Earlier this year, Drive-By Truckers fans saw a somewhat cryptic message on singer-guitarist Jason Isbells MySpace page. It said something along the lines of Apparently, Im no longer a Trucker. To many, the announcement came as a shock. Others, however, knew it was only a matter of time before Isbell -- the youngest of the southern-rock bands three singers, songwriters, and guitarists -- parted ways. We just got to the point where we really didnt want to work together anymore, says Isbell, whose debut solo album, Sirens of the Ditch, came out last week. I was very happy to be a part of the band, but its difficult when you dont have much control. Its hard to get what you want on record. Democracy can only last so long.
Isbell joined the Truckers a year after their two-disc opus Southern Rock Opera made them a buzz band in late 2001. The groups co-founders, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, were pushing 40. Isbell was barely in his 20s. Yet his contributions to 2003s Decoration Day -- particularly the reflective Outfit -- quickly became fan favorites, and Isbell was lauded for his wise-beyond-his-years songwriting. If I manage to say things right, its because Im honest about it, he says. I try to say it exactly how I feel.
Sirens of the Ditch doesnt sound all that different from Isbells songs on last years DBT CD, A Blessing and a Curse. They range from the gothic murder story Brand New Kind of Actress to Dress Blues, a requiem for a Marine from Isbells Alabama hometown. Former bandmates Hood, Shonna Tucker (also Isbells ex-wife), and Brad Morgan guest. Hood co-produced the album. Were still friends, says Isbell. And theres still a good chance well be making music together in the future. But I have other things to work on now.
Sun., July 22, 8:30 p.m.