Friday, July 16, 2010

Black Prairie - Feast of the Hunters' Moon

There’s a dirt back-road somewhere in Black Prairie. Dust in the air and grit on the light breeze that tousles the tall, sun-bleached grass and whispers through the leaves of the occasional gnarled oak or sycamore. They seem to be passing through it on their way from one place to the next and momentarily passing the melancholic landscape. It’s not that they sound like they should be touring with some country band but that at their best their music belongs to those parts of the country where farmhouses with peeling white paint stand and open spaces are left naturally unkempt. When they’re hitting it, they’d be perfect for a Saturday night in summer sixty years ago, playing on some rural stage while people who drove in from the surrounding farms danced and drank moonshine.

On “Feast of the Hunters’ Moon”, Black Prairie produces a handful of the enchanting moments that transport you to that long-passed yesterday - especially when Annalisa Tornfelt rests her violin and sings. Tornfelt’s voice is something shot through with smoky sad whispers, and deserves to be heard a lot more frequently on the album. As it is, she sings on only four songs and that’s a downright shame because without her cool cooing, the band meanders into tired jamgrass material or overdone Americana, becoming mediocre and routine. Nothing you couldn’t find by simply looking up Dobro samples on Google.

The five-piece band, consisting of Chrisk Funk, Nate Query and Jenny Conlee of the Decemberists and Jon Neufeld and AnnalisaTornfelt of other lesser-known bands, are all prodigious Portland-based musicians and could burn down a barn any day of the week given the opportunity. They just didn’t bring enough matches to the studio before recording “Feast of the Hunters’ Moon”.

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