One presumes that, 10 years into its
career, Blitzen Trapper would’ve found its sense of direction by now.
But on its seventh album, the band continues to experiment with its
homespun folk sound. The chiming organ on the Dylanish “Thirsty Man” and
knockabout “Shine On” ache a la the Band’s “Chest Fever,” while “Oregon
Geography” finds frontman Eric Earley rattling off his vocals like a
redneck Beck against a taut backdrop of ambient rain and fitful banjo.
“Earth (Fever Called Love)” takes another turn, opting for slinky
guitar, flute and synths that generate an almost hip-hop vibe, with
undercurrents of dark R&B. Despite those deviations, much of VII
sounds distinctly like the quirky, crunchy Americana most associate
with Blitzen Trapper. The country-creased sashay of “Don’t Be a
Stranger” and the swelling harmonies of “Ever Loved Once” remain the
best avenues for Earley’s foggy vocals and narrative wanderlust. Even if
it doesn’t pave new ground, the latter song, in particular, is arguably
some of his finest work.
HEAR IT: VII comes out Tuesday, Oct. 1, on Vagrant Records.