Mar 17, 2017 Web Exclusive
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As he croons away with that weather-beaten voice and twinkle-eyed cynicism, it's easy to forget Conor Oberst is only 37. A ubiquitous figure on the indie scene for decades, the man from Nebraska has released roughly an album every year since his 1993 debut. Having used various musical incarnations, Salutations finds him under his own name again for 17 mostly rollicking songs. Ten of them are full-band versions of songs originally found on last year's solo acoustic album, Ruminations, and the other seven are new compositions.
With so much output already, Oberst's style, clever lyrics and wide-ranging interests hardly come as a surprise. His country-tinged folk-rock has been honed over the years with only subtle alterations. Salutations has him again plowing his well-trodden furrow, working through topics from death to politics, the grind of life, and love. Love, happy or otherwise, is never far from Oberst's mind. While you might find him singing "It's hard but they must/Risk it all for love" on "Gossamer Thin," he's just as likely to offer conflicted sentiments. Album closer "Salutation" sees him whispering "I want to hold you till the world dissolves/But we just can't get attached."
Whatever the topic, the sound rarely turns dark. There's a live album feel most of the time. It's possible to imagine Oberst holding court on Honky Tonk Highway in Nashville; the crowd lapping up toe-tapping numbers full of guitars, violins, and harmonica. Only occasionally does he puncture the mood with downbeat turns that will have fans swaying side-to-side drunkenly lamenting another lost soul.
As is often the case with Oberst, there are too any tracks, every half-thought included. It does allow a litany of references from Timothy Leary to Patti Smith, Heinrich Himmler, Sylvia Plath, Christopher Hitchens, and the Dalai Lama, however, and it doesn't matter too much anyway. Not when Oberst and his merry players keep bringing the tunes. (www.conoroberst.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10
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