Album titles are far too often completely arbitrary choices. Haphazardly chosen as a rough description, but usually serve no purpose beyond acting as a referent for a particular moment in an artist’s career. However, occasionally a record can be summarized so aptly by its name that there’s little else you can do to describe the content; this is true of Blitzen Trapper’s 3rd LP, American Goldwing .
A country rock album through and through, it sounds more American than Bruce Springsteen gargling Mountain Dew and revving a V12 muscle car. And you know what? That’s not a bad thing; American Goldwing doesn’t conjure unpleasant images of Chad Kroeger prancing around the stage at any painful Nickelback gig, think more of the likes of Lynard Skynard.
By the time second track ‘Fletcher’ starts the 5-piece from Portland have transported you to the American mid-west. Mellow, yet grungy power chords permeate the album whilst steel string acoustics and bright keys take care of most of the melodies.
What’s most endearing about American Goldwing though, is the lyrics. In true American style, front man Eric Early, sings about whisky, cars, music and love; “Old Fletcher’s in the car / drinking whisky from a jar”
Inevitably, the tinny sounds of the mouth organ, a staple in so much Country and Folk, join the fray on ‘Your Crying Eyes’ completing the album’s aesthetic.
‘Love the Way You Walk Away’ is an early highlight. With its smooth use of tremolo and addition of banjo it builds towards Early’s anthemic “Hey, Hey, Hey’s” and ‘Astronaut’ is another standout moment; its less literal in its lyrics and simpler musically showing a slightly different side to the band.
The only real downfall to the album is its determination to stick so rigidly to its country style. There’s no real sense of risk or experimentation, but then that’s not really what Blitzen Trapper have set out to do with this record.
American Goldwing comes to a close with the delicate ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’. It’s a beautiful way to close an accomplished and highly refined album.