by Jeb Gavin
Portland folk rock band Blitzen Trapper is set to play the Birchmere down in Alexandria tomorrow night, so in anticipation I’ve been listening to their back catalog. In case you’re unfamiliar, this is the band that pops up on your modern-folk Rhapsody channel sounding less skiffle-y than Mumford and Sons, less bluegrass-y than the Avett Brothers, and less wallflower-y than the Fleet Foxes. In fact, considering their criminally under appreciated 2011 effort American Goldwing, it seems Blitzen Trapper has broken hard back towards 1970s Southern folk rock, filling a niche left vacant by bands like Mountain, Blackfoot, and occasionally the Atlanta Rhythm Section. I, for one, welcome their new direction, but in case you’re wondering, here are a few personal favorites in no particular order:
- “Might Find It Cheap”
The lead off American Goldwing, and a prime example of the ’70s sound to which I referred. Pretty hard not to imagine this popping up somewhere on the anachronistic soundtrack of some terrible Dazed and Confused remake somewhere in the near future.
- “Black River Killer”
Who doesn’t love a murder ballad? What? Everyone in the 21st century, you say? Well, you’re all wrong. This is brilliant, and terrifying, no less so because you identify with the titular character by the end of the song.
The title track from their 2008 album, “Furr” was probably the first song people heard nationally from Blitzen Trapper. It’s a good start, a little magical realism, a few simple acoustic chords and sound effects, a little harmonica. Still not sure though–at the end of the song, is he a man, a wolf, a rattlesnake or fuel on the fire? Is it possible to be all of the above? Help me, Gabriel García Márquez to understand it all?!?
- “Love the Way You Walk Away”
Some might see the title as trite, but this track is an excellent example of the exact right amount of country you need in any one song. The shimmering cymbals and a wandering banjo underpin the lament and frustration of acknowledging your own failures as they pertain to another person better than trying it with a full orchestra (though it’d be fun to try. “See, the kettle drums represent that one time I got drunk at your folks’ house during Seder…”)
- “Wild Mountain Home”
What’s that? You wish you could listen to some new music from an American Beauty-era Dead, but pop-ier and not meandering? Take a trip in the wayback machine to 2007 and give this a listen.
AND NOW FOR THE TICKETS–to win a pair to see/hear/love Blitzen Trapper at the Birchmere tomorrow, let us know your favorite Blitzen Trapper song and why. Winner will be notified by the end of the day (be sure to use your real email).