Paleface-The Show is On the Road
Paleface: The Show is on the Road
By Sarah Hall
The old saying “Home is where the heart is” was never more true than when applied to neo-folk duo Paleface.
With his guitar seldom out of reach for a couple decades now, singer/songwriter Paleface is never more at home than when he is behind his instrument. Drummer Monica Samalot’s beat is at the heart of their act, and she’s captured PF’s heart as well.
The two uprooted themselves from NYC’s Lower East Side music scene in 2007, transplanted to Concord, NC, hometown of their frequent collaborators, The Avett Brothers. But while Concord is their base of operation for conquering stages in the Southeast and beyond, it’s hard to think of the town as home, since they are so seldom there.
According to PF, “It doesn’t matter much where you live, when you’re traveling all the time, and you see friends in every city. We don’t need to be ‘part of a scene.’ Our community is everywhere.”
If their new album “The Show is on the Road” is any indication, the traveling life suits them just fine. The gleeful wanderlust celebrated in the opening title track is a prelude to a set of songs that look back without regret and forward with eager anticipation of musical adventures to come.
The sentimental “New York, New York” is a tribute, not homesick longing. The song, with its relaxed urbane edge is situated back-to-back with the gentle folk-like “Traveling From North Carolina,” creating a tale of two cities, looking back and forward.
PF relates that “the song came out so fast, I didn’t know it was coming, it was a blur. I had to step back to look at it, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good.’ ”
Maybe that explains why he is able to turn out so many songs so quicklyóthey write themselves.
Asked how many songs he has written, he says that’s a “daunting” question.
“I don’t know. Maybe about 500. I’ve written so many I’ve completely forgotten about some of the ones from the early days. I found one on a MiniDisc the other night that I didn’t remember at all.”
It’s been a decade since PF has released on a major label, but he’s been anything but idle. The prolific, poetic composer has attained his personal goal of putting out a record per year this decade, achieving this with a parade of independent and self-released albums up through the recent, acclaimed “A Different Story” in 2008.
“The Show is On the Road,” is being released by Concord’s Ramseur Records, and Ramseur artists Seth Avett, Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon are along for the ride, making the trip even more fun. Avett’s distinctive vocals and piano playing spice things up, Crawford’s bass anchors four of the tracks, and Kwon’s cello warms the celebratory “Raise the Glass.”
In addition to vocals, guitar, and harmonica, Paleface modestly lists among his contributions “amateur banjo” perhaps comparing himself to Scott Avett who wasn’t available for this recording session.
Joe Edel does bass duties for about half of the numbers. The album’s producer Grey Revell, another NC transplant, filled in backing vox, keyboards and guitar.
Mo Samalot provides some delightful vocals as well as percussion, although she professes to be out of her comfort zone when she ventures from behind the drums. Her shy approach just adds to the album’s charm.
“The Show is On the Road” was recorded mostly live in Revell’s home studio, giving it a spontaneous and intimate feel, and unencumbered approach. Few songs can display as much exuberance with such an economy of means as “You are the Girl.”
Asked if this song is about her, Mo grins and says, “I hope so. Any girl would be happy to have a song like this be about her.”
So what about track 10-“Short and Sweet?” That could describe the diminutive drummer also.
That observation makes both Mo and PF laugh. The title of that song came from the fact that it is only 20 seconds long.
Paleface draws inspiration from all he sees and experiences. The song “Try To Hold Your Own” sprang to life as he was improvising to the sight of a baby in the audience walking in a tentative back-and-forth motion while holding its parent’s hands.
There’s plenty of variety on the album, from the Latin-flavored and playfully dramatic “If Only I” to the countryish “Holy, Holy” which is a song of good-natured exasperation, not prayer.
The final track, “Pondering the Night Sky, finds Paleface regarding the Carolina firmament, and inspired by starsóa sight not easily seen in Brooklyn’s constantly competing glow of city lights.
As long as Paleface keeps a foot in each city and his home where his heart is, there should be no stopping the flow of poetry and music from this splendid songsmith.
Their show is indeed on the road, and if you’re lucky, that road passes near you soon.
“The Show is On the Road” hits stores April 28.
Paleface kicks off their record release tour April 25 in Charlotte at The Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. Also performing: The Never and Barnraisers. Showtime is 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance.
Call 704-376-3737 or visit www.theeveningmuse.com.