Although it would be a misnomer to define Bright Eyes as a pop sensation, in recent years, its musical mainstay, Conor Oberst, has moved his ever-shifting ensemble more toward the mainstream. Their last album, Cassadaga, proved to be their most accessible yet, an apt follow-up to the band's true breakthrough disc, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, which was released simultaneously with Digital Ash in a Digital Urn in 2005. So with the group's critical kudos reaching a fevered pitch, it would seem the prospect of a solo venture by Oberst would be somewhat superfluous. Reflective and more organic, Oberst's self-titled set wasn't so much a reinvention as a means of restating the obvious — that when it comes to insurgent attitude and lo-fi intention, Oberst defies the slacker sensibilities of his 20-something peers. He may be older and wiser now that he's approaching 30, but he sounds as inspired as ever. The Felice Brothers, Oberst's support band on his current tour, parlay a homegrown ethic all their own. Raised in the Hudson Valley region of upstate New York — the same fertile area that spawned Dylan's legendary Basement Tapes and the Band's archetypical Music From Big Pink in the late '60s — they parlayed those sturdy influences into their critically acclaimed, self-titled third album, released last spring. Consider this combination an ideal evening of Americana.
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