On 2011's Jack and Coke-infused American Goldwing, Blitzen Trapper ditched the pastoral Pacific Northwest luster of previous outings in favor of a more Southern-fried constitution, picking out the tastiest bits of Skynyrd and the Band and adding their own signature blend of mystic Americana and crafty, decidedly non-Portlandia indie folk-rock into the mix. Blitzen Trapper's Roman numeral-adorned seventh long-player adopts a similar disposition, but adds elements of countrypolitan and suburban hip-hop into the pot, seasoning their already heady brew with a little North Mississippi Allstars and Odelay-era Beck, especially on cuts like "Feel the Chill" and "Ever Loved Once," resulting in a sort of cosmic, high-def honky tonk that for the most part proves tasty, injecting some much needed brevity into windy frontman Eric Earley's colorful yet often perfunctory tales of sin and redemption. It's not all just Paisley Park meets Muscle Shoals-inspired mash-ups though, as evidenced by more measured and nuanced tracks like the soulful, gospel-tinged "Shine On" and the earthy, highway-bound closer "Don't Be a Stranger," but VII certainly finds the Oregon-based group jettisoning the more Dylanesque aspects of its sound. Puckish yet ultimately forgettable late-album cuts like "Drive on Up" and "Heart Attack," the latter of which wouldn't have sounded out of place on an Eagles album (Earley's throaty, commanding voice is often a dead ringer for "Long Run"-era Don Henley), sound like extras from the American Goldwing sessions, and the abrasive (sonically) "Oregon Geography," with its faux field recording hiss and fractured dub foundation, feels gimmicky instead of subversive, but at least they're poking around in different corners of the room, which is ultimately what makes each new Blitzen Trapper offering worth taking out for a spin or two, or four, or ten.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger