Blitzen Trapper has given us a variety of fantastic releases since their humble beginnings 11 years ago, from the scruffy rock ‘n’ roll of Furr to last year’s epic and dramatic Destroyer of the Void. But if one were to dive into American Goldwing with too many expectations based on Trapper’s past efforts, he or she might be considerably disenchanted. Comparative to their past, this permutation of Blitzen Trapper is more rock than indie, more country than folk. Still, they approach the project with the same audacity that characterizes all of their work. If Destroyer of the Void was a bold tribute to the kings of glam rock, American Goldwing is an understated homage to American roots rock. Needless to say, while it is as delicately woven and expertly executed as any other Blitzen Trapper release, it probably won’t appeal to fans in the same way the band’s previous few had.
From its loud and steady opening track, “Might Find It Cheap,” to the acoustic, Townes Van Zandt-esque closer “Stranger in a Strange Land,” American Goldwing gives one the feeling of cruising down an open highway through some part of America where Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrated in 60-degree weather. Eric Early’s songwriting is solid, yet subtle, and a lot of attention is given to detail, both lyrically and instrumentally. Though each song can, in bits and pieces, bring to mind artists ranging from Steppenwolf to Tom Petty to Ryan Adams, the album is uniquely Blitzen Trapper’s, through their delicate touch of distinctive musicianship.
As a whole, the boys in Blitzen Trapper demonstrate a familiarity and diverse use of their instrumentation. As a good album should, each careful listen reveals more layered details of twangy complexity behind every chord. Just when you think you have the song pegged, you notice a hidden riff performed by an extra guitar, banjo or mandolin. However, one of the most surprising uses of variety on this album is found in Early’s own voice. He croons on tracks like “Love The Way You Walk Away,” shouts on “Street Fighting Sun” and displays almost every variety of texture between by the time to album comes to a close.
Plain and simple, American Goldwing is an outstanding album. Presenting a classic sound in a brand new light, it packs a little bit of something for any rock fan of classic American rock’n’roll, without leaving a bitter or saccharine aftertaste.
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cardinology
Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory