Even six years ago, when Conor Oberst was given the ill-suited "indie Bob Dylan" tag, it still seemed a long shot that the "boy genius" would ever rise above the Omaha underground and remain a lasting figure in the national spotlight. As he has done just that in recent years, though, a gradual but definite shift in musical style and persona has followed.
Under his Bright Eyes moniker, Oberst has blossomed from a lo-fi tapesmith crafting sprawling suburban folk-rock to somewhat of a song man in the same vein as so many guitar slingers before him, incorporating more conventional Americana (though that, admittedly, is an elusive genre) and bar-bred blues. On the other hand, Jenny Lewis made a name for herself as the disgruntled doll with the silver vocal chords for L.A. indie pop outfit Rilo Kiley, only to make a quick break for the Deep South with her 2006 solo album Rabbit Fur Coat.
Now, as they take the stage together at the Ryman posing a classic belle-beaux duet, they offer more than a hackneyed parroting of Grand Ole Opry novelty. Rather, theirs is an earnest nod to the musicianship found in more than a half-century of Nashville heritage. "The roots of gospel, folk and rock 'n' roll music are all there in the South, and all the records that I love and grew up listening to happen to be a part of that tradition," Lewis tells the Scene.
Read the entire story in this week's Scene.
Sun., Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m., 2008