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Album review: Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band's 'Outer South'

Outer_south_240_ "Outer South," Conor Oberst’s new dusty rock caravan with the Mystic Valley Band, doesn't have a single sulky teenager sentiment in it, not one diary-cribbed confession that would prompt the parents to hide every liquor bottle in the house and speed-dial the family therapist.

Oberst is nearly 30 now but "Outer South" pleads a case for the onetime wunderkind to get back in touch with the affection-starved, ragingly insecure teenager he was in the early days of Bright Eyes, the marquee band of Saddle Creek's now-matured Nebraska scene.

The 16 songs vary in tone, from grease-and-nicotine-stained jams to spit-shined ballads, but too little of it is adroit enough in construction or execution to stick in the craw. Even "Roosevelt Room," Oberst's stab at Dylanesque political outrage, flames too brightly with no gradations.

If only Oberst had seared more of his sirloin-steak country-rock with a fraught sense of place, the "Outer South" of his title that's left largely unexplored. "Cabbage Town" is named for a bohemian enclave in Atlanta, the symbolic city of the gentrifying South caught between multilane highways and neon-sign honky-tonks, a place where the foul-mouthed baby artists gather to play cards and take drugs in the old shotgun houses.

When Oberst sings over dive-bar-sloppy keys, "I'm going to love you like the New South," it's not exactly a compliment, but he does mean forever -- big-box stores and all.

-- Margaret Wappler

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
"Outer South"
Merge Records
Two stars

Comments () | Archives (5)

Eh, to be honest, I could take or leave this album. I'm really into the more upbeat Conor, but unfortunately I think people are a little confused by it. We're all used to the deep, intense Conor that we know and love with the rest of Bright Eyes, and it's hard to grasp the full concept of his voice put to a more country/southern track. I'm also slightly disappointed by the fact that he doesn't sing on all of it. The songs without Conor just sound like the basic country song with a small indie injection, and that's not what I expected when I first listened to the album. All-in-all, it's not a poor album by any means, it's simply what Conor wanted and was aiming for. I can appreciate the heart and thought that obviously went into making this a sixteen track album, and redefining the stereotypical boundaries. Maybe this new sound will grow on me. So, definitely worth the free download, but maybe not worth the purchase.

I started listening to Conor with his "I'm wide awake..." album. Honestly, he gets better with each project. I think he is really growing as an artist. I could care less about people complaining about how Conor does not sing on every track on this album. I love the Non-Conor songs too. I mean, how could you not like Air Mattress and Bloodline? I think if he named it the Traveling Mystic Band, maybe people would get it. This is his Traveling Wilburys Album. Kudos! 4.5 stars out of 5!

it should be said that this album is at least interesting.

i loved "conor oberst." i was very excited for this album because i figured that it would be a continuation of the countryish sounds that were explored on that album. i will say that i am a little disappointed by "outer south."

this album feels like an experiment. all of the songs are so different from eachother: some are rock, some are country, some are pop, but throughout the album there is a large bob dylan feel.

it's very compelling to listen to the transitions of conor oberst over time. i am bittersweet about his escape from the teenaged angst, but i feel that it has allowed for a much stronger artist.

this album is by no means the best album by conor oberst, or even amazing musically. diehard fans of bright eyes will probably not enjoy it too much, but i find joy in the experimentation that the band explores. overall, i feel that this album is great for those who are interested in conor oberst's music and willing to deal with the vast changes that he has made in his musical style.

i think that oberst is regressing musically as he progresses as a human being. after listening to "digital ash in a digital urn" all evening and then playing a few of the "outer south" tracks, i cannot help but wish that oberst would would drop the "mystic valley band" somewhere in the desert and start exploring broader soundscapes again.

I've been a fan of Conor since Fevers & Mirrors a decade ago, the greatest height was the day I'm wide awake.. & Digital ash.. both came out on the same day. The decline in my opinion started with Cassadaga and then once he started playing with the Mystic Valley Band, it has really gone to hell. He lacks all the fire that he once breathed out his mouth and I would have never imagined he would actually sing in a song about being "a millionaire." His ego is out of control and the guys that make up his band are a bunch of little bitches. So sad, I thought Conor would never turn into anything like this!!


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