Black Prairie

Black Prairie

Black Prairie

Feast of the Hunters’ Moon

Sugar Hill

What do you get when you combine three-fifths of The Decemberists, two more killer Portland, Oregon-based musicians and add bluegrass to the mix? You get the album of the year so far. Feast of the Hunters’ Moon, the debut from Black Prairie sounds just like The Decemberists took their patented sound and mashed it with bluegrass, making a haunting, largely-instrumental folk album that truly is original.

“Back Alley” is straight-up bluegrass with guitarist Jon Neufeld taking the solo reins, running with it and then passing it off to violinist/lead vocalist Annalisa Tornfelt, who then hands it to dobroist/Decemberist Chris Funk all while bassist/Decemberist Nate Query holds the foundation of the song with his bass lined.

The opener, “Across the Black Prairie,” introduces the group with a haunting “tumbleweeds on the prairie” feel before accordion player/Decemberist Jenny Conlee launches into almost a polka before the song retreats back into the darkness. “Ostinato Del Caminito,” installs gypsy elements to their strange musical brew, while “A Prairie Musette” sounds like it came straight from a French movie like Amelie.

The combination of Tornfelt’s violin, Query’s bass, and Conlee’s accordion take to the ballroom on “Tango Oscuro,” a song that I have no doubt will end up on Dancing With the Stars at some point.

Black Prairie is amazing and to think that this is merely a side-project for most of the group makes this debut even more impressive. The combination of the instruments (along with periodic vocals from Tornfelt) melds together to make a sound that is many times the sum of the parts, which is quite impressive considering the parts. Feast of the Hunters’ Moon is the album of the year so far, and I dare anyone who thinks otherwise to take a listen and not think the same.

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