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Isbell spent his childhood attending both the Pentecostal church and the stricter Church of Christ, which permitted only singing (no musical instruments).He got to know session bassist David Hood, the father of Drive-By Truckers co-founder Patterson Hood, because Hood was in the Florence, Alabama, area and played around town on Friday and Saturday nights in local restaurants and bars.

It took a while, but once he finally got up the nerve to tell them he played, they'd have him sit in with them, which resulted in friendship and mentorship.

Isbell recorded and contributed many songs to Drive-by Truckers for their next three albums, 2003's Decoration Day, 2004's The Dirty South, and 2006's A Blessing and a Curse.

His grandfather and uncle taught him to play various musical instruments, including the mandolin when he was 6 years old as it was easier for him to grip as a small child.

They enjoyed gospel, bluegrass, and the Grand Ole Opry. Isbell's paternal grandfather, who came from a musical family, was a Pentecostal preacher, who played guitar in church.

In 2014, his song "Cover Me Up" was used as the weather for the Welcome to Night Vale episode "Visitor".

Isbell's fifth solo record, Something More Than Free, was released on July 17, 2015, on Southeastern Records.In October 2017, Isbell was announced to be the official artist-in-residence at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.Isbell has stated on the importance of his northern Alabama roots: "I definitely don’t feel like I would be the musician that I am, or the type of songwriter, had I not come from that particular place," he says now.After renovation in the 1980s, the name was changed.Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's eponymous album was released on February 17, 2009, on Lightning Rod Records.In April 2016, Isbell appeared on the BBC live-music show Later With Jools Holland, singing "The Life You Chose", one of the tracks from Something More Than Free.

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