by John Schacht
Only the participating parties really know whether Jason Isbell left the Drive-By Truckers because his marriage to bassist Shonna Tucker was falling apart or because there wasn't enough room in Dodge for three talented songwriters. Either way, the split seems to have served all the protagonists well, musically speaking. Isbell might not be the born storyteller than Patterson Hood is, or have that natural George Jones country thing down like Mike Cooley, but he has a leg up on his ex-mates in terms of simple songcraft. His early solo work was more rock-based and seemed an extension of his Truckers' role, but since then, he's developed a niche purely his own. That's evident in his wistful 2011 album Here We Rest, where Isbell created a gorgeous paean to Alabama that balances his home state's rich musical pedigree of rollicking Muscle Shoals soul and rural country folk. That LP cracked the top 100 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart, and "Alabama Pines" was named Song of the Year at the Americana Music Awards. Lesson being, breaking up may be hard but sometimes it's for the best. With Communist Daughter. $15. Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m. Visulite Theatre, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. 704-358-9200. www.visulite.com.