Album Review: Blitzen Trapper – Black River Killer [EP]

Oregon royalty Blitzen Trapper has finally hit its mark. Over the better part of the decade, the Portland six-piece has been pushing hard for recognition with uniquely organic ’60s revival rock. It took the fourth album, Furr, to launch the band into indie fame last year, and with the help of the dark and murderous lead single, “Black River Killer”, people are now reaching for some Furr to warm them from a world of cold rock. A little over a year later that single is back in the form of a new EP that carries the 2008 torch, and delivers six new tracks to remind us why these guys are so damn good.

“Black River Killer”, for many people, was an introduction to Eric Earley’s surprisingly Dylan-like tone, and to a band that sounded like they ended up in the wrong decade. Huge country laced rock blowouts like “Sleepytime in the Western World” reminded us of The Band, with “Furr” on the other side bringing us to the ’60s Frisco folk scene. They are back to basic rock at its best.

In addition to the title track, six new, and all too quick, songs make up the collection. If you’ve seen the band live in the past year, the tracks may sound a little familiar. That’s because each of the songs have been a big part of the set during endless touring. To be honst, this EP’s been out for some time now, only in different forms and sold exclusively at shows. I guess all the positive feedback was the driving force behind the EP’s availability. Good thing too, because some of these songs are too good to miss.

Harmonica takes you into the meat of the EP with the softer “Silver Moon”, and the pace is kept with the piano-driven “Going Down”. The latter is given some subtle electronic touches for a unique highlight, but are otherwise everything we have come to expect from the band. These songs are of the slower, more folk oriented batch, with a dark undertone, exhibiting the bare bones of the bands’ song writing. “Shoulder Full of You” is a nostalgic love song with only a guitar carrying it through. The piano is fleeting, but adds plenty of depth to the song’s solemn atmosphere. “Preacher‘s Sister’s Boy” picks up the pace, for something along the lines of “God and Suicide” (off of Furr), and frankly, could be the better version of it.

A stark highlight for Black River Killer comes from the dark picking of “Black Rock”. A track like this has yet to be heard from the band, and that’s what makes it so compelling. The song describes a nightmarish western scene, alluding to dark skies and looming dangerous uncertainties. It’s some of Blitzen Trapper’s best work to date, but it’s all too short. My hope is the song is a prelude for something bigger to come. Capping off the EP is the Basement Tapes inspired “Big Black Bird”. It’s a group sing along, with fleeting solos, and haphazard harmonica that set a playful tone for the simple lyrics. The spirit of a late night jam session is alive and well with this one.

The new EP’s a bit darker and a bit slower, but just as captivating as anything these guys have done before. It’s a humbler set of songs that focus on the craft, with some selections showcasing the musicianship, and others the story telling. It’s a great companion to Furr, which makes me antsy for more.

Check Out:

Black River Killer [EP]


Follow Consequence