Album Review: 'The Show is On the Road' by Paleface, Playing the Monterey Club Tonight, Propaganda on Friday

The Show is on the Road (Ramseur Records)

Paleface's journey has been a rocky one. He's been picked up and slammed down by major labels, battled substance abuse, and had Beck crashing on his couch (okay, maybe that wouldn't be so bad). But as one of the founders of New York's so-called anti-folk movement, he's influenced many popular acts -- besides Beck, the Avett Brothers and Regina Spektor are among the big names who have cited him. Still, Paleface has never gained much recognition himself. It seems though, that he is pretty okay with all of that.  

His latest release, last year's The Show Is On The Road, is an uplifting and heartfelt reflection on the past and moving on. It's uplifting because of its sincerity and acceptance, though, not because of an ebullient tone. The music is simple and traditional Americana with a subtle edge in places, with well-crafted songs that boast a studio polish. It feels, really, like a great songwriter met a guy with great microphones, and then invited his friends into the session to back him on banjo, drums and piano.  

But he's not hiding behind any tricks here, either of songwriting craft or production. The catchiness of the songs, lyrically and musically, seems to be borne from a genuine lightheartedness rather than forced cleverness. There is not a hint of irony on this record, and its straightforwardness is refreshing. 

One of the many gems on this disc is "New York, New York," a farewell love letter to his longtime home, which he left recently for North Carolina. There must be a million songs that have been written about the city, yet the way this folkie's love for the town gently underlies the sweet imagery of being on the road and saying goodbye makes it an exceptional tune. Another, "Holy Holy," calls out "gimme somthin' better," yet accepts that "there is no pie in the sky." This simple recognition of the human condition is a theme that recurs throughout the record. Apparent references to Mo, his girlfriend and drummer/touring partner, pop up often as well. "You Are The Girl" is a lovely tribute to her.

Throughout this solid record there seems to be a tinge of sadness, but also an awareness that he has got his health, his girl, and that he is on the road. Overall, it's quite enjoyable sharing in that with him.  

-- Travis Newbill

Paleface. With Black Weather Shaman and Everymen. 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 24. The Monterey Club, 2608 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free; age 21 and up; 954-467-1169;

Also 8 p.m. Friday, February 26. Propaganda, 6 S. J. St., Lake Worth. Admission is $5; age 21 and up; 561-547-7273;

"Traveling From North Carolina"

"You Are the Girl"

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