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Blitzen Trapper: Black River Killer

C+

Blitzen Trapper

Album: Black River Killer
Label: Sub Pop

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Blitzen Trapper’s 2008 breakout LP, Furr, was as enjoyable for its adventurous songs as it was for the glue holding them together. Head Trapper Eric Earley has, by necessity, become an impressive arranger-mixer over the years, which allowed last year’s record to move crisply and easily between jangly country acoustics, fist-pumping shredders, and (on occasion) electronic-infused etherea. But the Black River Killer EP, which takes its name from Furr’s superb murder ballad, first came into existence as a CD-R the band sold on its most recent tour. And it sounds like it. These songs, while good, are demos still a few go-rounds from being fully fleshed. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that Sub Pop slapped the album version of “Black River Killer” onto the top of the pile rather than soliciting an acoustic take, and its clarity only inspires confusion. Is this a single with a few throwaway B-sides? A proper EP? A set that’ll be reprised for the next album? The latter scenario might be a good idea. These songs are generally more narrative-driven and countrified—with highlights tipping a 10-gallon hat to Tom Petty (“Silver Moon”), Elliott Smith (“Preacher’s Sister’s Boy”) and, of course, Neil Young (“Big Black Bird”)—but without the finishing touches, they won’t be kicking Furr out of the juke just yet.