How I Finally Forgave ‘Something More Than Free’ for Not Being ‘Southeastern’ & Learned to Love It

When I finally decided to pay attention to Jason Isbell’s album “Southeastern” way back in 2013, I never shut up about it, and proclaimed it my favorite record of the year.

So, I kind of went a little off the deep end for this record, at one point during rock & roll bookclub I had proclaimed that I was pretty sure that Jason Isbell wanted me to love him. My friends and family ridiculed me mercilessly. But come on, this proclamation came after reading something he tweeted about finishing Infinite Jest. How could I resist that? I am only human.

I cannot even tell you how many times I listened to “Southeastern.” According to, I’ve listened to it 599 times, but I suspect that means I’ve listened to songs off the album that many times. Also, that doesn’t include the eleventy-billion times I listened to the actual record on my record player.

I am nothing if not obsessive.

So when Isbell’s new album “Something More Than Free” came out last month, I was nervous. I had already decided this new record would suffer from The Hold Steady Effect, and would be disappointed. And I was.

But then Wolfdogg, oh wise sage that he is, told me that I had to forgive this record for not being “Southeastern.” I’m pretty sure I responded by sticking my tongue out and stomping away shouting, “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND OUR LOVE.” Because obviously I could never love another Isbell record as much as I love “Southeastern.” And that’s true. I don’t love this new one with quite the same passion, but I do still kind of love it. Here’s fourteen reasons why that don’t involve the lovely fiddle playing or his voice or how he can make a guitar sound like loneliness.

  1. And I can’t recall a day when I didn’t want to disappear, but I keep on showing up, hell bent on growing up.
  2. I’m learning how to be alone. I fall asleep with the TV on, and I fight the urge to live inside my telephone.
  3. This is how you make yourself worthy of the love that she gave to you back when you didn’t own a beautiful thing.
  4. She’s got nothing left to learn about this heart, and they’re sitting there a thousand miles apart.
  5. Now that I found someone that makes me want to live, does that make my leaving harder to forgive?
  6. How could we expect to stay in love when neither knew the meaning of the difference between sacred and profane.
  7. The way he talks about writing the song Something More Than Free.
  8. It never did occur to me to leave ’til tonight, when there’s no one left to ask if I’m all right.
  9. Was a tough state trooper until a decade back, until that girl who wasn’t momma caused his heart attack.
  10. The time between the glory days and the golden years, she did the work of twenty able men.
  11. She sent Tommy off to school to be an engineer, and Sarah went to try out all the sins.
  12. Though everyone tried to ignore us, we’d scared them off by the chorus.
  13. I was twenty-two backwoods years old.
  14. And somehow you put down my fears on the page when I still had nothing to say.
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  1. Bonny Holder 07.Aug.15 at 3:47 pm

    #5 blew me away.

  2. Trish 12.Aug.15 at 11:26 am

    I’m fine simply with his staccato fricative of the words “twenty-four frames” and the guitar wail that immediately follows it 🙂


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