This isn’t the first Jason Isbell has introduced an upcoing album with a truly killer track, it is, in fact the third time by my reckoning. First there was the ticking time bomb “24 Frames” in 2015, and then a song so great it leaves the entire 2017 The Nashville Sound looking a little silly, the passionate and entirely accurate “If We Were Vampires”. So, nobody claims “Be Afriad” means Jason is out of his arrogant funk and ready to nail it, but it does prove “Be Afraid” -a call for action against the political onslaught of POTUS (by the time we wake up to the real dangers Trump will be in the middle of his THIRD term)- is the sort of song Drive-By Truckers disappointing The Unravelling can’t approach.
if the kick is that Isbell is being political naive, better naive than innocent, and if the message, speak truth to power, is as cliched as speak truth to power, it sounds gorgeous with a chorus as strong as he has ever written, and a coda that makes you almost purr with pleasure.
Maybe the rest of the album will suck, but for sure “Be Afraid” is major.