Johnny Hickman often is labeled the “other guy” in Cracker, but Palmhenge should put to rest the notion that he’s simply David Lowery’s sideman. Wildly diverse — from the arena rock of “Harvest Queen” to the Bakersfield country of “Friends” to the splendid folk-rock of “Little Tom” and “The San Bernardino Boy” — the album blends those genres with a dash of alt-rock to create a surprisingly coherent whole.
The ethereal opening track “Prerequiem” seamlessly sets the stage for the album’s finest cut, “The Great Decline”, a reflection on what Hickman sees as an ill-fated state of affairs in southern California. Lyrically, much of Palmhenge maintains a similar focus. “Hacker Boy” and the anti-Bush sentiments of “Southern Cal” are acutely topical, but the rest are more timeless.