Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band | Outer South

Merge (2009)
By MIKAEL WOOD  |  May 12, 2009
2.5 2.5 Stars
"That's the thing about charisma," sings Conor Oberst in a song on his new, non–Bright Eyes release, Outer South. "It makes everyone believe." Dude is definitely right there: how else to explain the runaway popularity of Oberst himself, a man who escaped the self-pitying misery-folk underground through the sheer power of his new-Dylan magnetism?

It probably won't shock you to discover that no one in the Mystic Valley Band, which Oberst assembled to record and tour last year's excellent Conor Oberst, possesses half the frontman's charisma; the indie-rock gods can be pretty stingy with this stuff. Unfortunately, Oberst hands over half of Outer South to his bros anyway, and that gets us pleasant but unremarkable little ditties like "Big Black Nothing," guitarist Nik Freitas's country-rock rumination on the End, and "Difference Is Time," in which drummer Jason Boesel unveils his passable Leonard Cohen impression.

I'll admit it's kind of a kick to hear something as goofy as guitarist Taylor Hollingsworth's "Air Mattress" on a record with Oberst's mug on the cover. But I'd happily trade it for more tunes like "Cabbage Town," our headliner's bittersweet ode to his favorite Atlanta neighborhood.
Related: Taking care of business, Turn around . . ., Photos: Monsters of Folk at Orpheum Theatre, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Leonard Cohen, Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst,  More more >
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