The Trappers Follow the Stream of Americana Music
by Terry Roland
Call me a true believer. Somewhere during the years between Stephen Foster and Bob Dylan and The Band, a unique form American music was formed that today many choose to call Americana. Sometimes I just call it country; sometimes folk and sometimes rock and roll. But, it’s always unbridled, real and true to its roots. If that musical river’s flow was caught by artists like Dylan, The Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers and so many others, it also, in the last decade, must’ve streamed through the city of Salt Lake in Utah where The Trappers caught the spirit the waters. The band has a barely restrained raw energy that is reminiscent of what it may have sounded like if The Flying Burrito Brothers had collaborated with Keith Richards for an album.
In a recent conversation with Dan Buehner, he said since childhood he has been listening to Dylan, Neil Young, Gram Parsons, The Band and Robert Johnson. This led him to begin writing his own songs. The passion for this music was so strong it caught fire with his friends as well. They became The Trappers. They formed a unique Americana blend of country-rock with an undertow of folk and blues, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took time, life experience and even some music lessons. According to Dan, who plays guitar and sings lead as well as being the keeper of the songwriting flame, members came in and learned to play the instrument that was most needed at the time. Tyler Pexton, normally a guitar player, sold his electric for a pedal steel and spent the better part of a year learning to play the instrument proficiently enough to help contribute the sound inside of Dan’s head. Most students of the pedal steel describe learning to play as somewhere between learning to fly an airplane and playing something as uncertain as a bottle-neck guitar. He did it and then some. With the Keith Richards-inspired guitar work of lead guitarist, Johnny Ranck and the distinct Sneaky Pete flavor of Tyler’s steel guitar, the band now has a tight musical core they have built their sound on.
While the music has a loose, raw feel similar to the best of The Flying Burrito Brothers when the band was fronted by Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, it’s Dan Buehner’s songs that strike the most original chord and give this band a sense of integrity and the potential to persevere. On songs like “Bloodshot Bill,” “Solid Ground,” “Wind and Rain,” and especially the collaborative “Freight Train,” there’s a feeling of the same kind of lyrical allusions referred to in the work of Dylan and The Band during their basement days. While the songs don’t approach the timelessness of The Band and Dylan(just yet), there is a feel that Dan, as a writer, is walking along the same road.
The album production is basic and organic with a focus on the exchange between the Dan’s lead vocal, Todd Summer’s lead guitar work and Tyler Pexton’s tight and straight-forward pedal steel playing. This fundamental formula is also the one used by country-rock bands from the beginning. This gives The Trappers the feeling of a singer-songwriter band that, with added textures and arrangements, will allow them break out beyond this familiar territory as they grow.
The Trappers have produced a debut album which shows that they are worth keeping an eye on. It’s not many bands who can give you an idea of how it might have sounded if The Flying Burrito Brothers decided to spend a night in a West Texas honky-tonk jamming with The Stones. They do manage to capture this kind of raw energy on this first album. We’ll be looking forward to hearing more.