Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Bring Their Rich Nashville Sound to Connecticut

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

College Street Music Hall

New Haven, Connecticut

June 26, 2017



The evolution of a true musician during the rise of a career has always been interesting to me. There are highs and lows, risks and experimentations, criticism and awards.  In the unique case of Jason Isbell, it seems like he has found his home, his star is on the rise, and he has never been happier.  I say this because anyone who compares his older songs to the newest album, The Nashville Sound, can see has his lyrics have changed.  His past songs are of pain and struggle, as the once full on rocker for the Drive By Truckers was in full on party mood on stage and off. But as his solo career has progressed, and he has found comfort in family (and sobriety), his music has hit its stride.  The attention to lyrics, the dedication to his art, and the richness of the instrumentality (aided by the genius of producer extraordinaire Dave Cobb) have taken Jason Isbell to new and great heights.  And this has never been more prevalent on the new album, as he takes on themes such as politics, racism, and mortality.



And last night, he brought his show the College Street Music Hall in New Haven, Connecticut, where he has played (and I have attended) three years in a row. This time, a large emblem of an anchor with a bird, which changed colors throughout the set, was draped in the background.  I believe this emblem is also tattooed on the biceps of both Isbell and his wife, Amanda Shires (more about her in a moment).  Anxiety was the first song played and the sound of Isbell and his 400 Unit Band has never sounded better. The guitars and bass boomed off of the large speakers and the solo’s soared before and after the powerful lyrics.  Just like that, they were off and running, mixing in songs off the new album, as well the past two, Something More Than Free and Southeastern.  This set was very different from past sets as songs from his early solo career, mainstays like “Dress Blues” or “Alabama Pines” were omitted, but a few Drive By Truckers songs (“Decoration Day”, “Never Gonna Change”) were still part of the show.

What really stood out to me this time around was the sheer happiness that Jason showcased. He spent time laughing and making jokes (at one point stated “I don’t want to be a country singer, I wanted to sing rock n roll” as he broke into the guitar wailing “Cumberland Gap”).  He also discussed being happy about having the #4 album on the charts and joked about being able to beat Nickleback in sales. He also showcased his loving side, as the two most moving portions of the show involved simply he and his wife. During “Cover Me Up”, he, at one point, turned himself almost entirely around to sing the lyrics directly to her and spoke about how much it means to him to be able to sing this song her wrote for her, to her every night (see Video clip).  And again, the two of them went acoustic on the moving “If We Were Vampires”, which, in my opinion, should have consideration for the Grammy for Song of the Year.

His wife, Amanda Shires, is as beautiful as she is talented, wielding a classically trained fiddle with a wonderful voice aiding in background vocals. All done while wearing huge black heels and a flashy skirt.  If you haven’t checked out her solo album, My Piece of Land, you are missing out.  Amanda Shires is not to be ignored as she is a true force of her own and a real part of the Jason Isbell & 400 Unit live show.



I must comment on how upset I was with the College Street Music Hall this time around. Usually I applaud them for having an intimate venue, with great staff and full on comfort.  It seems that they completely oversold on tickets, as my wife and I were kicked out of where we were standing an astounding seven times within the first five songs (7 in 5!).  The staff was pushy, aggressive and downright rude to us and other concertgoers.  Finally, we decided to just walk upstairs and watch from the last row in the venue, which happened to be a relaxing and very different experience as we were able to take in the true richness of the show and sound.  But, above all, (and I cannot say it enough) check out Jason Isbell’s show and music as often as you can. The dedication to his art is well conceived and masterfully executed in every aspect, creating as rich of a sound as you will hear in any genre of music today.



