Chances are, if you’ve ever heard of the band, Black Prairie, you know that it consists of several members of The Decemberists. And that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Anyone seeking out Black Prairie and expecting to hear a slightly skewed version of the Portland indie gods that begat them are in for a rude awakening.
That’s not to say you won’t hear the occasional accordion or guitar line and be reminded of Colin Meloy’s crew. The problem is, those are the only sounds that the two bands share.
With Meloy absent from this project, Black Prairie is sorely lacking in the vocals department. Their debut album, 2010’s Feast of the Hunter’s Moon, was almost completely bereft of vocals.
In their place, the five-piece band churns out a form of bluegrass music that has a strong Appalachian feel, but also includes several other influences.
Last year’s follow-up, A Tear in the Eye is a Wound in the Heart, was more accessible, as only six of the 16 tracks were instrumental. On the rest of the album, the vocals were provided by Annalisa Tornfelt of Bearfoot and The Woolwines.
The strongest track, and the one that first introduced me to the band, is “Rock of Ages”.
I worried that it might be the only decent song on the disc, but there are a few more, such as “Nowhere, Massachusetts”, “Richard Manuel” and “Lay Me Down in Tennessee”.
Considering the progress the group has made between its first two albums, I’m not yet ready to write off Black Prairie. Hopefully, they continue to enhance their music vocally and build on their potential on albums to come.