Playing out like a film score to some obscure Southwest desert noir, Paladino’s self-titled debut album will have listeners simultaneously tapping their toes and suspiciously looking over their shoulders for trouble. The music, a mesmerizing combination of country-shuffle backbeat and searing guitar histrionics is steadily anchored by the laconically morose voice of singer-songwriter Jonathan Harkham. As the album’s ten tracks breeze by like an innocent bystander speeding away from trouble, Harkham keeps the perspective tense and jarring without delving into melodrama or schmaltz. He sings of troubled high plains love, daring escapes from torrid Mexicali storms, and the futility of trying to make sense of a life on the run. For good measure, and as a nod to influence, the band tears through slick covers of the country standard classics, “Green Green Grass of Home” and “Have You Ever Been Lonely”. There’s a bit of Sun Records swing, Sadies and Calexico-esque stomp, and even some hints of psychedelia thrown in the mix, and at a mere 28 minutes the album blows by in no time, providing a perfect soundtrack to a quick interstate or, preferably, back roads commute.
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