Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews


I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Author: Michael Schoeck
01/26/2005 | | | Album Review
Conor Oberst starts off disc one of his two new albums, the folk/country album, “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning,” with a two-minute anecdote a la Ryan Adams about a plane carrying a young woman, soon to be married. Nearly plummeting into the sea before the folk song begins, the 24-year-old crooner begins strumming as the story turns from disaster into the girl’s surprise birthday party. Featuring My Morning Jacket front man Jim James on harmony vocals, “At The Bottom of Everything” is a guitar and mandolin roots-rich folk ditty reminiscent of the Billy Bragg and Wilco “Mermaid Avenue” collaborations with unearthed Woody Guthrie prose.

“Wide Awake” is a fresh breath of air in the Bright Eyes catalog. The EP teasers for both new albums, with singles “Lua” and “Take it Easy (Love Nothing),” amazingly broke out atop the Billboard Singles Chart in mid-November. Although not as sprawling and dense as the chamber-pop breakthrough on 2002’s “Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil,” “Wide Awake” is similar to the Bob Dylan returning to his roots on the late-seventies’ “Blood on the Tracks.” And to think, Dylan was pushing 40 at the time.

After nine minutes of steel guitars and country diva Emmylou Harris’ first guest appearance on “We Are Nowhere And It‘s Now,” Conor returns to his atypical live show demeanor on “Lua.” One of two odes to his new second home, Manhattan, “Lua” tells of the picaresque scene of the big city- heavy hearts, passing taxi cabs and self medication- “But me I’m not a gamble, you can count on me to split / If you promise to stay conscious I will try and do the same.”

“First Day of My Life” shifts back to the vintage shred of optimism and hints at the tell-tale love and consequences of Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain.” The Nebraskan confesses between rasps, humming and his voice-cracking fashion, “I’d rather be working for a paycheck then waiting to win the lottery.”

Another recent gem from the live Bright Eyes set, “Landlocked Blues” is a shimmering six-minute, too-many-verses-to-remember folk song with Emmylou Harris’ last guest appearance on lead vocals with Conor and a brief trumpet line by Nate Wolcott. The structure and tempo is most similar to some of the early Bright Eyes, like 2000’s “Something Vague.”

“Wide Awake” features the production and instrumentals of Mike Mogis, who has worked with the bulk of the Saddle Creek family as well as on “Lifted” and the other new electric Bright Eyes release, “Digital Ash.” Verve Records guitarist Jesse Harris, previously involved with Norah Jones’ Grammy-winner “Come Away with Me,” guests on the country stomp of “Another Travelin’ Song” with fellow Ferdinandos’ bassist Tim Luntzel.