Sadler Vaden Shows He’s More Than Support Player For Isbell on Self Titled Solo LP (ALBUM REVIEW)

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Sadler Vaden’s new self titled solo outing is a reflection of lessons learned. The most obvious of those is, of course, his role as chief guitar slinger with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and, before that, as hired gun with Drivin N Cryin. Early on, he led his own power trio dubbed Leslie. The album is also a summation of the hard scrabble life he led while growing up, when he lost his father to alcoholism and, three years later, his mother to her battle with cancer. It’s also about the people he met along the way, particularly those characters who he grew up around in his hometown of Charleston South Carolina.

Still, this eponymous effort mostly offers evidence of the way Vaden has come into his own as a singer and a songwriter. A series of concise rockers and ballads, it finds him pursuing a well heeled formula, one that results in one engaging track after another, with the not-so-hidden influences of Zeppelin, the Black Crowes and Neil Young frequently coming to the fore. That’s what gives songs such as “You Can’t Have It All,” “Get You High” and “Into the Woods” a certain air of familiarity to accompany their anthem-like overtures. Granted, Vaden’s writing doesn’t necessarily breech any boundaries, but it’s also consistently articulate and satisfying all the same.

Ultimately, the album’s strongest tracks are those that delve into reflection, particularly the softer songs “Greta” and “Chameleon.” They allow opportunity to negate the rousing revelry in favor of more melodic musings. So while Vaden may find himself best suited as a support player for the time being, evidence suggests that at some point he’ll also elevate his standing and retake the helm. A terrific stock of songs, Sadler Vaden does its namesake proud.

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