The Americana dream

Portland based band Blitzen Trapper tours in support of their latest country rock creation, “American Goldwing.”

The Southern rock inspired band Blitzen Trapper headlines First Avenue with Dawes this Friday.

Image by Photo Courtesy Tyler Kohlhoff

The Southern rock inspired band Blitzen Trapper headlines First Avenue with Dawes this Friday.

by Joseph Kleinschmidt

What: Blitzen Trapper, Dawes and The Belle Brigade

When: 8 p.m., Friday

Where: First Avenue Mainroom, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis


White Americanmale rock bands tend to pay homage to past white American male rock bands. Dr. Dog, Dawes and Fleet Foxes emulate singers of another era, coupled with piano and guitar melodies indebted to everyone from The Beatles to the Grateful Dead.

When bands like these transcend simply paying homage to past icons, folk and rock can escape old conventions like Fleet FoxesâÄô âÄúHelplessness Blues.âÄù Likewise, the country rock of Blitzen TrapperâÄôs 2008 release âÄúFurrâÄú sheds new light on a well-treaded genre.

But in some ways, Blitzen Trapper represents another heir in the long line of country-rockers only imitating Neil Young. The bandâÄôs latest album, âÄúAmerican Goldwing,âÄù refuses to break away from over-romanticizing classic rock influences.

 âÄúItâÄôs music that people play. ItâÄôll be around forever,âÄù lead singer and guitarist Eric Earley said. âÄúThe music that will not be around forever is music that you have to have all kinds of electronic gear to make.âÄù

 âÄúAmerican Goldwing,âÄù dwells in the past, soaked in cliché Americana themes. The band relies on a plethora of strong images of a dreamy America âÄîhighways and motorcycles accompany EarleyâÄôs best Dylanisms all along a one-sided tour of the States.

And the lead singerâÄôs unabashed attitude toward their fractured 2007 album reveals the bandâÄôs inexperience amid their rapid rise to fame.

âÄúWhen I made âÄòWild Mountain Nation,âÄô I was wasted all the time,âÄù Earley said. âÄúWe did a lot of drinking and drugs, getting in trouble, wasting our time.âÄù

âÄúWild Mountain Nation,âÄù the bandâÄôs breakthrough 2007 release garnered praise from both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, yet the album lacked the cohesion of newer releases.

Earley writes and arranges all of the music for the band and âÄúAmerican GoldwingâÄù embodies the bandâÄôs hardships touring and travelling.

âÄúA lot of the songs are more focused. ItâÄôs definitely a much more personal record, different aspects of my own life.âÄù

The release still falls short of Dr. DogâÄôs earnestness or Fleet FoxesâÄô creativity. âÄúAmerican GoldwingâÄù relies too heavily on country-rock truism and never surpasses genre, only serving as a tribute to past icons. Still, the album marks a sign of growth in Blitzen TrapperâÄôs now 10-year-old career.

âÄúThere are things you learn when youâÄôre touring. Important things. Those are the harder lessons I guess,âÄù Earley said. âÄúTraveling all the time and your relationships get destroyed.âÄù

 âÄúAmerican GoldwingâÄù still fails to outshine the more mature, realized âÄúFurr,âÄù which landed the band on Sub Pop records. From the simplistic hooks to the overtly American lyrics, the record suggests spontaneity in production, which Earley admits.

âÄúI didnâÄôt take a whole lot of time on [âÄúAmerican GoldwingâÄù]. So in that sense, itâÄôs definitely more streamlined. I didnâÄôt get too detailed on it,âÄù Earley said. âÄúLike I just had these songs I really liked. I didnâÄôt worry too much about it.âÄù

Image represents the majority of Blitzen TrapperâÄôs appeal and Earley seems ambivalent about completely relinquishing the groupâÄôs dynamic surrounding the release and touring for âÄúWild Mountain Nation.âÄù

âÄúIf I had to do it over again? Would I waste my 20s? I probably would I guess. I donâÄôt know,âÄù Earley said.