Jason Isbell’s lead guitarist serves up tuneful power pop
Sadler Vaden, “Anybody Out There?” (Dirty Mag Records)
Jason Isbell has been really rocking lately in concert, and here’s one reason: Sadler Vaden.
Isbell’s lead guitarist has the chops to match licks with the boss, which is saying something. But “Anybody Out There?” — the follow-up to Vaden’s 2016 debut album — is a tuneful power pop set that puts the emphasis on songs rather than solos.
It’s also of another era. “Good Man” quotes Tom Petty. “Tried and True” is built on Byrds-ian jangle. ”Modern Times” stirs fond nostalgia about MTV and wood blocks.
Vaden is equal parts John and George as he sings of love won, lost and under negotiation, displaying a versatile voice that’s effective at both ends of the dynamic range. He urges positivity on the ballad “Don’t Worry” and on the crunchy “Peace + Harmony,” which he co-wrote with Aaron Lee Tasjan.
“Peace + Harmony” seems to end prematurely, just as the dance floor might be starting to stir. Vaden prefers concise approach elsewhere as well, launching into only a couple of long guitar solos, both beauties. Check out an Isbell show for more of those.