Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Shawn Biggs
Something creeping this way comes. It comes under the cover of night, pushing through the grasses, on its belly, quietly getting closer and closer to the sanctity that we're used to. It gets into the clean water stream - the creeks where the cows, the horses and the deer drink from start turning dark, as if a bottle of black dye had been set down on the water's edge somewhere upstream and been allowed to stream out, sending a tainted ribbon through the ripples and over the jetties. This occurrence, whatever it is, leads to a chain of events that makes nothing safe if it isn't tied down. There are foxes in all of the chicken houses in this particular neighborhood - and let it be known that the neighborhood where Portland band Black Prairie comes from is one with innumerable chicken houses. The brown bears are stretching up the trunks of the maple trees and carefully tipping the buckets beneath the flowing spigots forward enough to drain them of all the syrup, not caring that the sticky drink is untreated, unsweetened and bitter. The sheep are being carried off on the backs of the wolves, still asleep in their wooly blankets. The farmers are being robbed blind by the cat burglars, who are tiptoeing through the kitchens and into the bedrooms, reaching silently under the mattresses and swiping a life's savings. We are back in time on the debut album of this band - made up of three members of the popular folk-rock band the Decemberists (Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee and Nate Query) as well as Jon Neufeld and Annalisa Tornfelt - crashing down when the stock market crashed for the first disastrous time in 1929, or even earlier, when there was still gold in them there hills. It's when good folks could buy their clothes with a bartering of fresh eggs or butter and it's a time when this sort of musky bluegrass, with a distinct hint of storms-brewin' was as popular as gourmet coffee is today. "Feast of the Hunters' Moon," is a record that exists below an overnight sky that seems tame for the time being, but elements are reacting with other elements and all of that is about to change at any moment. It's gonna get heavy and shit's gonna get shook up. Paintings will fall from the walls, the horses will rear up onto their back legs in fear, the chickens will stop laying and the cows will cease giving their milk. The mostly instrumental album features a handful of songs with words, interspersed throughout and they seem to suggest that all's not right, that there intelligence out there that's being withheld somewhat and we're going to be the last to shake it from the trees. You'll recognize the familiar accordion styling's of Conlee and the spooky stand-up bass of Query that you hear on Decemberists records, but then everything from there shifts into either an after-the-rains rave up, with happy fiddles and a bounce in its step or takes on the life of that thing on the prowl. It's a suite of songs that swish around in moods simply suggested and implied. A woman's voice gives us mere traces of meaning, singing, "The stars do whisper. Angels shake their heads," suggesting that there's something out there to know and it might not be right, we might not like it, but where are we going to run to? The landscape is one of wide-open isolation, where the closest neighbor is three miles away. We're on our own, with the animals in the barn and the coops.
Black Prairie Official Site