I don’t tend to buy (or review) compilations here, or albums on major labels, but in the case of “Southern Family” I’m making an exception. Why? Well for one thing, it’s got my current favorite living singer/songwriter on it, Jason Isbell, offering an original ode to the salt of the Earth titled, “God is a Working Man.” For another, the songs by artists I’d never heard of–like Anderson East and Rich Robertson–are damn good. And how many times do you hear a song that shouts out to the North Carolina soda Cheerwine, like Shooter Jennings does on his contribution?
Sometimes, it feels like Americana has gotten to be a bit tired, with everyone trying to sound like Wilco, Ryan Adams or the Black Crowes. But then an album like this comes along, with simple “back porch” storytelling and it reminds me why I love this genre.