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August 19th, 2009 CASEY JARMAN | Music Stories
 

CD Review: Blitzen Trapper

Black River Killer (Sub Pop)

     
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[FUZZY AMERICANA] When Blitzen Trapper released its Sub Pop debut, Furr, last year, the title track turned a lot of new ears toward the band. There’s a reason for that: “Furr” finds frontman Eric Earley channeling his inner Dylan to deliver a twisted coming-of-age narrative with a killer hook. The song wasn’t a departure for Blitzen Trapper so much as a clear-eyed distillation of the group’s folkiest works. Taken as a whole, the disc—true to BT’s track record—was a curious gumbo of influences both electric and acoustic.

“Black River Killer,” another Furr standout that now headlines the group’s new EP, is another crisp, acoustic story song. It’s a murder ballad that reminds one of Jim Croce and—it must be said—Everlast’s “What It’s Like,” with the pristinely produced BT cut prominently featuring what sounds like a G-funk synth whistle to go along with Earley’s near-spoken vocal delivery.

Having found success with these creepy twists on throwback Southern folk-rock, one wonders whether Blitzen Trapper will soon abandon its shred-heavy Mr. Hyde side entirely. And while the Black River Killer EP can’t exactly be submitted as evidence—it’s a collection of rarities from years past—it is the chillest and twangiest collection of songs BT has released to date. The distorted harmonica blasts on “Silver Moon” don’t cover the fact it’s a sweet, tightly constructed soft-rock anthem, and the stripped-down “Black Rock” is strikingly meditative.

Though “Big Black Bird” (yeah, there’s a “black” theme going here) ends the seven-song disc with some riffage, the tune is far more indebted to Skynard and Buffalo Springfield than Sonic Youth.

If this EP is a quick digression for BT, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable one. And if it’s meant as a transition toward a kinder, gentler forthcoming full-length? Hell, bring it on! At this point I’m pretty sure Blitzen Trapper knows best.


GET IT: Black River Killer comes out Tuesday, Aug. 25.
 
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