4-time Grammy Award winner Jason Isbell has very little to prove as he releases his fourth album with his band The 400 Unit. Having achieved commercial and critical acclaim for pretty much his entire back catalogue, many could forgive him for simply sitting back and taking it a little bit easier on himself.
Thankfully Reunions does not do that. It is an album that is both introspective and reflective, while simultaneously questioning and observing the global social situation.
Having teased the album with the rather epic opening song, What've I Done To Help, the overarching theme of the record was made public from the very outset. However, while What've I Done To Help opens strong, after nearly 7 minutes, it doesn't have the impact of the punchier album that follows it.
While on previous records there has been a real direct approach to their sound, Reunions strength comes from the complexity and intricacies that have been brought to the fore. This is an album that has its heart on its sleeve, but equally asks the listener to reach inside themselves to translate the lyrics in order to make them relate to their own life and setting. This is a strength that hasn't necessarily been demonstrated previously, but one that makes the key moments of the record really shine.
Dreamsicle delivers an early highlight, with its marriage of rose-tinted memories and upbeat forward thinking optimism. It is followed by the album's crowning glory, the lush, tender Only Children. A really poignant moment to stop and take stock, while considering our generation, those before us and those to come. This is a song that has much more weight than appears on first listen.
However, it is the bare bones of St. Peter's Autograph and the ebbs and flows of the beautiful River that really solidify the group's intentions with this record. Showing that pomp and ceremony are not competitors for real heart, these are musical moments that stick with you.
Reunions could have been a very different record, but having really considered their next move, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit have delivered a rather wonderful set of meaningful moments that work as a body whole or as individual moments.