Before I get too in-depth about this album, I would like to talk about what Sons of the Palomino are trying to do here. With this album, the band tries to recapture an era and a feel, that of the Palomino, a club where classic country stars played during the 80s and 90s. Megan told me I should read the band’s biography before listening to the album, and though I would have liked it anyway given how country the material is, I’m glad I knew all of the information about the band’s goals going in. It helps give the album a special feel.
As for the album itself, I did not love the whole thing. There were songs that I felt were too sleepy for my taste, like “Old Roads and Lost Highways”. Then, the album had a couple songs which I did not connect to emotionally, like “Whiskey Years”. I should have liked the latter more than I did, as it tells the tale of a man looking forward to the day where he can be sober and not have to drink his pain away.
For all of the lackluster moments on this album, though, I felt a real love for the instrumentation. Even on songs I did not care for, I always loved the actual musicianship. The steel guitar, fiddle, piano…it all goes back to the days of an older style of country. It’s a style that I personally gravitate toward, so even when I was ambivalent about the actual lyrics, I always liked the instrumentation.
With all of the things I didn’t personally get into about this album out of the way, let’s talk about the good stuff. The first track, “Runnin’ Around,” is what convinced me I needed to hear what this band were selling. It’s a mid-tempo country song about a man who knows his girlfriend is cheating, and how he won’t be there when she comes looking for him. Done a million times? Sure, but this band makes it fun, and again. The instrumentation here is stellar. The next song, “Authentic,” brings in something else unique about this album. At various points, there are featured guest stars singing in parts of the song. Well, the band certainly couldn’t get more “Authentic” than John Anderson, and let me tell you. Hearing him on this track was awesome. The actual lyrics tell of being real and true to yourself, and not trying to be some fake version of country. In the days of pop country, and many people not knowing what country really is, this song is a must-listen. “Countryholic” is pretty hilarious, as the song discusses a man who just loves Waylon and Willie, steel guitar, and boots. It’s a bit cliché, but I chuckled a few times.
I liked the slower and more feeling-driven “Outta This Town”. It’s all about a man who can’t seem to leave his hometown. The planes never stop there, the train never makes a trip to the town, and he gets a woman pregnant and marries her. Thus, he’s stuck in the town. This one features Emmylou Harris on backing vocals, and I thought it made a nice change from all the faster songs. As much as I’m bored of all the drinking songs in today’s mainstream country scene, “Hole In The Wall” was an easy listen. I didn’t love it, but it was pleasant enough. The lyrics revolve around wanting to find a little bar with cold beer, a small dance floor, and a jukebox. I just liked the instrumentation, the lyrics, and everything combined to make this an enjoyable, if not completely amazing, song. My favorite emotional song is definitely “Unbroken People”. It’s all about feeling the pain of losing loved ones, but leaning on platitudes people say like “everything will be okay,” or “you’re gonna make it.”. This was the song that really resonated with me emotionally, where most of the others failed to do so. Finally, there’s “Used to be a Country Town”. I loved Gretchen Wilson’s part of the song, and it really just made me want to go listen to more of her music. The song itself is all about how they used to party in a town that used to be country. They wasted their money, but they had fun doing it.
Overall, I liked this album. The guest stars featured made it really unique. There were some I actually missed until I later went back and looked at who was featured. I did not catch Vince Gill or Jamey Johnson. The musicians did a wonderful job at bringing back the sounds of 80s and 90s country, too. I love good piano, fiddle and steel guitar, and I got all three of those in spades. Lastly, I must talk about the skills of the lead singer. Jeffrey Steele has quite the vocal range. When I was first listening to this album, I thought there were more guest stars than the site of the Sons of the Palomino alludes to. In fact, it’s just that Steele can sing in both very low and very high registers. It’s pretty awesome stuff. I think if you like the 80s and 90s era of country music, you are doing yourself a disservice by not checking this album out. The instrumentation is great, there are some really well-done songs here, and seeing names like John Anderson’s on a contemporary project like this is really cool.