Album Review: Jason Isbell’s ‘Southeastern (10 Year Anniversary Edition)’
UPDATED: October 18, 2023
UPDATED: October 18, 2023
Album Release Date: Sept. 29, 2023

Label: Southeastern Records.

Southeastern Still Amazes After a Decade

Jason Isbell’s iconic album, Southeastern, has been reintroduced in a remastered 10 Year Anniversary Edition. The original album made its debut on June 11, 2013, receiving widespread critical acclaim and featuring the certified gold hit, Cover Me Up. Notably, this song has gained mainstream recognition through covers by Zac Brown and Morgan Wallen. Rolling Stone has honored Southeastern by ranking it 458th on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Over a decade later, the album’s timeless appeal remains unchanged.

Discussing Southeastern without bias is a challenging task. In my perspective, this album kick-started a grassroots movement in the genre, often regarded as the greatest of all time (GOAT), and firmly established Isbell as a songwriting luminary. Dave Cobb’s production played a pivotal role in Southeastern’s success. In 2013, I had the privilege of witnessing Isbell perform the album live, selling out the 500-seat Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg, VA. A decade later, in 2023, I had the opportunity to watch him perform the same album at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, VA, with nearly ten times the audience. While both shows were enchanting, it evoked a longing for that intimate 500-seat theater, fostering a deeper appreciation for what I had witnessed a decade prior. I got to be a part of something, something that will never exist again. I was there when it was made.

Analyzing the 10 Year Anniversary Edition track by track probably isn’t necessary, assuming that, if you’re here, you are well-versed in Southeastern. Nevertheless, there are discernible differences in this remastered version. The tracks have undergone subtle changes, with enhanced prominence of background vocals and adjusted instrument levels. These alterations are discreet and do not alter the songs’ essence. Without prior familiarity with the album’s sound, one might struggle to detect these nuances.

The real allure of this re-release lies in the bonus tracks. Each of the original songs is accompanied by an acoustic demo version and a live rendition. The acoustic demos, in particular, are magical, offering a unique insight into Isbell’s songwriting process. Some of these demos feature alternate lyrics that didn’t make the final cut, providing a glimpse into the artist’s creative journey. With the exception of Cover Me Up, all of the live versions are well done solid renditions. Cover Me Up however, stands out on its own as spectacular. The live rendition amplifies the song’s emotional intensity, especially when you hear Isbell plead his redemption case to a live audience. The eruption of screams and applause at the line “I swore off that stuff, forever this time” is enough to send chills down your spine.

Final Thoughts

Southeastern (10 Year Anniversary Edition) is available in various bundles, including vinyl, CDs, and exclusive perks like updated artwork and handwritten lyrics. The album, as a whole, is a flawless masterpiece with not a single weak track. Isbell’s re-release could have easily spanned multiple records, making the question of whether it’s worth more than $90 a matter of personal choice. If your budget is tight, the 10 Year Anniversary Edition is readily available for streaming on all major music platforms. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Southeastern (10 Year Anniversary Edition) cements its status as a timeless classic. Happy 10 years!

Favorite Tracks: Cover Me Up (LIVE), Different Days

RootsnRevelry Grade:                           

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