Review by Nick Argyriou.
Jason Isbell w/ Eilen Jewell – The Croxton Bandroom, Friday 1 April
Eilen Jewell barrels her way through a haze of honky-tonk, country, gospel and rockabilly with a crack band as the Bandroom begins to swell. “We’re ready to rock the Crox!” she rather calmly explains. Moving through a series of tracks predominately from records Sea of Tears, Queen of the Minor Key, and the Idaho native’s latest, Sundown Over Ghost Town, Jewell set the scene with aplomb this eve.
Sporting a fitted short-sleeve black shirt and oil-slick quiff, the recent dual Grammy winner is a commanding presence to behold. It helps greatly when your band is equally as prolific, with the 400 Unit’s Jimbo Hart (bass), guitarist Sadler Vaden, Derry deBorja (keys) and drummer Chad Gamble tearing the Croxton Bandroom a new one with precise, penetrating and meteoric musicianship. Swinging between the man’s ‘authentic series’ 1939 D-18 Martin guitar and electric numbers, Isbell is equal parts loose and methodical; the connection and camaraderie between he and band nothing short of mesmeric.
‘24 Frames’ is the crunching opener with ‘Flying over Water’ and ‘Something More than Free’ simply first-rate and then when Drive-By Truckers’ ‘Decoration Day’ lands Isbell owns the room. The cosmic interplay on guitars between Isbell and Vaden on his Gibson SG is potent as the pair complement one another intensely on the 2011 400 Unit track ‘Codeine’ and Something More than Free’s ‘Palmetto Rose’ but then the set zenith hits courtesy of a cracking version of ‘Never Gonna Change’ from the Drive-By Truckers’ 2004 opus The Dirty South.
Southeastern’s ‘Cover Me Up’ is the flawless follow-up with its benevolent twang before the Band-esque ‘If it Takes a Lifetime’ allows both rockers and crowd a breather post the torrential wig-out that Vaden and Isbell just engaged in. Then ‘Stockholm’ and ‘Speed Trap Town’ build up to the finale of ‘Children of Children’, a behemoth track of the highest songwriting order that affords both guitarists even more luxury of a little riffarama to conclude a watershed moment for a gun touring country-rock legend who is at the top of his game at present.