BLITZEN TRAPPER: ALL ACROSS THIS LAND (2015)
1) All Across This Land; 2) Rock And Roll (Was Made For You); 3) Mystery And Wonder; 4) Love Grow Cold; 5) Lonesome Angel; 6) Nights Were Made For Love; 7) Cadillac Road; 8) Let The Cards Fall; 9) Even If You Don't; 10) Across The River.
Stylistically, this is a return to the vibe of American Goldwing — unassuming retro-rock with emphasis on the «nobody should be able to tell that we are not The Eagles or at least The Doobie Brothers!» side of the business. But impression-wise, All Across This Land seems to be the better bet of the two, if only because it's got more muscle; and I mean that almost literally — the riffs, the rhythm section, the vocals all seem to be infected with a strange brawny vivaciousness. Not only that, but Earley and his mates intentionally lower the «intelligence shield» of the music and go as far as to offer a few really simplistic anthems to, uh, simplicity — ʽRock And Roll (Was Made For You)ʼ does sound about as dumb as its title.
And, for once, this is sort of a plus, because throughout their career, Blitzen Trapper have consistently failed to convince me that they were truly qualified for the status of a «subtle», «intellectual», «innovative» rock band. In reality, a few happy exceptions aside, Earley is a natural-born barroom rocker and little else — and All Across This Land is just that, an album of barroom rock with a Southern edge to it that "just wants to rock'n'roll", as they themselves acknowledge on ʽNights Were Made For Loveʼ. Meaning that it all sounds nice and tasteful and adequate, even if, as usual, few songs stick out.
General gripes involve the superfluous use of synthesizers — cheesy fake strings really do not belong on these kinds of songs — and, more importantly, the fact that Earley has not become any more distinctive as a singer than he used to be: his husky, earthy voice is good for this music, but he still has such minimal range and flexibility that if anybody said he was «singing with feeling», I would have to assume that «feeling» is an immanent, unchanging quality for this guy. This is, however, a grudge that can be held against the absolute majority of Blitzen Trapper's roots-rock idols from the Seventies, so why should we blame poor Eric?
Speaking of sticking out, I'd probably have to put in a good word for the title track, featuring the album's most distinctive and memorable set of riffs and passing off for, let's say, a second-rate Skynyrd; the already mentioned ʽNights Were Made For Loveʼ, a fast tempo pop-rocker stuffed with romantic nostalgia (like a sped-up variation on the Byrds' cover of ʽMy Back Pagesʼ or something like that); and the closing acoustic ballad ʽAcross The Riverʼ, which could have been so much better if sung by Neil Young, but... ah, hell.
Overall, I'm not giving this a thumbs up so as to avoid upholding the illusion that this is some sort of «creative rebound» or that you can find here something that cannot be found on a solid selection of soft rock nuggets from the early-to-mid Seventies. But since the record clearly does not pretend to anything more than telling you, "We love our smelly roots, and what's wrong with that?", I'm not giving it a thumbs down, either. If you just can't get enough of those Southern vibes and need your fill replenished daily, All Across This Land is highly recommendable. If, however, you still vaguely remember Blitzen Trapper as that odd try-anything-once band that arrogantly mixed Brit-pop, roots-rock, and psychedelia on its debut album, that old band just ain't coming back. They made their choice and settled down on the farm. Oh well, I guess somebody at least has to settle down on the farm in these days of urban dictature.