Toss American Goldwing (released September 13 on Sub Pop) into a CD changer on shuffle with The Mother Hips’ Later Days, Paul Simon’s One Trick Pony, the Eagles eponymous 1972 debut and Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection and you’ll find great congruity with these classics. The sixth album from Portland, Oregon-based Blitzen Trapper reaches out more readily than anything in the band’s past, a warmly delivered, mildly heartbroken collection that’s human in all the right ways.
A lilt reminiscent of early Bob Dylan surfaces in the quieter moments – nothing new for Blitzen Trapper – but more appealingly, a T. Rex-esque sweep emerges on rockers “Street Fighting Sun,” “Might Find It Cheap” and “Your Crying Eyes,” the group’s snarl never more pronounced or appealing. American Goldwing longs to be played loud enough to fill your house, an inducement to go barefoot and shuffle around shamelessly, with wistful keepers like “Girl In A Coat” and “Stranger In A Strange Land” serving as welcome breathers to our delightedly artless soft shoes.
Blitzen Trapper is about to embark on one of the coolest tours of 2011, a co-headlining nationwide jaunt with Dawes that begins at Mystic Theatre in Petaluma, CA on October 7th (find full tour dates here).
In the meantime, pull up a chair and check out what Blitzen Trapper’s leader-songwriter-singer-guitarist Eric Earley has to say about his newest song cycle.
Might Find It Cheap
I was driving outside of town in a place called Gresham, which is a pretty rough area – old bars, lots of crime, a pretty white trashy area – and there was a sign that read, “ You Might Find It Cheap But Not For Free,” and I thought that was pretty cool [laughs]. This record also has a lot to do with two specific relationships I was in last year, and it’s almost me talking to somebody, saying, “You might find it cheap somewhere else but you won’t find it free like it is right here.” It speaks to the idea of true love, which I think is selfless.
It’s really a picture in my head of someone I grew up with in high school. It’s not literal because it’s about dudes running illegal substances in the mountains or something. Where I grew up – and basically anywhere rural in America – there was a lot of methamphetamine running going on. I think the imagery of this one is taken directly from Salem, Oregon and the surrounding areas. Where I talk about the guy in his new boots walking down by the factory, there was this old paper mill by where I grew up.
Love The Way You Walk Away
That one’s really personal about this relationship I was in and this specific time…but all the same, all that imagery comes straight from Salem – sitting in a sedan out by the river listening to the radio. It’s all the same thing as my high school days. But, this one, more than any other, is more of a general tragic love song.
Your Crying Eyes
That’s another one inspired by this girl I was with for a while. She said to me one night in my apartment, “I can’t hide my crying eyes from you.” And I said, “Hey, can I turn that into a song?” [laughs]. She got mad and left. So, I turned it into a song. She came back later; she’s actually one of my closest friends.
My Home Town
That one’s pretty straightforward about wanting to go back to where you came from even though it’s not the same – it never is. Maybe your own memories of where you grew up aren’t true. As you get older you start to romanticize your roots, and I think the song works as a sort of center to the record since a lot of the general imagery I use comes from my hometown – the farmland, the river, the hobos. We had the state insane asylum in Salem, which they used in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. As a kid, we used to go explore the old, falling down building. They finally took it out, but I talk about the crazies around the town.
Girl In A Coat
That’s the one song on the album, lyrically, that’s more poetry than straightforward. It definitely goes to that Dylan place I go sometimes where I’m almost talking in code. But it’s ultimately about a girl I went out with for a long time – a snapshot of that moment, that relationship. And it rains a lot in Oregon and a girl in a coat always shows up. I wanted to write an old style folk song, and in fact, it’s less Dylan than old English style folk because it’s in ¾, but lyrically it’s still very American.
It’s autobiographical but definitely written in code [laughs]. I like that one a lot, but a lot of it for me is how it runs the line between R&B, hip hop, country and folk with a kind of soul beat going on. It’s got a fat beat with a lot of writhing going on.
That’s me doing my country-soul, JJ Cale thing; a real simple, four chord style. I wrote that on piano. It’s got this good groove to it. Lyrically, it’s this winding story that’s very personal for me but also just a love song.
Taking It Easy Too Long
That’s about failing, growing up in a town you know you should leave but just can’t seem to. Salem is basically about taking up the family business or working on the farm, sticking around and doing what your family has been doing for a long time…or doing nothing and just drinking your life away. In the end, it’s a straight-up country song, something like Merle Haggard.
Street Fighting Sun
That song is straight out of Judas Priest or Zeppelin – just hard guitar rock – and if you asked me what I listen to the most I’d probably say Black Sabbath. That’s the stuff I love to drive or work out to. The song’s really wistful too, the story of a hillbilly giving up his fight with the sun and the moon…or something [laughs].
Stranger In A Strange Land
That’s the more melancholy, Townes Van Zandt side. I listen to Townes more than any other folk musician. As far as folk music, Townes Van Zandt and John Prine are my favorites. The subject matter is probably the most serious on the album. In a way, it’s about death, but this record is less about death than my previous records [laughs]. This track is a lonely, despairing song that says, “I’ve done all I can, and when I’m gone you’ll know me by the friends I leave behind.” It’s almost like a last will and testament, and it’s a direct quote from Abraham and it’s got that mood.