Paring down some of the band's more-unhinged tendencies, Blitzen Trapper look backward on American Goldwing, an album about growing up that sounds like the music that guided those formative years.
Often writing distinctly about his past, his upbringing and those distinctly rural characters of a generation-ago America, Eric Earley has hit a rich vein lyrically, writing with a rustic sincerity, while the rest of the band plays tighter than ever. Perhaps less-experimental than before—but no less versatile—the band runs through 11 songs with everything from cranked electric guitars to plucked banjo and wheezy jaw-harp.
The album's push-pull is between home and the great big world outside, between nostalgia and ambition, between familiar comforts and a sense of longing and adventure. Musically, American Goldwing is the type of celebratory roots-rock that bridges Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bob Dylan, or in this era, Dr. Dog and the Drive-By Truckers.
"Fletcher" builds into a sing-along chorus; "Your Crying Eyes" is boogie-blues rock; "Street Fighting Sun" is live-wire guitar muscle; and the title song is a feel-good jam built around electric piano, twangy guitar and harmonica blasts.
Trading idiosyncrasies for familiarity, Blitzen Trapper makes a different kind of progress on the band's sixth album, one that indicates a staying power every bit as strong as the band's heartily worn influences. American Goldwing is Blitzen Trapper at their lively best, showcasing a band that sounds like they're having fun just being alive, struggles be damned and washed away in an easy burst of song.