as decorated as Scorsese sought out and used his co-workers’ opinions.
“It definitely helped when I got into the studio,” Isbell says. “I had this reinvigorated sense of collaboration. You can have an idea and you can execute it and not compromise — and sEll listen to the other people in the room.”
“No one escapes the marks left behind when it comes to love or the absence of it,” says singer-songwriter S.G. Goodman, describing the inspiration behind her sophomore album Teeth Marks. “Not only are we the ones who bear its indentations, but we’re also the ones responsible for placing them on ourselves and others.”
When the Kentucky native released her debut album, Old Time Feeling, she was rightly coined an “untamed rock n roll truth-teller” by Rolling Stone. The roots-inflected rock n’ roll record saw Goodman lending her gritty, haunting vocals to narrate the dual perspectives of her upbringing as the daughter of a crop farmer, and a queer woman coming out in a rural town.
Now with Teeth Marks, co-produced by Drew Vandenberg (Faye Webster, Drive-By Truckers, Of Montreal) in Athens, Georgia, she picks up the threads of Old Time Feeling. But where her critically acclaimed, Jim James-produced debut zeroed in on the South, reframing misconceptions in slough water-soaked tones, her latest album pulses with downtown Velvet Underground electricity, shifting its focus inward – though never losing Goodman’s searing and universal point of view. Teeth Marks is what you might get if Flannery O’Connor and Lou Reed went on a road trip.
Drawing influences from the aforementioned Velvets, as well as Pavement, Karen Dalton, and Chad VanGaalen, Goodman brings 11 powerful vignettes to life, with a sound that ventures deeper into indie rock and punk territory than she ever has before. Though Teeth Marks is a love album, Goodman doesn’t aim her focus on romantic relationships alone. Instead, she analyzes the way love between communities, families, and even one’s self can be influenced by trauma that lingers in the body. Teeth Marks is about what love actually is, love’s psychological and physical imprint, its light, and its darkness. It’s a record about the love we have or don’t have for each other, and perhaps, more significantly, the love we have or don’t have for ourselves.