Music

With a swagger and a stomp

Blitzen Trapper takes a subtle shift towards the blues on new album

Blitzen, blazin'Blitzen, blazin'

For a band that’s spent more than a decade spelunking the pedways between the grandstanding towers of Americana—from its 2003 self-titled debut, through the four-track finesse of Wild Mountain Nation and psych-folk wanderings of Furr, on to its most recent, more polished releases—it seems fairly natural that Blitzen Trapper might find itself tapping into another of the genre’s foundational veins for fresh direction.

After all, the Portland-based quintet’s always made fluid, intuitive and mostly subtle shifts in sound, seemingly content to branch out along the natural fractals of its chosen palette rather than try to work a hard left turn. All of which seems to stem from band leader Eric Earley’s relaxed approach to settling on an album’s track list.

“I usually have a lot of songs,” Earley begins on a crackly, inconsistent cellphone, on the road somewhere between Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania. “I usually pick and choose out of those 25 or whatever songs, what I want the record to be. [The albums] kinda just evolve out of that.”

 

On VII, that evolution finds Blitzen Trapper driving the dusty back roads of American blues: the album’s seeped in bassy swagger and rhythmic stomp, bolstered by slide guitar backings, waves of harmonica and organ—even some rapid speak-singing pops up.

It’s a sound that pairs well with the open air. Fittingly then, that the band now finds itself in festival season, doing shows not just in bars and clubs, but outdoor stages, too.

“It’s definitely a different vibe,” Earley says, of the festival circuit. “I like festivals; I’ve kind of gotten used to them. They’re a different kind of show. But you’re able to play to a much wider audience at those kind of events. It’s definitely a cool interaction.”

“All the sets are a bit shorter, so you kinda tailor to it that outdoor audience a little bit,” he adds. “But we kind of just do our thing, regardless.”

Wed, Jun 18 (8 pm)
Blitzen Trapper
With guests
Starlite Room, $21.50

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