On October 14th, 2016 Conor Oberst presented a draft of Ruminations that demonstrated the basic simplicity and emotion it takes to produce original, entertaining and acoustic singer/songwriter music. As of March 17th, 2017 the project has been further edited and re-released as Salutations – a full-band, rejuvenated set of seventeen boisterous indie folk-rock songs. The supporting cast on this record is impressive and Oberst earns a top contender slot for one of Thank Folk For That’s album’s of 2017, with a little help from his friends: The Felice Brothers, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), M. Ward, Blake Mills, Gillian Welch, Gus Seyffert, Pearl Charles, Nathaniel Walcott and Jonathan Wilson.
This stellar revival of unfinished material even makes the familiar tunes sound brand new, because the other instruments add an immense amount of musicality on top of Oberst’s raw, original song structure. Track two, Gossamer Thin, is a true gem and the Salutations version is more memorable than that on Ruminations, particularly due to the studio elements that make the track much more enticing. One major highlight of the full band version is the skyrocketing high-pitched guitar riff that rings out as a major theme.
Oberst channels Bob Marley with a folk reggae introductory beat and bass groove on Overdue. The groggy vocals are an interesting mix of the new reggae style. The sing along chorus and fun vibe of the song makes the track one of the most memorable songs on the album. Next Of Kin then presents a stoned out tempo, slower version than the original demo on Ruminations. Again, the full band track holds more weight because of the supporting instruments, which create a way more exciting and attractive vibe. Oberst’s harmonica solo is the same on both versions of the song but is more enjoyable on Salutations, as the melody fits better with the slower tempo and sticks out amongst the other musical phrases.
Track six, Napalm, is a brand new song that didn’t appear on Ruminations. The song shows the louder, more aggressive folk rock style of Conor Oberst and mixes up the mood of the album. With crashing snare drums, distorted electric guitars, heavy toned keyboard effects and screeching violins, this song begs more material from the supergroup Monsters of Folk, formed by Oberst, James and M. Ward.
Barbary Coast (Later) is a particular favorite song on both Ruminations as well as Salutations. This track is a perfect study of the stages of songwriting and fulfilling the perfect sound for Oberst’s genius lyrics and powerful, poignant acoustic guitar rhythm. The harmonica solos truly stand out on this song as Oberst powers through fierce buzzing and proves his breath control stamina.
Conor Oberst has delivered another hit record and is sure to stir up major news for this hot, fresh batch of feel good jams.
Scott J. Herman