Never mind Mr. Adams; the real deal was at Mercy Lounge

Deertick and Jason Isbell
Mercy Lounge
Nashville, Tennessee
March 14, 2009

When two of the best new things to happen to rock and roll came to town as a double bill, there was nothing that could prevent it from being a great evening.  Even though the highly acclaimed Ryan Adams was playing the first of a two-night stand at the War Memorial across town, there was no shortage of hipsters at Mercy Lounge early to catch Deertick and Jason Isbell. 

The young band of road weary rockers Deertick blasted through a set of quick two to three minute songs, at times feeling like one of Willie Nelson’s marathon song concerts.  Each started and finished before the crowd ever had time to warm up to the notion that it was great tune.  Songs like “Old Shoes” and “Art Isn’t Real” filled the venue with the hauntingly eerie feel that makes Deertick so unique and striking. 

Despite being a great show, certain elements seemed to be missing from the overall feel of the War Elephant album versions.  With a new album on the horizon, it would have been nice to have seen a longer set, and possibly a peak into more of what the future holds for Deertick fans.

Jason Isbell and his band, the 400 Unit, have always played to rave reviews in the Music City, so it was to no surprise that they got right down to business.  Now with two full-length albums separating him from his time with the Drive-by Truckers, Isbell has defined himself as a force of reckoning.  Not only is he an absolute monster songwriter he is a great performer and bandleader.  The 400 Unit seemed more solidified and certainly a much more definitive part of the overall sound of the show.  No doubt it is still Jason’s band, but the overall output seems much more cohesive.

Offering a healthy dose of tunes from Sirens of the Ditch and the most recent Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, it was more than apparent this project has plenty of leg to stand on.  Songs like “Grown” and “Brand New Kind of Actress” seem to have matured and expanded to feature all new life in the music as well as Isbell’s vocal delivery.  New material like “Seven Mile Island” and “Sunstroke” also shined like beacons in the night. However the best moment of the night came in the yet again cover of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” as the band has now all but made it their own.

No questions asked, this was a night of rock and roll the ways the gods intended for it to be.  As these two bands continue to tour and make new music, there seemingly is nothing that can slow their greatness.  If they come near you definitely check them out – especially if it is a package deal.