Song of the Day: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Cumberland Gap

Song of the Day
06/26/2017
Geran Landen
photo by Danny Clinch

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Cumberland Gap” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, from their 2017 album, The Nashville Sound, self-released on their own Southeastern Records.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Cumberland Gap (MP3)Alabama native Jason Isbell has always been a master of sharing his hard times through his unique blend of expert story telling and a mixed sound of country, blues and rock and roll. But as Isbell reached sobriety, marriage and fatherhood, he quickly eliminated many of his demons and muses, seemingly reducing his song topic fodder. His 2017 release, Nashville Sound, showed fans need not worry though, as Isbell put out a dark, brooding, and often loud album that found him reflecting on the political landscape, walking in the shoes of many small town characters and battling mental demons. Backed by his friends the 400 unit, Nashville Sound is a beautiful display of the range of country and the power of storytelling.

Song of the day and album track "Cumberland" displays both well, joining a foreboding guitar arrangement full of feedback with a soaring, country-tinged chorus. The track finds Isbell telling the story of a coal miner's child who battles with boredom, substances and life in general over tenacious instrumentation. "Cumberland" is excellent proof that Isbell is just as good at sharing others' stories as he is his own.

You can catch Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit in Seattle at The Paramount on September 12th. In the meantime, keep up with Isbell on his website and Facebook, and watch as he and his band perform their 2011 track, "Alabama Pine", at the old KEXP studio below:

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