New Country Twang Jam From Denver

Having seen Austin band Crooks this past weekend at White Horse made me realize that country is a genre that seems to allude ATH.  Granted, it seems like talent in the genre is bleak and it’s even harder to seek out the quality when most labels we associate with don’t touch country.  So it’s nice when we’re sent songs like this tune “The Way it Is” from Portland based act Denver (yeah that’s not confusing).  Now this band with a city name is actually more of a supergroup featuring members of Blitzen Trapper and Alela Diane’s Wild Divine.  What’s created by this hodge podge of Portland musicians is a slow honky tonk sound with alternating vocals not far from aforementioned locals Crooks.  A full self-titled LP from the group is due out August 12th in all your favorite formats.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Denver-TheWayItIs.mp3]

Download: Denver – The Way It Is [MP3]

Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing

Rating: ★★½ · ·

It’s strange; sometimes, bands that have been around for a while often don’t change their sound, be it for fear that they will lose those who became enraptured by their original sound, or that they just don’t see themselves as anything else than what they were before. This seems to be the case with Blitzen Trapper on this album, as their only shift seems to be to a bit more of a bluesy spin on their Americana craft.

American Goldwing is one of those albums that just don’t have enough chutzpah to keep me focused and interested in for more than five songs. It starts out fairly strong, even though nothing novel, but progressively ceases to retain my interest as the songs drag on and on to its close. The first song, “Might Find It Cheap,” sums up this phenomenon in a single swoop. Yea, it’s a good song and I can get down with those fuzzy guitars and the traditionally tangy vocals, I just feel like I’ve heard it from Blitzen Trapper before. Their distinct crookedly country Americana rock sound works against them in that the sound from previous albums resonates deeper and makes it hard to listen to these tracks when I know there are astoundingly better renditions on Furr or other prior albums.

My favorite track on this record comes third, at a time where I’m looking for something to spice up this album. “Love the Way You Walk Away,” takes a new stance that I’ve been longing for this band to take. Even though it is of a country note, which I don’t often find myself enjoying, there is new territory to be covered at last. Bluesy undertones patter in the background while harmonies swoon in the foreground. If you listen carefully, you can hear deep bass drums at some points and of course there is that steel pedal guitar that pushes the song around in dominance. Late in the track, this band slows things down with a little harmonica and it’s easy to find yourself singing right alongside Eric Earley and the rest of the gang. It’s simply the song with the most redeeming and interesting qualities to be found on American Goldwing.

By all means, if you are a Blitzen Trapper addict, you’ll love this album. It has everything that you’ve already been shown, perhaps with one or two tracks that take a new direction. As for me, and I’m sure others, I’m in need of something a little bit fresher to keep me intrigued in this band’s sound. Perhaps it is coming on their next release, or perhaps I just need to revisit those old gems in the catalog of this band.

More New Music From Blitzen Trapper

New music from indie-folk band Blitzen Trapper has been springing up all over the internet since the announcement of their new album American Goldwing due out September 13th on Sub Pop Records.  From songs like “I Love the Way You Walk Away”, it seems like the band is embarking on a more country styled record as opposed to their usual folky sound.  Some people in the hipster world may shy away from such things, but I think I could go for something a little different.  However you feel about it, we’ve got the new song streaming and downloadable below.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/10073.mp3]

Download: Blitzen Trapper – Love the Way You Walk Away [MP3]

Show Preview: Blitzen Trapper @ La Zona Rosa (10/13)

Date 10/13/10
Location La Zona Rosa
Doors 8pm
Tickets $16 @ Frontgate

La Zona Rosa has a great show planned for Wednesday night in Austin.  Headliners Blitzen Trapper are of course always great live, but let’s not forget about the secondary acts sharing the stage.  So I’d suggest getting to the venue early to catch out sets by opener Pearly Gate Music and middle band Fruit Bats.  Helluva a lineup!

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Blitzen-Trapper-Heaven-and-Earth.mp3]

Download: Blitzen Trapper – Heaven and Earth [MP3]

Darker My Love – Alive as You Are

Rating: ★★★★ ·

When California’s Darker My Love released their album 2 in 2008, you could definitely feel the psychedelic history of their home state coming through.  But, we fast forward to the present day, and it seems that their take on California rock has swayed a bit, moving into a different, albeit better, direction.  The new album Alive as You Are charts new territory, and while it may surprise old fans, it’s not to be dismissed.

Listening to lead track “Backseat” you find a fresher version of the band, one that is reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, if you extracted excess amounts of hippy.  It’s got a hint of the same drug culture, yet feels like the eternal setting of California.  This song even features some pseudo-jam guitar solos, though none that will make you drool in your beard while rocking the same solo for six hours a la Jerry Garcia.

While the album does seem steeped in the history of American folk/jam/whatever, it still has a presence that is pertinent to the modern music scene. “Split Minute” uses a deeper toned vocal atop the same crisp guitar sound found in the opening minutes, which sort of brings to mind bands like Blitzen Trapper, yet with the right amount of restraint, and none of the bravado–all good things from this end. It all leads to the early high-point for Alive as You Are, as “New America” just flat out wins.  It’s got a bit of a meandering guitar line throughout, but the half-sung vocal really establishes a casual mood.  What really pushes the song into the winner category is the chorus near the end, which just wraps the song up in this great little crashing harmony.