  1. Anxiety
  2. Something More Than Free
  3. Hope the High Road
  4. 24 Frames
  5. Decoration Day
  6. White Man’s World
  7. Chaos and Clothes
  8. Cumberland Gap
  9. Molotov
  10. The Life You Chose
  11. Last of My Kind
  12. Stockholm
  13. Flying Over Water
  14. Cover Me Up
  15. If It Takes a Lifetime
  16. Children of Children
  17. Never Gonna Change
  18. If We Were Vampires
  19. Super 8



Kiefer Sutherland Leaves NYC In Awe

Kiefer Sutherland

Bowery Ballroom

New York City – May 25, 2017

Written by Ryan Miller

Live Photos by Ashley Colona

Every one has said it before: “An actor wants to be a musician now?  Oh, give me a break.” I have many times as well.  And in most cases, I have been right.  However, when I first sat down to listen to Kiefer Sutherland’s “Down A Hole” album, my ears perked up and a grin came over me.  This man can sing.  And, more impressively, can sing some real authentic country music the way it was intended to be.  I am not talking about the watered down, pop mainstream country you hear on the radio, targeted at teenagers looking to party.  Kiefer Sutherland writes and sings songs about real life experiences including pain, love, and loss.  Once I heard he was playing the Bowery Ballroom, one of my favorite venues, I was intrigued to see how these songs would translate to a live performance.

A few weeks back, I had a chance to interview Kiefer.  He spoke about the differences between acting and performing and how scared he was the first time he took the stage.  He explained that the first few times he performed his songs live, he felt so vulnerable and had no idea if people would accept him.  He also talked about he balanced life as a singer and an actor at the same time.  Kiefer is currently filming season 2 of the hit ABC show, Designated Survivor, in Canada.  He says he takes his tour bus on site now, instead of the normal actor trailers, so that when he is done shooting during the week, he can head right out to perform concerts on the weekend.  He says the schedule has worked out well so that he can split his time equally.  Kiefer also confirmed that he working on songs for a second album.

The Bowery Ballroom in New York City is a special venue.  It is small and intimate with a sound system and stage setup that puts the fan in touch with a live music experience that always seems to be memorable.  And on that windy Thursday night in the City, Kiefer’s fans appeared to be that of all ages.  But for everyone, the question was , “do you think he will be good live?”  And when Kiefer finally came on stage well past 9 pm, one thing was clear: Kiefer Sutherland can perform.  He came out like a bullet out of a gun, with an old West styled hat and a rowdy band (you’ve got love anytime a band has a woman drummer as well).  His first song was “Can’t Stay Away”, which included some spirited guitar playing and some yells to the crowd, which immediately showed this was not just a gimmick, Kiefer is taking this music thing seriously.

Kiefer’s first few songs were up tempo and he was energetic and charismatic through-out.  But, before singing his first single off his album, “Not Enough Whiskey”, he tossed his hat aside and addressed the crowd.  This is when the show really gained its intimacy, as Kiefer began to tell the crowd why he wrote each and every song and really let us into his mind.  He was honest and vulnerable, and seemed to have the experience and comfort that usually takes years and years of live performances.  And with the stories, the songs gained more meaning, which made me appreciate his songwriting even more.

When I had previously interviewed him, I asked him who some of his musical influences were and the answer was nothing short of diverse.  He mentioned names like Tom Petty, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, The Band, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard.  He said Cash and Haggard wrote such linear songs and that was his initial attraction to country music.  And he performed a few cover songs, in his own way, that night in NYC, including the Merle Haggard classic, “The Bottle Let Me Down”.  He also closed out his set with Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, but the cover that stood out to me that night was his rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown”.

All in all, Kiefer Sutherland’s live show exceeded my expectations.  His genuine persona and true dedication to making music for all the right reasons really became evident hearing him talk and sing.  Not to mention that he and his band could jam out as well.  The musicianship itself was masterfully executed.  I consider 24 to be my favorite television show of all time, and have really enjoyed Kiefer’s acting in all of his many projects.  It was really enjoyable to see this actor also become a musician who I can respect now as well.  I look forward to hearing more Kiefer Sutherland music and will absolutely see him live again.


  1. Can’t Stay Away
  2. I’ll Do Anything
  3. Truth In Your Eyes
  4. Not Enough Whiskey
  5. Going Home
  6. Shirley Jean
  7. The Bottle Let Me Down (Merle Haggard Cover)
  8. Saskatchewan
  9. Calling Out Your Name
  10. Ways To Be Wicked
  11. All She Wrote
  12. Down In A Hole
  13. Rebel Wind
  14. Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot Cover)
  15. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan Cover)

Zac Brown Band is Welcomed Home by New Hampshire

Zac Brown Band 

Bank of NH Pavilion, New Hampshire

Memorial Day Weekend 4 Night take Over

by Jody Smith

Sometimes less is more.  Zac Brown Band (ZBB) proved once again they can play to any crowd they want and not just the biggest stadium shows every single show.   The capacity at the Bank Pavilion in New Hampshire is only 8,300 and ZBB first played there in 2008 (a year that ZBB only had 41 concert appearances).  On those two days (yes I was there) he played with several acts, as at the time, none had enough to fill up a show.  It was clear then and still true today that, musically, this group had major range and energy.  On this fateful night, one of four in a row, ZBB showcased their range and mastery for a New England crowd who ate it right up.

Yes, I tend to be a creature of habit…. Some might call them issues …. I have seen the Grateful Dead over 100 times, Jimmy Buffett over a 100 times and, yes, have seen ZBB probably more than the average person. This does tend to make you recognize the good shows from the bad.  One of the cool things about a ZBB show is the diversity of music and attendees. How often are you going to see a 50+ year old hanging out in the Pit dancing alongside most that are half their age? You will at ZBB.  There where kids in the crowd with their grandparents as well as many Military folks in their Dress Blues (and yes of course they were recognized by ZBB, and, some of us in between).


The first night’s show was a tribute to ZBBs’ talented band and music of all genres as everyone in the band’s talents were on display. In cool ZBB fashion, Darrell Scott opened the show and during his final song, the entire ZBB came out to perform with him.  Without taking a break they jumped right in to Uncaged and we are off and running.   None of the 8,000+ sat for the next 25 songs which included ZBB songs of new and old plus eight covers.  The early part of the show left no chance for a breath, as Uncaged, as well as covers of Kashmir and The Devil Went Down to Georgia where all performed without a break.  This was truly a tribute to that classic performance style and it was concluded with fiddler, Jimmy De Martini, brining the house down on the Devil!

2 places at 1 time, Keep me in Mind, and Toes followed, in case you were somehow getting tired.  Next was another new song, Family Table (which do yourself a favor an listen to, wow underrated song for sure) followed by (love it or hate it) what has become a ZBB staple cover of Bohemian Rhapsody.  Without a break, the band jumped into one of their biggest hits to date, Colder Weather.  Up next was a true highlight of the show, an amazing cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s Whipping Post, which, to my ear, included a snippet of Midnight Rider. With the death of Gregg Allman that very same weekend, this cover felt all that more meaningful and the band executed it masterfully.

ZBB, as always, recognized our country’s veterans during their rendition of the Jason Isbell penned Dress Blues.  This always proves to be a moment that brings tears from the crowd.  What followed was a trio of fun  Homegrown, Real Thing and Loving You is Easy, followed by their current single, the stripped back, My Old Man.  If you were tired it’s too bad as Roots (rumored to be the band’s next single off Welcome Home), followed by an island song medley of Jump Right In /Castaway/Where the Boat Leaves From/Knee Deep.  Of course, ZBB had to play their first ever hit, Chicken Fried, as that ended their set before coming out for a two song encore.  This included an acoustic performed of John Prine’s All The Best followed up by a bombastic cover of Enter the Sandman.

The crowd shuffled out and, once again, nobody left disappointed. It’s not really a secret that Zac Brown and his band have become one of my favorites, so I am sure some may read this with some bias. It is also not a stretch to say that, although they may not win the Grammy’s or CMA entertainer of the year, ZBB continues to be the most talented collection of musicians and entertainers on tour. The Jekyll and Hyde Tour was not for all, but, do yourself a favor and don’t miss the Welcome Home Tour,  because they have gone back to their Roots!