2007 was a wild year for Jason Isbell. After leaving the Drive-By Truckers that April, he went solo and released his first album Sirens of the Ditch in July. With deep southern rock roots and the soul of Muscle Shoals, Ala., it turned the heads of critics and fans alike, while its lyrics catapulted Isbell into the stratosphere of songwriters like John Prine, Bob Dylan, and Lucinda Williams.
Today Noisey is premiering “Crystal Clear,” a previously unreleased track about meth: Using it, making it, seeing people lose a lot of weight in a small amount of time because of it. “I thought your mama raised you better than this,” Isbell sings, a line that could speak for the majority of themes in Isbell’s songwriting that unfortunately came out a bit too late to be considered foreshadowing. Isbell’s voice is weaker in this song (and throughout this album) than it is in his more recent ones, which only adds to his mythology. Isbell has publicly spoken about his struggle with alcoholism and drug use, and having a physical reminder of that moment in his life sealed for eternity in wax grooves is a very sweet reminder that even the best go through the worst and whether your struggle is self-imposed or not, you can always keep going. Listen below.