Every time I listen to Feast of the Hunters’ Moon, I like it more than I did before.
I think what caused me to drag my feet in enjoying the music right away is that tunes by Black Prairie — whose members include three Decemberists and two more prolific musicians from Portland’s music scene — is unlike anything else in my home collection. These things take time!
Their mix of Americana, bluegrass, folk, gypsy and probably a few more complement each other wonderfully from lead track “Across the Black Prairie” to Hunters’ Moon closer, “Blackest Crow.” (Oh, I swear not every track contains the word black!) The disc has a rhythmic flow to it that fails to falter. It’s beautiful, really.
Even when the music — sometimes within a song — shifts tempo, it doesn’t seem to matter. A slow one followed by a quick one, which generally seems to be how the album is laid out anyway, works just fine. Probably because most everything the bandmates use — Dobro guitars, violins and a few others, including accordion — make their way into just about every piece.
Just four tracks, like “Red Rocking Chair” and “Crooked Little Heart,” feature Annalisa Tornfelt on vocals. The rest — 13 in all — are completely instrumental. Though I enjoy her voice, I like that vocals take a backseat in Black Prairie’s debut. Their music really seems to be about physical instrumentation, and music sans vocals highlights that.
I think my favorite on Feast of the Hunters’ Moon would be “Back Alley.” It’s got a great old-time feel to it. Like roundin’ up the family in the buggy for a trip to the ol’ market. Or dancin’ your ass off at a Friday night hoedown lit by hanging lights and oil lamps.
To appreciate the diversity in Hunters’ Moon tempo, go ahead and click on the above “Back Alley” link, and then check out “Red Rocking Chair.” The music on the album generally falls between those two extremes.
One more I’ll point out is “Tango Oscuro,” which, oddly, reminds me in some parts of a popular song by Canasta. The lead melody in Black Prairie’s “Tango” — led by Tornfelt’s violin — loosely mirrors the one in Canasta’s “Microphone Song.” Give ’em both a listen and let me know if I’ve gone crazy or not.
Anyway, catch Black Prairie tomorrow night at Schubas (with, oddly again, Canasta!) The orchestral arrangements by both bands should make for an excellent evening of music. Kinda like how awesome it was to hear Canasta with Elsinore just last August at Lincoln Hall.
- Black Prairie, based in Portland, is: Chris Funk, Nate Query, Jenny Conlee, Annalisa Tornfelt and Jon Neufeld.
- Their debut album, Feast of the Hunters’ Moon, is available on the band’s website for $12 (CD) or $18 (vinyl). You can also stream it for free on SoundCloud.
- Black Prairie will play Schubas on Thursday with Canasta and Honda Pavarotti. Tickets are $12.
Feast of the Hunters’ Moon stream
“Red Rocking Chair” official video