A whole album of radio-friendly country rock is the last thing that you might expect from these former eclectic experimentalists
That the eighth studio album from Portland-based experimentalists Blitzen Trapper has moments reminiscent of Dylan, Young, Springsteen and Petty, may alarm longstanding fans of the group. Their last record, 2013’s VII, was described by lead singer Eric Earley as “hillbilly gangster”, whereas new offering All Across The Land follows the well-trodden path that many country rock records have strutted before.
Somehow though, rather than coming across as a desperate roll of the dice by a band aiming for the bigtime, this collection of infectious tracks perfectly suits Earley and company. The title song introduces the album with first line “welcome to earth my son, you’re here just in time” and it’s hard not to hear it as a prescient warning about the radio friendly AOR that’s about to follow. This won’t be an intergalactic space jam, and to reinforce the point the following track Rock And Roll is an archetypal guitar-driven stomper.
Once you’ve accepted that this really is an earnest serving of wholesome rock, there is plenty to enjoy. Lonesome Angel is a swooning harmonica-led country number, Cadillac Road has a powerfully pounding piano at its heart, and closing number Across The River is a simple acoustic folk ballad. Conventional and familiar, it’s the sound of a band who have found a comfortable groove to fall into and it’s a groove which always them to make a classic album.
Although Across The Land may disappoint the Blitzen Trapper followers who expect them to continue searching for new musical spheres, as a standalone record it is their most coherent work to date and a fine platform for Earley’s songwriting.
Verdict: Surprisingly classic songwriting