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It is a terrifically exciting time for Blitzen Trapper; their album is a day from release, they’re on the first legs of their fall tour — and they’re sitting on the floor in-studio joking around in Gollum, Kermit, and Christopher Walken voices.
The very silly folk/country quintet is comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Eric Earley, guitarists Erik Menteer and Marty Marquis, bassist Michael Van Pelt, and drummer Brian Koch. VII will be their (appropriately named) seventh full studio album. While the record certainly features the band’s classic storytelling and old love songs, Earley hints at a bit of a change this time around.
“For this [album] I kind of just made songs that I was most excited about. In the past I’ve made choices with a bunch of people’s input, but this time I just wanted to find a good flow to the record,” he says. “There are different tone colors, different production techniques, a lot more groove-oriented stuff. It’s kinda dance-y.”
The band treated us to three songs off of VII, beginning with the record’s final song, “Don’t Be A Stranger.” In perfect Blitzen Trapper style, the track was characterized by intertwining guitar and banjo with a simple metronome reminiscent drumbeat overlay. The track definitely delves into deeper country waters, but doesn’t lose the familiar storytelling quality. Earley teases, “I’ve loved you lately and I’ve loved you in vain / I’ve made you walk the tightrope of my mind.”
Ever the raconteur, Earley explains his songwriting aim. “I’m just telling these stories that took place in a certain place, I guess I just want to transport [listeners] to wherever that is.” A veteran and rather down to earth songwriter, he cares much less about making waves than making music he truly cares about. “The record’s not going to drop like an atomic bomb or something,” he says. “I wanted to focus on making something that flows.”
With chest percussion, t-shirt drum adornment, and shakers being tossed across the room, it felt like everyone in the studio added their own personal twang to “Ever Loved Once.” The track sports a subtly full sound, swinging catch-ily here and there as you find yourself swaying. Marquis illustrated the sentiment, “It’s like driving music, you know? You dance a little bit and you’re driving!” complete with a little dance of his own.
The band closed their session with a final hauntingly beautiful track from VII called “Valley of Death.” Earley held his voice low while his bandmates harmonized high and a bold and yearning harmonica danced atop the track. “Valley of Death” is the kind of song that gives listeners goosebumps and truly gest you excited for an album.
Although The New York Times has been featuring a full stream of the new record online for the past week, the record is set to release on September 30th everywhere. With Blitzen Trapper’s charmingly cavalier style, it is absolutely worth your while to take a listen to VII.