By Robert Ham: On the one hand, it is disappointing to hear how sedate Blitzen Trapper has become relative to the eclectic start that sparked the band’s recent successes. Their first batch of albums found this sextet jumping joyfully all over the map from blues-y acoustic breakdowns to trudging T. Rex-style rock to weather-beaten indie pop. Yet, their last album Furr, and the majority of their latest LP, is given over to fairly straitlaced folk-rock that could easily populate a dusty corner of Neil Young’s Archives.
The other side of the coin is that they do the sun kissed Laurel Canyon shuffle so very well. And Eric Earley is an unnaturally talented songwriter whose nature-driven explorations of the heart and the soul can wrap around your pleasure center like tendrils if you’ll let them. It’s what makes Furr and this follow-up such delights to experience.
It’s a funny thing considering the group opens up this new album with one of their most ambitious recordings to date: a six-minute long, multi-tiered epic that opens up with Queen-like a cappella vocals that give way to swaggering rock and blasts of prog greatness. Listening to the group throw themselves so fully into the experience is thrilling and makes the potential of seeing the Blitzen boys pull it off in concert even more so.
The rest of the album stays the course of the ’70s influenced trail Early and co. have created. It feels comfortable and slightly worn like a favorite chair or a pair of jeans. And there’s plenty of room to breathe between the chugging guitar lines and hip-shaking rumble – the gorgeous duet between Early and Alela Diane on “The Trees” and the piano, vocals, and strings weeper “Heaven And Earth” are particular standouts. It makes for a full well-rounded album that is an immensely satisfaction to let simmer in the background or play full blast.