I am among the many people who read, specially preceding this album's release, much about Oberst's talent, before listening to what he has to offer here. In general, passionate praise for a new musician -particularly when compared to legends like Dylan- has a negative effect on me. I'm more likely to grow skeptical and doubt their value than embracing them, blinded by positive reviews. "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" is an absolute exception to my usual incredulity. I must say I was deeply gratified to see that it lived up to the hype. I would still not compare him to Dylan -to me, one of the greatest American songwriters who ever lived- yet there are other talented people who do come to mind, with whom reasonable comparisons can be made. Most recently, in terms of remarkable new voices, Ryan Adams comes to mind. Like Adams, Oberst already shows a depth of feeling beyond his years, and a breadth of musical interests that are beyond average. It does not hurt either, although it would not establish a parallel, that Emmylou Harris offered his voice to both artists' recordings, I think too highly of Ms. Harris to assume that she'd agree to sing here for any other reason than admiration for this young man's songs. This album is incredibly mature, both musically and lyrically. It is clearly the work of someone who feels deeply the high and low moments of being alive -then again, most people do- what I'm impressed about is that it does not deteriorate into an emotional private diary, which although meaningful to the person writing it, usually holds very little value to the rest of us. Songs like "We Are Nowhere And It's Now" and "Old Soul Song (For The New World Order" -both with Emmylou Harris in vocals- are stunning examples of this guy's talent. Moving, emotionally daring, and wise enough to mean something personal to the listener. "Train Under Water," "Landlocked Blues" and "Road To Joy" are also great tunes, showing that this guy has assimilated his influences fully, and already sound like himself, rather than offering merely reminders of other, more established people. In this sense, in my opinion, he may be ahead of Ryan Adams, at the same point in his career. And then there is "Lua" ... what an extraordinary song! This is one of the most vulnerable, yet wise songs about a break up that I heard in a long time. Oberst manages to show the pain, risk remaining innocent, and yet craft a piece that should mean something to everyone who's ever been in love. This song alone, and I know it may sound rather an abused line, it's enough to justify getting this album. I had already liked earlier albums by Bright Eyes and sensed that there was a talented musician behind it, yet this CD has more than confirmed it. It is exquisite and imperfect, the way life is. And if you are courageous and talented enough to talk about it, it is nothing else than a gift. "Wide Awake, It's Morning" is one of those gifts.
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