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On a similar note, The Rain Follows the Plow closes with the line, “I know where I belong”.
The album is notable too for its sparse, uncomplicated arrangements, consisting of merely piano, acoustic guitar, Oberst’s naked voice and liberal use of harmonica.
And when he admonishes a self-absorbed drunk during “Enola Gay”’s rummy strut, it might just be himself.
The evocation of solitude in a crowded club links it back to his atomic self-pitying from , he wields populist observation like a politician, trying to utilize his homespun wisdom from an elevated plane.
He has, however, recently suffered one of the most challenging periods of his professional and personal life, and what has resulted is perhaps the most intimate, candid collection of songs of his career so far.
Opening with the lines, “Closing my eyes, counting sheep/Gun in my mouth, trying to sleep,” it is a genuinely shocking song, and testament to the honesty with which this album has been conceived.
It is always a possibility that a difficult road to recovery will pass through such challenging phases, but rarely does an artist so bravely expose them in their work.
He later sings, “I don’t want to seem needy to anyone, especially you”, and we assume he is talking to us (his commentary on the relationship between himself and his fans is another recurring motif on this album).
There are tracks where Oberst withdraws back into his more customary arms-length, storytelling mode – the Frank Lloyd Wright paean Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch), and the politically fuelled A Little Uncanny – but the lasting impression of Ruminations is of an artist that has forced himself to take a break from the showbiz circus, and reconnect with himself.
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The ultimate result of that process remains to be seen, but in the meantime, it has left us with a beautifully rendered, intimately personal collection of very fine songs indeed.