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L.A. Beat

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit celebrates songs in Calgary

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 I’m still easing myself  back into covering local shows.

I just returned from vacation  on the Outlaw Country Cruise 7 on Tuesday, Feb. 28 and stuck around Calgary an extra day to hear Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, March 1 at the Jack Singer Concert hall  who should be on the Outlaw Cruise and  Kathleen Edwards, who definitely was  one of the highlights of this year’s Cruise.

 A good chunk of Lethbridge’s music scene took in the show. 


Jason Isbell at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, March 1. Photo by Richard Amery

  Jason Isbell is modern outlaw country royalty who gets a lot of play on the Outlaw Country 60 station on Sirius XM, and used to be part of the Drive By Truckers, so I know him from those places.


 I actually bought the ticket  to see Kathleen Edwards, as I’d never seen her before. She was also  one of the main reasons I signed up for Outlaw Country Cruise 7, but unfortunately missed half her opening set  because parking and traffic is atrocious in downtown Calgary, especially when there‘s a big concert at the Jack Singer. I was almost just about to go home in frustration, but was glad I stuck it out, out of breath nonetheless.


 Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit is his rock and roll iteration, so that’s what a close to sold out crowd got— a cornucopia of  grungy alt rockers and his more more nuanced, layered, introspective popular Isbell “hits” and should be hits.


“ 24 Frames,” was an early highlight. He followed that up with the first live performance of his new single “ Death Wish,” which the Outlaw Country station has just started to play. 

I always love that. 


He started mellow with “What’ve I Done To Help, ” “Hope the High Road” and the urgent “ It Gets Easier.”

He talked about coming up from Muscle Shoals , Alabama to “ freeze our asses off in Calgary,” and reminisced about some inebriated good times in Calgary from back in his drinking days.


 I was waiting for  a couple of my favourites, the greasy rocker  “ Super 8,” and “ Overseas,” which has probably one of the best lines ever written about a dying small town “ This used to be a ghost town but even the ghosts got out and the sound of the highway died.” and heard them mid way through the show.


 Isbell really is a poet who also plays a mean guitar. His band mates, drummer Chad Gamble, bassist Jimbo Hart, keyboardist Derry de Borja, who I couldn’t really hear and, as a bonus, lead guitarist  drivin’ n’ cryin’s Sadler Vaden, were off the hook, embracing  the multi-facetness of isbell’s extensive catalogue.


They played a couple acoustic sets, featuring a beautiful version of “Dreamsicle.”Isbell traded leads with Vaden.

 Vaden sang lead on  drivin n’ cryin’s  “ Honeysuckle Blue,” which was awesome to see.

 They were called back, eventually for an encore  of  “ If We Were Vampires” and “ Decoration Day.”


I’m glad I caught Ottawa born St. Petersburg , Florida based musician Kathleen Edwards on the boat multiple times, as I missed half of her set opening for Isbell, but caught “ Glenfern” from her new album “ Total Freedom” and a couple of her earlier hits. “ Six O’ Clock News,” “ I Make the Dough You Get the Glory” and “ In State,” I didn’t get to hear “ Back to Me,” which I was really looking forward to. She played fiddle on a couple of her more ambient, introspective songs. As a bonus, as he wasn't“t on the boat,  Colin Cripps was playing lead guitar for her for this show. 

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

Last Updated ( Friday, 10 March 2023 14:40 )  
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