Jason Isbell learned all about writing stories with very real characters as a member of the Drive-By Truckers on two of their best albums, Decoration Day and The Dirty South. His solo records miss the interplay of other singer-songwriters and their perspective, so they tend to take familiar and predictable paths that wind down about halfway through. His third album, Here We Rest, features the same downtrodden characters found on his previous records. Only they're more beaten this time, hit hard by economic strains and desperate for answers. Isbell is a sharp storyteller throughout, taking on the roles of displaced loners ("Alabama Pines") and soldiers working their way back into the real world ("Tour of Duty"). But these smart, observant songs wear you down. — Gallucci
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