BY MICHAEL TOLAND
For album #4, Portland’s Black Prairie decided to shake things up a bit. Instead of continuing its straightforward string band shtick, the sextet – essentially a Colin Meloy-less Decemberists plus guitarist Jon Neufeld and singer/violinist Annalisa Tornfelt – incorporated the rock rhythms and textures with which it had been experimenting on the road through covers like Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” and Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” (neither included here, alas). Thus Fortune, while still predicated on acoustic instruments, actually rocks. The menacing “White Tundra” translates classic rock to the band’s idiosyncratic approach. The burning “Let It Out” adds some distortion to Neufeld’s guitar and fire to Chris Funk’s jagged mandolin and Jenny Conlee’s busy accordion.
The swirling “Trask” presents a sort of Pacific Northwest take on Fairport Convention folk rock. The modest “Songs To Be Sung” chases, for better or worse, the acoustic pop vibe of Mumford & Sons and their ilk. The languid “Let Me Know Your Heart” luxuriates in an atmospheric haze somewhere between David Sylvian and Nico. The title track puts muscle behind a moody pop song that shifts to the kind of folky prog rock at which the Decemberists are so damn good. The evolution may be jarring to diehards who loved the band’s take on old-time string band folk, but Black Prairie’s skill at playing its own version of rock brushes aside any carping.
DOWNLOAD: “Let It Out,” “Fortune,” “Let Me Know Your Heart”