New Americana: Wild Feathers & Blitzen Trapper’s VII

Two new excellent Americana tunes that I’ve been listening to on repeat, and you’ll want to get right on: A first release from a new band, and a new release from an old band.

1. Wild Feathers

A Nashville five-piece that shares their spotlight a la The Band, from whom they cull mucho inspiration, along with ’70s Stones, Zeppelin, Ryan Adams, Allman Brothers and that ilk. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s authentic; something sorely lacking in American-inspired music these days. (Thanks, Mumfords). That truism got them noticed while they were still bumming around Nashville a few years ago (they formed in 2010) by none other than Willie Nelson, who invited them to open. Not bad for a band with no album and no record deal. Since then they’ve signed to Warner Bros and cut an eponymous album, released in summer 2013, that’s the kind of all-in rock ‘n’ roll played by their predecessors: Many-part vocal  (each band member has, at one point, been a lead singer of former bands) and acoustic harmonies that show their strength as collaborators, rich and slow riffs, a touch of organ and harmonica here and there. Perhaps a bridge between the many-member, radio-friendly, indie-folk bands and the music they’re trying to emulate? Maybe. But if not, that’s fine—Wild Feathers are content to just play. As it should be.

2. Blitzen Trapper’s seventh album release, VII

The prolific band has its ups (2008’s Furr, 2011’s American Goldwing) and its… not necessarily downs, but let’s say less cohesive, slightly stranger albums. Or, the albums that not everyone likes (I like them all, but that’s just me). Their brand of Americana has been around long before it was cool, paving the way for bands like aforementioned Wild Feathers to be able to sign to a label. With VII, singer/songwriter Eric Earley finally got down and dirty. It’s the most down-home of all their albums, simultaneously soulful and hick—the BEST type of country/blues. The first song, “Feel The Chill,” opens with electronic blips, record scratches, and white noise, scissored in between with a electric riffs to prep you for the madness, then unleashes into that recognizable twang with “I used to stay down South of town where the road runs crooked and the lights are down.” There’s a lot of finger-pickin’ (“Don’t Be A Stranger”), and the amazingly named “Neck Tatts, Cadillacs” with the lyrics “Neck Tatts, Cadillacs, the girl’s got style/ When I walk up from behind I just gotta smile” in a  near-indecipherable clip. Add floating, haunting organs and plentiful banjo and you’ve got yourself a very diverse and fantastically Southern album. While everything Blitzen Trapper does is, to some degree, “American” or “americana” or whatever you want to call it, they’ve never felt quite so regional—not that VII is place-specific, but rather that they finally sound like a band born in bayous or backwood porches. There’s a very rustic sentimentality here that they’ve never owned across a whole record before, only in (well-done) fits and spurts (ex: Wild Mtn. Jam, Black River Killer). It might be their best effort yet, if only because it all, finally, fits together.

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