While many Americana outfits seek to put a spin on roots-y forms by rocking them out or taking them closer to their roots, Blitzen Trapper oddly does both in an irreverent fashion, mixing manifestly pop aspects with a heartfelt down-home feel for country and folk elements. Simply put, sighing pedal steel guitar and cracking urban beats are ingredients of equal importance to these lads.
Opener "Feel the Chill" is a mid-tempo strut, evoking Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," but the beat is a monolithic one akin to Led Zeppelin (think "Trampled Under Foot," "Kashmir"). "Shine On" mixes similar Southern-rock machismo with a hip-hop beat, with singer Eric Earley finding a sweet spot between Mason-Dixon-zone gospel testifying and street-corner boastfulness. "Neck Tats, Cadillacs" is a more blatant attempt to blend Southern rock, country, and hip-hop à la Drive-By Truckers — albeit with more of an old-school Run-DMC feel. "Drive On Up" is reminiscent of Seventies funky rockers by The Band and Little Feat, with slippery slide guitar, chunky keyboards, and lovably ragged vocals about life in pickup trucks. "Faces of You" is a slinky, sultry panorama that undulates like Morcheeba and Belle Album-era Al Green, with gently rippling bass and Earley's contemplative-yet-assured tones. The windup: a gentle Dylan-esque ballad, "Don't Be a Stranger," which could be a Nashville Skyline outtake if not for the peaceful, easy-feeling Eagles-like harmonies. Is VII a new sub-genre, "hick-hop"? Could be, kids. (Vagrant)