I think it’s safe to say that we all can’t get enough of this Blitzen Trapper stuff lately (steel guitar, ukulele, hillbilly accent even if it’s fake), hence Dolby Disaster bequeatheth you a review of R. Finn and debut LP Collecting Trip, out this year on California’s Heritage Recording Company.
Right off the bat, opener “Hard Times Again” paints a dramatic landscape — the gentle acoustic plucking took me right back to Gordon Lightfoot immediately, building then to a climax that isn’t so much voluminous as it is poignant with a signature, disarming banjo solo. In true singer/songwriter form, “I am a Soldier” benchmarks some serious lyrical versatility, zooming out on the strength of the early line “Humanity is my religion” to an assumption of the race’s overall perspective. The results are pretty median, but still playable as legitimate slow, acoustic world-blues, like a chance for us all to bow our heads in a common, much-needed melancholy. It took one of the shiniest, happiest states in the nation to give us a true artistic vial of this, but that’s a concession we’re just going to have to live with.
“Let Me Be the One” is the song I heard about two weeks ago or so in this Facebook promo and I have to say I hated this guy from the start because Da**, I thought, he’s gonna get that girl. But then, love and romance are legitimate topics of discussion in rock, and the question remains as to whether an American song in 2018 should really be this RAPTUROUS, given all the political proceedings at hand (and I use the world “political” loosely). Now, there’s also the possibility that he wrote this song a while ago, and is just using it now for his album. Either way, I think given some weekend setting and nice weather outside, it can be fairly relatable to our nation today, but it was definitely a bit risky, albeit a bona fide statement of a bare heart.
By “The Show Must Go on,” the tension is back, as if the whole operation is uneasy before the simplest task like stepping into the shower in these strange times. The sonic swatches are short and sure — curt little upbeat guitar jabs, big, throaty raw-hide snare set down in simple lines, and a solo featuring, and this his hard to believe, but a normal guitar (not slide, not steel, not banjo). The solo does nonetheless find a way to be “weeping,” in its own way, and ultimately even by the end we’re left wondering as to what type of song this even is, although I think that’s partly the point, with Finn’s voice cloaked in a sort of indiscernible but thick emotion.
Other instrumental flares on Collecting Trip include graceful Hammond organ baths right here on “The Show Must Go on” and some awesome harmonica shredding along with a little colony of ambient synths on “I am a Soldier.” In other words, despite the immediacy and believability, it’s a sound man’s singer/songwriter album, and therein lines its greatest achievement.