Except when they don't. Which unfortunately is the case too often on Cassadaga.
It's not so much the fault of the players, who include such notables as alt-bluegrass songstress Gillian Welch, Tortoise percussionist John McEntire and ex-Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss. The blame lies in the arrangements, which range from country-tinged folk to folk-tinged country, rarely taking full advantage of the orchestra that frequently tags along.
Four Winds is a jolting country-rock jaunt that finds Oberst railing against, among other things, the Bible, the Koran and Satan. But elsewhere Oberst's politically charged screeds are hitched to tunes that can't work up the energy to match his rage. The 9-11 references on Cleanse Song just slip by amid drippy, overly familiar melodies and shambling percussion. The plodding dirge No One Would Riot for Less, which envisions a coming ecological apocalypse, feels dreary rather than ominous.
The sparkling instances when the whole crew is firing on all cylinders just about makes it worth enduring the lulls between them, but those lulls are far too prominent.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3