Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews


One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels

Author: Paddy S. Burke
03/29/2010 | | | Album Review
Originally released in 2004 as a six track EP, 'One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels' is a collaboration between Conor Oberst's Bright Eyes and fellow Nebraskans Neva Dinova, led by Jake Bellows. The EP has had four brand new tracks added, making it into a ten song album, with Oberst and Bellows taking lead vocals on alternate tracks while musicians from both bands play throughout.

The result isn't quite as it first appears. Neva Dinova have been around since the early part of the decade, releasing their first album on tiny independent Crank! in 2002. Only in 2008, however, did the Oberst-run Saddle Creek Records pick them up, and having followed an album release with a decision to re-package their earlier output, the beef up and reissue of 'One Jug…' may be part of this process.

But an exercise in completeness this is not. Though Bright Eyes had already hit the limelight before this EP, with 2002's 'Lifted' album, most Oberst collectors will have jumped from there straight to 2005's 'I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning', leaving 'One Jug…' a little in obscurity. And even in today's technological age, where a dip into any streaming website might give the curious fan a taste to see whether a retrospective purchase is worthwhile, a cursory listen of 'One Jug…''s initially superficial Americana might see them moving swiftly on.

Which would be unjust, because this newly promoted long player rewards a little patience. Neva Dinova have a brand of small-town bar room country rock which, to the non-American ear, can sound bland at first, but which on closer inspection will have you reaching for your lumberjack shirt, baseball cap and six pack and dreaming the American dream with the best of them. Something in Bellows' tales of love (Someone's Love), drunkenness (Tripped), heartbreak (Rollerskating) and more drunkenness (Poison), all set across a smoky all-American bar, give an insight into just why such an enormous population is obsessed with music of such formulaic simplicity.

Meanwhile, Oberst is on finest, understated form, keeping his signature whining and screaming to a minimum, and letting his songs do the talking. Happy Accident could sit proudly on any Bright Eyes album, but it's on the likes of I Know You and closer Spring Cleaning, where an effort has been made to move towards the Neva Dinova and overall Omaha sound, that the real treasure is to be found; the former being an epic ode hung around a single chorus line which builds to a rousing conclusion, the latter a gentle lullaby showcasing just how versatile his voice can be if he occasionally lets go of that trademark needy mither. Likewise, the fact that Black Comedy is played with Neva Dinova's country chug, rather than the instruments Oberst might usually reach for, shows him and the rest of us how effective his songs can be with a little variety to the backing.

By no means an appropriate Bright Eyes introduction, but those with a rooted respect for the man will find another tick against his name here.