Hailing from Portland, Oregon, and signed to the iconic Subpop Records, a label some of us still associate with Nirvana and many other purveyors of early-nineties grunge, Blitzen Trapper are a heady mixture of countrified indie-rock punctuated with a mild psychedelic noise.
Though operating with twin figureheads, nearly-namesakes in fact, one band member emerges as the sextet’s true star. With his harmonica and darkly brooding appearance, Eric Earley is a captivating Conor-Obert-does-early-Dylan. When Earley returned for a solo encore, to perform folky number ‘A Man Who Would Speak True’ - in his words ‘a new song, rarely performed’ - it was undoubtedly one of the evening’s most powerfully engaging moments.
Earley’s partner Erik Menteer - a ginger version of that guy from Eels, a bearded Art Garfunkel - ultimately provides quirky accompaniment: Krist Novoselic to Earley’s Kurt Cobain, if that isn’t too grand a comparison, although his telling and charismatic contribution on the title track from the band’s 2008 album Furr helped gain the biggest crowd response of the evening.
Often described as propagators of an aural Americana, rocker ‘Black River Killer’ brought to mind Dylan again, but this time the Desire-era of his masterpiece ‘Hurricane’, whereas ‘Not Your Lover’ was Neil Young and perhaps even a young Loudon Wainwright III.
Some tracks, such as ‘Lady on the Water’, miss the mark somewhat, and catchy opener ‘Gold for Bread’ was over before it really began; but, folky encore aside, it’s on the upbeat, funkier songs - ‘Sleepytime in the Western World’ being a prime example - that Blitzen Trapper particularly excel.
By Simon Riches. Image from Scott Butner's Flickrstream, reproduced under Creative Commons license.