The 2012 Houston International Festival musical lineup is meant to focus on the sounds of Argentina, but mixed among the Latin bands and Texas acts is Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, an Alabama band that straddles the sounds of country Southern rock.
In his soft-spoken Southern accent, Jason Isbell told CultureMap about the origins of the 400 Unit. Most of the group grew up together and re-connected about five years ago, when Isbell left the Drive-By Truckers. Others came from Baltimore.
The group's most recent album, Here We Rest, is the result of Isbell's return to his hometown — something that more than ten busy years on the road with the Drive-By Truckers rarely afforded.
The songs are based that homecoming, on reconnections with old friends and interactions with working people.
The experience reminded him of growing up, says Isbell. The songs are based that homecoming, on reconnections with old friends and interactions with working people.
The pace of that new, familiar life is set by a mix of bluesy country and soulful rock, especially tangible in "Alabama Pines" and "Tour of Duty."
And unlike the democratic-style singing and songwriting preferred by his former bandmates, the writing and singing on this album is all Isbell's own. He likes to have this control.
Sunday's performance won't be Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit's first festival appearance in Houston (though his most recent one, he says, was a "shitty" experience), but it is the band's first iFest.
"Are they gonna have those good steaks like they have in Argentina?" Isbell wondered aloud.
Guess he'll have to wait and see.