What once might’ve been considered side project for members of The Decemberists and other Portland-based bands has flourished a thick backbone of substantiality with a second, stellar release. The five-piece Black Prairie is prime band now.
I saw these guys on the Schubas stage two years ago by way of headlining a set that included locals Canasta, which at the time I followed regularly. Prior to the night I enthusiastically reviewed Black Prairie’s debut, Feast of the Hunters’ Moon, yet it wasn’t until their utter command of the room — room used intentionally here; their last couple were played off the stage and in a circle on the sticky floor with the rest of us — that had my allegiance to Black Prairie realized.
Black Prairie is avante garde bluegrass. Rustic and totally peculiar. You’d probably get a better sense of it in Feast of the Hunters’ Moon, which didn’t seemed to rely so much on Annalisa’s plush vocals. She seems a more ordinary fixture on the followup, which is fine, because Annalisa is a songbird. The hope is, though, the outfit wasn’t intending to be as sonically obscure as they once were. They’re more accessible now.
Next to Annalisa, I’m about sure A Tear in the Eye… introduces a drum kit to Black Prairie’s stable, which in tunes like “Nowhere, Massachusetts” and “How Do You Ruin Me?” makes the outfit seem more rock-country with a touch of bluegrass than it does bluegrass neat.
And yet, if you’re like me, middle jam “Dirty River Stomp” will certainly be one of the more unconventional tracks in your music library.
I wish I could share with you “What You Gave,” which I insist is the best thing on A Tear in the Eye is a Wound in the Heart. Reminiscent of “The Laugh of Recognition” by Over the Rhine. Try out instead “How Do You Ruin Me?”
- The Portland-based Black Prairie is Jenny Conlee-Drizos (accordion, vocals), Chris Funk (dobro,weissenborn, bazouki, vocals), Jon Neufeld (archtop guitar, vocals), Nate Query (acoustic bass, cello) and Annalisa Tornfelt (violin, vocals). | Facebook
- Multiple formats and packages of A Tear in the Eye… available at Sugar Hill Records from $12.99 to $42.99. | Sugar Hill Records
- Black Prairie plays Schubas Friday at 10 p.m. Support: Shelley Short. Darren Hanlon. Twelve bucks. | Tickets
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