Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing

written by: September 19, 2011
Blitzen Trapper American Goldwing Album Cover Release Date: September 13, 2011


Anyone who has spent time in the American Southwest has likely developed an inadvertent penchant for Western things—prickly pear jelly, for example, or whiskey, air conditioning and country music.

There’s a good chance that penchant became an obsession for Blitzen Trapper. The Portland band’s sixth album, American Goldwing, takes a cowboy-sized leap from the psychedelic folk of Destroyer of the Void and the woodsy folk of Furr to the rock ‘n’ rollin’ Wild West.

“Might Find It Cheap” jump-starts the album, its first 10 seconds exploding with electric guitar, strings and heavy drums. It introduces a badass, neo-bluegrass sound. Blitzen Trapper have always been an Americana band, but it’s hard to believe this is the same group behind “Furr,” the beautiful, mellow, story-centric title track off the 2008 album. That track featured woodland-creature noises in its background. This track is indie-rock honky-tonk. If “Furr” was sweet, “Might Find It Cheap” is tangy—barbecue words lathered on a band from Oregon. (Oregon!)

Slide guitar, harmonica, banjo and piano rule the album, along with heartbreak lyrics and nostalgic melodies—well, ain’t that America?

On “Your Crying Eyes,” the band does all the right things with a harmonica, using the instrument for a jukebox-playin’ bar-fightin’ song, rather than a sappy, Bob Dylan-inspired track. Songwriting always has been a strong suit for Blitzen Trapper, and “Taking It Easy Too Long” finds lead singer Eric Earley connecting with disconnected 20-somethings, even while referencing whiskey and train tracks and other Hank Williams-esque things.

One wouldn’t think there would be many surprises with such a thematic album, but Blitzen Trapper jumps wildly from horse to horse, driving one song with harmonica heartbreak as it drives another with piano punching. With American Goldwing, the band begs to be seen live, tempting listeners with “Street Fighting Sun,” a rock jam with electric-guitar solos and falsetto. It’s enough to provoke ferocious head-bobbing and hair-flipping on pool tables. The album ends on “Stranger in a Strange Land,” a Dylan-inspired bummer ballad because every night has its dawn. Just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad song.

Does it get tired? Sure. Anyone who’s really been to the desert knows those desert things—the jelly and the whiskey—eventually become novelty. American Goldwing is a damn good romp and the perfect Arizona road-trip soundtrack, but it’s also the cowboy boots one wears once a year, only when the mood strikes.

Blitzen Trapper — American Goldwing Tracklist:

  1. “Might Find It Cheap”
  2. “Fletcher”
  3. “Love the Way You Walk Away”
  4. “Your Crying Eyes”
  5. “My Home Town”
  6. “Girl in a Coat”
  7. “American Goldwing”
  8. “Astronaut”
  9. “Taking it Easy Too Long”
  10. “Street Fighting Sun”
  11. “Stranger in a Strange Land”