Guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Isbell was a driving force in the rousing postmodern Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers. Sirens of the Ditch is his solo debut. A resident of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Isbell clearly has Catholic taste in his roots rock. His backing band throws together a pleasant mélange of pedal steel, organ, strummed acoustic guitar, and heartfelt Americana vocals. At first, it sounds like something you’ve heard before a thousand times, by Ryan Adams or was that Bryan Adams. However, on closer inspection, there’s a lot more going on. After rhyming “bitch” with “ditch” in the song “Ditch,” Isbell throws in a line about “dancing to ‘Purple Rain'” and you’re drawn in, to a clearly delineated but poetic storyline and gorgeous melodies. Isbell’s best songs will remind you of Richard Buckner, Raymond Carver, and Neil Young. “Dress Blues” might be the most sympathetic and awesome song about the Iraq war yet written.
Bang Bang Boom Boom isn’t a set of upbeat poppy songs. But while it’s rooted in the blues, it’s certainly not a blues album. This is her most mainstream set yet.
“I grew up with a lot of different music,” she says. “I like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, James Taylor and Carole King, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. Then there’s the music my mother turned me on to: Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday.”
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