ALBUM REVIEW: Paladino "Paladino" (Self-Titled)

If Reverend Horton Heat had children with Lucinda Williams they might have offspring that could form a band that sounds like Paladino on their quirky and intensely interesting "Paladino" self-titled album.

The project begins with the upbeat "Lonely Mountain" that can best be described as "cowboy punk." With a laid-back but fast-paced vocal style that is unusually compelling, lead singer Jonathan Harkham deserves careful artistic examination as do other founding Paladino members Chris and Adrienne Isom. Harkham is also a talented painter, and his artistic nature is the driving creative force on the album since he wrote most of the songs (and even painted the album cover).

Paladino's cowboy swagger emerges on "Snow Deer," which offers elements of traditional country presented in a style that would befit the Grand Ole Opry stage. However, the punk influences resurface on "Ode To Misery," which also features elements of alt country, Americana, and rock n' roll. It must be mentioned to country audiences that the word "punk" should not be a turn-off, because Paladino's self-titled album is both accessible and accomplished. Indeed, it is refreshing to see a unique blend of styles that respects the country genre.

The fourth cut, "In Exile," offers some of the best whistling on  a cut since the theme of "The Andy Griffith Show." The most surprising track is the latin-tinged "Mexicali Rainsong," but it is "Green Green Grass Of Home" that will get country audiences excited the most and could land Paladino on country and Americana music charts. The beautiful cover put forth by Paladino is remarkable for its nuanced vocals and minimal production. Likewise, the beat was not accelerated too much, which allows the track to slowly simmer. "Green Green Grass Of Home" should be released to radio.

"Have You Ever Been Lonely" has much of the same charm, and the track has a retro-Traveling Wilbury's vibe that works. Cowboy punk returns on "Here I Lie," and "Dim & Gutless Jig" will likely be a concert favorite with its hard-edged lyrics and upbeat tempo. However, the album ends with another pure country/Americana song titled "Too Many Rivers" that fires on all cylinders.

"Paladino," the self-titled album from the group Paladino, is worth purchasing simply for the stellar track "Green Green Grass Of Home." However, all of the other tracks are musically interesting and carefully produced in such a way that each song has more resonance upon successive listens. No one will ever call "Paladino" boring, and you might just call it the most fun you've had this year.