It’s odd, but even those who aren’t fans of the San Francisco roots music, such as myself, will probably find themselves digging deeper and deeper into the carefully crafted melodies that are evident throughout.  Slide guitars don’t even do much to dissuade listeners, and songs like “Trail the Line” are the perfect example of how, if executed properly, this style of music can remain vital and fresh in today’s world.  Amazing choruses seem par for the course on this record by Darker My Love.  The delivery of the words “please make up your mind, for me” just hit you in the face at precisely the right time, and nothing can go wrong for the band at this late juncture.

If you’re looking for detractors, you’ll be hard pressed to find one, though surely this album would be more successful during the late autumnal season, as opposed to the sweltering summer months.  And, yes, it does appear to drag in a few spots, but Alive as You Are succeeds on so many different levels that its remarkable to even think of this as the same band from a few years ago. I don’t know, but it makes me want to go listen to Neil Young.  Darker My Love have a dark name, and dark imagery projected on their cover, but everything about this record is warm and bright, making it one hell of an album, no matter what time of year you listen to it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/07-Trail-The-Line.mp3]

Download: Darker My Love – Trail The Line [MP3]

Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer Of The Void

Rating: ★★★½ ·

ATH Favorite and Portland, OR’s own Blitzen Trapper are back with their latest from Sub-Pop; the ominously titled Destroyer of the Void. The task of following up 2008’s critically acclaimed Furr was no easy one. Following in such momentum of an impressive record and equally hyped tour however is easy with the laundry list of talents and influences which Blitzen Trapper wear proudly on their sleeve. The last time we spoke to the band during ACL in 2009, they told us they were going to highlight more piano and it quickly becomes apparent with their latest they held true to form.

From the first notes of the title track to the last not on ‘Sadie’, the record as a whole is very piano heavy utilizing once again strong song writing fundamentals from Eric Earley. ‘Destroyer of the Void’ (the song) shows in no uncertain terms the sampling of everything in their bag of tricks. These influences and genres include piano ballads, strong off-kilter harmonies, good old fashioned rock, a little country thrown in for good measure, and as always strong songwriting fundamentals. On the second track, ‘Laughing Lover’ the piano is again the focus and this time it is the catalyst for wonderful layering techniques that are quickly becoming the band’s new trademark sound. ‘Below the Hurricane’ and ‘The Man Who Would Speak True’ form a good 1-2 punch with slow intros building into a tempo that the band seem to thrive in, similar to that found on ‘Black River Killer” from Furr. Solid harmonica play starts in the former and continues through the latter creating wonderful flow and consistency. If Earley is good a one thing as heard in the release, it’s creating compelling stories.

From there, the group deals with duality on ‘Love and Hate’ and again on ‘Heaven and Earth’. The latter finally shows more of the heavy blues sound listeners grew used to on such releases as Wild Mountain Nation. This change in pace is short-lived however, with Earley back into piano ballad mode with the latter.  The high point for this listener comes a little halfway through the album starting off with ‘Dragon’s Song’ and its bluesy, almost Shin’s worthy instrumentation, into a wonderful duet with Alela Diane on ‘The Tree’, and topping it off with ‘Evening Star’, perhaps the most lasting and single-worthy track on the entire release.

Overall, the album is much quieter and subdued than any previous release. That may not be the best thing to keep a relatively new and hungry fan-base appeased, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. It shows some growth into not relying too heavy on one idea and for Earley, shows the continuous drive for writing the perfect song. Though I continually refer back to Furr and Wild Mountain Nation in years past, only time will tell if this album holds the same staying power. On first taste, the momentum gained by the band following Furr is slowed a little by this release, but only sidelines it slightly. The strengths of Blitzen Trapper are growing and they do many things very well.  This release definitely fills the void left by Furr, but Destroy? That may be a little presumptuous.

New Music From Blitzen Trapper

Hell yeah!  One of my favorite bands, Blitzen Trapper, are returning in 2010 with new album Destroyer of the Void.  Lead singer Eric Earley told us at ACL that the new album would feature more piano written songs and this new single “Heaven and Earth” seems to hold true to that statement.  I’ll be curious to see what else is in store for this much anticipated album.  Destroyer of the Void is out June 8th on Sub Pop.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Blitzen-Trapper-Heaven-and-Earth.mp3]

Download: Blitzen Trapper – Heaven and Earth [MP3]

Friday Bottom 5: ACL 2009

1009top5coverSo just as I did last year, I’m going to take a minute to be a negative nancy and focus on some of the downer moments of our ACL weekend.  As always, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives and I still enjoyed my festival experience (no matter how much it rained).  You’ll notice that most of my list consists of things that no one can really do anything about so that leaves me hopeful that next year will be near perfection.  I’m willing to bet that you can guess my #1 & #2 slots, but damnit if that weather wasn’t the worst I can ever remember.  Yes it may even top the 107 degree heat and the dust from hell.  So follow the jump for my bottom 5 of ACL 2009.

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ACL Top 10 Acts

ACL_top10_bannerSo we survived the weekend that was the dillo dirt sludge of ACL and we’re ready to provide a bit of reflections from our experience.  We’ll start things off with a quick recap of some of our favorite acts from the festival and who impressed us the most.  This is only our list and we based it on our time and taste so let us know if you saw something great we forgot about.  Follow the jump for our Top 10 acts of ACL.

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