Blitzen Trapper, Wild & Reckless (LKC Recordings)
[TAME AND CAREFUL] There's a common joke about country albums that says if you play them backward, the singer gets his truck, dog, house and girlfriend back. In the case of Wild and Reckless, Blitzen Trapper's ninth full-length album, the outcome would be much less exciting.
Ostensibly a "rebels on the run" album, singer Eric Earley hangs his hat on the tired mysticism of the dusty road to redemption, spinning a yarn about a Hollywood coke dealer who convinces a reluctant lady friend that it's time to get gone. Hijinks involving trailer parks near Coos Bay and the "lights of an old Trans Am" occupy the album's first half, while ruminations on romance and the good old days punctuate the second. Regardless of whether or not Blitzen Trapper is the twangiest band in your library, you've definitely heard this one before.
Blitzen Trapper's greatest strength has been their pleasing synthesis of mixed-bag Americana, but on Wild and Reckless, their reliance on pastiche nearly turns them into an alt-country version of "rock revival" also-ran Jet. That band's ticket to fame was sounding just a little bit like a lot of familiar heroes, and in that regard, Wild and Reckless succeeds astoundingly. There's the outlaw shuffle of the album's opener "Rebel." There's the stomping, Petty-esque title track, an ode to youth. There's the painfully earnest Steve Miller sendup, "When I'm Dying." A smattering of mid-career Bob Dylan ditties fills the gaps.
The end result is a cohesive and pleasant whole that tells a colorful story. But Blitzen Trapper should know better than to play it so safe this late in their career.
SEE IT: Blitzen Trapper plays Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St. #110, with Lilly Hiatt, on Friday, Dec. 8. 9 pm. $26 advance, $29 day of show. All ages. Get tickets here.