Shane Palko – Pick Me Up
Shane Palko’s unique style, deemed alternative folk by the singer/songwriter, truly merits the label as he weaves a number of improbable sonic strands into a colorful whole. He’s released a bevy of collections, live and studio, since first emerging on the scene and his latest offering Pick Me Up is an eleven song effort solidifying his standing as one of the most unique songwriting talents working today. If he’s under the radar by anyone’s definition, it’s safe to say that he won’t be for much longer.
The gentleness, musical imagination, and wisdom informing the album opener, “Traveling/Wandering”, are impossible to ignore. You can hear the “alternative folk” aspects of his recording in the way Palko brings hints of other styles to bear along the edges, enhancing the folky foundations of the tune with added instrumental atmospherics, and still maintaining a low-key demeanor throughout. His lyrical turns are posed in simple language, yet they plumb deep. “Circus Dog” mixes artful percussion, electric and acoustic guitar, traditional instrumentation, and an unusual arrangement with Palko’s plaintive vocal. “Circus Dog” owes much of its slightly melancholy and elegiac mood to how well his voice works within this sonic landscape.
The light quasi-shuffle Palko strikes up for the track “Captain Dan” works well for his detailed and often poetically flavored lyric. Another superb touch distinguishing this song is the presence of a second vocalist deeper in the mix and echoing many of Palko’s own lines. The violin so often making its presence felt on Pick Me Up works as a third voice, in essence, and the counterpoints it provides Palko’s own singing makes for an even more memorable experience. The compositional role guitar often takes on this release is highlighted in the song “Time Travel Politics” – it is much more focused on invoking atmosphere rather than carrying the melody and its position as one musical tool in a limited bevy of sonic colors works well. Palko is concerned with invoking an unified mood with many of these songs, the lyrics, music, and vocal performance complementing one another, and few of those cuts resonate more than this one.
The redemptive qualities of the song “Moving Forward” are difficult to pass by.
Palko’s songwriting is clearly concentrated on exploring autobiographical issues, but he has a singular talent for making those personal elements more universal than you might expect and this talent is reflective of his overall skill. “Jenny Wren”, a title recalling a Paul McCartney song of the same name, is one of the undisputed highlights of the album and Palko does an exceptional job of fleshing out the song’s central character.The acoustic guitar playing is evocative without ever sounding too precious and the keyboard touches along the way further sweeten the melody. Pick Me Up is another entry in Palko’s growing discography, but it’s an uniformly fine effort that deserves ranking as among his best efforts yet.