Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing (Sub Pop)

September 12, 2011 by  

Once upon a time, in the midst of a supposedly wondrous but almost entirely imaginary musical equilibrium, acts with an attached ‘alternative’ sticker graciously met expectations of mould-breaking freedom. These days, the tiniest mention of the word could have exasperated audio purists in a furious flap. Sadly, tired ideas and ludicrous genre-merging mean that outfits such as Blitzen Trapper, who are often labelled as ‘alternative country’ are rarely rewarded the glance they deserve. Which, considering the pleasure their music dishes out to the loyal or brave, is a terrible shame.

‘American Goldwing’ which is the band’s sixth release, gleefully replaces ugly connotations of the unwanted alternative with a perceptive twist on tradition. The finished piece, which mirrors singer / songwriter Eric Earley’s mission statement of ‘Trying to evoke a true American nostalgia’, is stuffed to the brim with camp fire cheer and hearty ballads.

The Oregon-based five piece follow their 2010 release ‘Destroyer Of The Void’ tremendously this year, as they continue their comforting band of Americana. With a steady, gentle pace and a lonesome strum, tracks such ‘Taking it easy too long’ hark beautifully to a simpler era of musical thrills. Some of the finest music, after all, is that which, for eleven tracks at least, kidnaps your thoughts. Indeed, it is easy to imagine the very same horse taking its rider to his birthplace in ‘My Home Town’ impatient and kicking at the dirt as two lovers squint at the stars in ‘Girl In A Coat’. Both are equally masterful; the former’s soothing vocals dapple a plodding acoustic riff, while the latter, with occasional spots of ukulele, is sweetly sentimental. It is essential, however, that Blitzen Trapper allows for variation in the softest of their songs; tracks such as ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ and ‘Astronaut’ begin well but eventually become a little repetitive.

With the gloriously upbeat ‘Fletcher’ comes a hint of the mistakenly dreaded alternative. Nestling amongst sing-along smiles and solid vocals is a subtle seventies squeak. This unexpected but brilliantly fitting attribute leaks all over Blitzen Trapper’s latest work and is most prominent on ‘Street Fighting Sun’. The track, which is second to last on the album, is littered with the sort of fringe-shaking instrumental portions favoured by legendary supergroup Cream and progressive rock heroes Atomic Rooster. More sprawling solos can found on opener and obvious standout ‘Might Find It Cheap’, which stubbornly proves how effective a dab of alternative can be.

In spite of a pinch of minor flaws, Blitzen Trapper are a reassuringly talented outfit. With fresh ideas and nostalgia on their side, their future couldn’t look brighter.


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