Conor Oberst

July 21st, 2008: As seen on SPIN (PDF)

What? Tapping into the same spiritual curiosity he sought in a town full of psychics on Bright Eyes’Cassadaga, Conor Oberst seeks solstice in the footsteps of Mexican lore, ditching longtime producer Mike Mogis’ genius for an unadorned, hee-haw Americana jam session; a far enough departure from Bright Eyes’ decade-plus formula for the Omaha native to dub his new project a “solo” affair. Set amidst a “mystic valley,” Conor and his new crew — aptly dubbed the Mystic Valley Band — sling crunchy electric guitars and country yelps, from the Tom Petty power strums of “Moab” to slower moonlight fingerpicks of “Lenders In The Temple.” And though certainly a genre-based hootenanny, the new set is full of the troubadour’s trademark cathartic wit.

Who? Conor Oberst, a founding member of Saddle Creek Records best known for vocal temper tantrums and orchestral lulls, quickly became a guiding voice for troubled 20-somethings while still a teenager, as critics aligned his name with Bob Dylan’s thanks to his lyrically heady albums under the Bright Eyes moniker. And with his eponymous debut, Oberst opts to momentarily ditch his label, longtime stage name, and friend/producer/guitarist Mike Mogis to form the Mystic Valley Band — essentially a crew of sometime collaborators Nick Freitas (guitar), Jason Boesel (drums), Macey Taylor (bass), Taylor Hollingsworth (guitar), and Nate Wolcott (trumpet).

Fun Fact? Recording locale Tepoztlán, Morelos, México, is known by locals as a “Pueblo Mágico” for its history of Aztec magic and UFO sightings. And the temporary studio Conor and crew constructed in its valley, rightly dubbed “Valle Mistico,” a.k.a. “Mystic Valley,” stuck with the songwriter’s team of musicians, hence their adopted collective christening.

Now Hear This: Conor Oberst, “Danny Callahan” (DOWNLOAD MP3)

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