The buzz surrounding Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit’s third trip to Telluride is palpable. The band, which will perform Saturday, January 7 at the Sheridan Opera House, has made profound inroads into the psyches of Telluride music scenesters who have now absorbed a pair of riveting local shows and two solid recordings.

One KOTO DJ declared Isbell’s newest release, Here We Rest, his best so far, and the album’s lyrically potent, rock-country songs are getting lots of airplay.

And for good reason. Here We Rest’s songs are rife with poignant observations of the hardships of rural life: Isbell calls northern Alabama home and spent much of 2010 in that economically hard-hit part of the country. Time at home allowed him to decompress from the rigors of touring and reacquaint himself with the people and the places he knows. Always a keenly observant songwriter, Isbell deepened his songcraft by adopting points of view other than his own. He tackles heady issues such as the difficulties of a war veteran trying to transition back to a normal life and acknowledges through song, that relationships can suffer when a crumbling economy pulls the rug out from under you. We’re talking about the blues.

It’s tough stuff, to be sure, but with his exemplary band, The 400 Unit, providing the engine, his songs are shot through with power, grit and wary hope.

Isbell’s first stop in Telluride a few years ago was after his departure from Drive-By Truckers, a southern rock/alt-country band with a huge local following. That show, also at the Sheridan Opera House, gave notice that here was a musician on an upward trajectory with plenty of new ideas to build upon his already impressive body of work with the Truckers.

And just last fall, his main stage performance at the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival riveted the crowd. Isbell and The 400 Unit delivered an urgent, powerful set that still has people talking. This third appearance, again in the intimate, acoustically divine Opera House, is nothing short of a gift.

One in which Isbell’s guitar playing takes on a more incendiary rock and roll feel to support the urgency and yearning of his new songs, his band’s prowess cannot be understated. The 400 Unit is Chad Gamble (drums), Browan Lollar (guitars), Jimbo Hart (bass) and Derry Deborja (keyboards).

Tickets for Saturday’s show are $25 for both general admission seating and standing and are available at www.sheridanoperahouse.com

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