Even with such a heavy Truckers presence, Isbell has toned town the Truckers' Southern twang in favor of a more bluesy pop sound; the booming chords of album opener "Brand New Kind of Actress" are reminiscent of Cheap Trick's power pop, while "Shotgun Wedding" shimmers with its bright chords and bouncy melodies.
Those catchy pop songs might be "Sirens's" most instantly grabbing numbers, but Isbell is equally captivating in his quieter moments: The rolling, trancelike "The Magician" captures a serene road weariness, and "The Devil Is My Running Mate" recalls Josh Ritter's more melancholy songs. Isbell is at his most pensive on "Dress Blues," inspired by a classmate who joined the Marines and died in Iraq. Songs about the war seem to be sprouting faster than weeds, but Isbell's personal slant on the situation gives a powerful, sympathetic edge to an otherwise familiar theme.
-- Catherine P. Lewis