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Keep on Truckin'

Former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell sets out on his own.

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Earlier this year, Drive-By Truckers fans saw a somewhat cryptic message on singer-guitarist Jason Isbell’s MySpace page. It said something along the lines of “Apparently, I’m 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 band’s three singers, songwriters, and guitarists -- parted ways. “We just got to the point where we really didn’t 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 it’s difficult when you don’t have much control. It’s 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 group’s co-founders, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, were pushing 40. Isbell was barely in his 20s. Yet his contributions to 2003’s 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, it’s because I’m honest about it,” he says. “I try to say it exactly how I feel.” Sirens of the Ditch doesn’t sound all that different from Isbell’s songs on last year’s 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 Isbell’s Alabama hometown. Former bandmates Hood, Shonna Tucker (also Isbell’s ex-wife), and Brad Morgan guest. Hood co-produced the album. “We’re still friends,” says Isbell. “And there’s still a good chance we’ll be making music together in the future. But I have other things to work on now.”
Sun., July 22, 8:30 p.m.

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