Reviewed by: Jane Roser
Two-time Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb just has a knack for turning everything he touches into gold. He has produced records for some of the most critically acclaimed artists over the past few years, including releases from Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson and Shooter Jennings. He recently won Grammy Awards for Stapleton’s Traveller and Isbell’s Something More Than Free albums, as well as the 2015 CMA Award for Album of the Year (for Traveller) and the 2014 Americana Music Award for Album of the Year (for Isbell’s Southeastern). Now Cobb helms the graceful, yet gritty compilation album, Southern Family, which features songs from Isbell, Stapleton, John Paul White (The Civil Wars), Miranda Lambert and Rich Robinson, among other musical luminaries.
Comprised of songs rooted in country, blues, folk and rock, Southern Family was inspired by the Civil War concept album White Mansions and is a true representation of the South and its people. These are stories your grandma might tell you sitting around a fireplace in South Georgia, weaving tales of days long gone, but not forgotten.
John Paul White’s beautiful, heartfelt song about his grandmother “Simple Song” is soulful, quiet and melancholy. Based upon a conversation White had with her after his grandfather died, it tells of how so many tears had been shed when a loved one was alive, that when they passed away, there were no more tears to cry.
Jason Isbell is an artist who can do no wrong. He could sing a nursery rhyme and it would be the doggonest coolest thing you’ve ever heard in your life. “God Is A Working Man” is perhaps my favorite song on here. It’s sweet as honeysuckle and dirty as a fistful of red clay and sure packs a punch: “I need a whole new set of problems said the preacher to the sea/I’ve seen nothing here but miracles and they’re shaking my belief/And if everything’s a miracle the saints are just a mop/And the man who works the wonders is just trying to do his job.”
Most of the tunes on here have either a simple ballad or a spiritual Gospel feel to them, but all hell breaks loose near the record’s end with Shooter Jenning’s “Can You Come Over”, which just adds the fuel to the revival fire.
Southern Family is an intoxicating and stunning album; it’s hard not to be captivated or touched by these songs of compassion, heartache and well….true grit.