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Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band

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Saddle Creek rocker Conor Oberst has evolved through a number of incarnations in the last decade, ranging from emo poster boy (Bright Eyes) to sociopolitical punk rocker (Desaparecidos), most recently receiving acclaim in the indie-folk world as one of the sharpest lyricists around. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, his latest get-up, expands in the bluegrassy, folk-rock direction that Oberst has been pursuing by juxtaposing a sharp, cynical consciousness with a jittery alt-country sound. Outer South, the band's newest collaborative effort, seems to find Oberst abandoning his quavering, angst-ridden persona in favor of a more Dylan-flavored sound that allows for singing and songwriting contributions from Mystic Valley dwellers Jason Boesel, Nik Freitas and Taylor Hollingsworth. Now that Oberst's anguish is no longer the focus, there's a new type of confidence and swagger to this record, and this tougher alt-country act isn't one to be missed.

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