When Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, Jim James of Morning Jacket and M Ward united for a Hootenanny-style tour in 2004 they found that they not only shared musical sensibilities, but collaborated well enough to suggest that they would work together in the future.
Since then, they’ve been so busy that it’s surprising they found the time. That said, Oberst and Ward’s recent solo records have been disappointing; only My Morning Jacket have really progressed, albeit with a markedly different sound. Monsters Of Folk seems to have encouraged a raising of the group’s collective game. Though it’s tempting to guess the principal songwriters, it’s not always easy. There appears to have been a healthy amount of musical cross-pollination, the likes of Slow Down Jo having all the hallmarks of a Ward number, only to be derailed by a middle eight that evokes Bright Eyes’ Bowl Of Oranges.
Such is the pervading bonhomie, it’s difficult not to be reminded of The Traveling Wilburys as we’re swept away by the enthusiasm that drives James’ irresistible The Right Place. The record isn’t as concise as it could be, suggesting that democracy got in the way of quality control. Still, it’s mostly top-drawer, as much fun listening to as it evidently was to make.