outersouthOuter South is the first official release from Nebraska based singer/songwriter Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band (Nik Freitas, Taylor Hollingsworth, Jason Boesel and Macey Taylor). It’s a true collaboration, as six of the sixteen tracks were written by Oberst’s bandmates, with one song, “Worldwide,” written by Oberst for Taylor to sing. Oberst and the band sound pretty great together, and at their most inspired moments, they recall great bands like Neil Young and Crazy Horse or Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I imagine that they will make a terrific live band. So the music making certainly isn’t an issue on Outer South; what is an issue, however, is that the superb musicianship on display here is in the service of an album that is frequently meandering and unfocused. The record as a whole never really finds a tone, and instead jumps from song to song, which works fine for a while, but then starts to sound a bit haphazard over its 70 minute length. Lyrically, it’s a bit haphazard, too, Oberst’s material as well as that of his band mates. The lighter material (i.e. “Air Mattress,” “Nikorette”) often seems to work the best, as the weighty material gets bogged down somehow or just falls flat. All that said, as uneven and flawed as Outer South is, there are enough high points to merit a listen, as the good tracks are very good, and it’s fun to hear how well they have clicked as a band. It may not be a great album, but it has enough moments of promise to make me look forward to what they come up with the next time out. Standout cuts: “Slowly (Oh So Slowly),” “To All The Lights In The Windows,” “Air Mattress,” and “Nikorette.”