Album Review: Paleo – Fruit of the Spirit

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The lore behind David Strackany’s solo folk moniker Paleo is vast and storied, much like the deep-rooted landscape that Strackany himself tumbled across while living out of his car, recording and playing hundreds of dates across the country. With an arsenal of at least 365 songs and last year’s A View of the Sky under his belt, Paleo takes a much more laid-back approach to his latest release, Fruit of the Spirit.

This go-around, Paleo purposefully leaves his brand of narrative, rambling folk disjointed and completely bare. Opener “Lighthouse” comes off as an invaded back porch jam session. Instead, the album’s bare-bones style materialized from three days of collaborative, hodge-podge recording in Davenport, Iowa under the tutelage of original Daytrotter sound engineer Patrick Stolley and guest spots from Strackany’s regional musician pals. Stolley’s menagerie of well-loved recording equipment, the Daytrotter signature analog sound, and a willy-nilly, unplanned performance approach make Fruit of the Spirit sound like a quirky basement tape.

Though the process provides a great feel of happenstance on standout tracks such as “Holly Would” and “In the Movies”, the rough-hewn finish creates some truly raw pieces that are not for the faint of ear (see “Poet” takes 1 and 2 and “Pharoah”). Fruit of the Spirit can be appreciated for its innovative production, but it makes for an unsettling and jarring listen. Strackany’s warbled vocals and clever songwriting that conjured delicate suspense on previous releases come across in yearning yowls and croaks. The result is distracting and shrill, as the album’s wandering path only briefly centers on chugging folkies like “Over the Hill and Back Again” and “Favorite Place”.

Paleo boasts an impressive track record of solo work and production credits that make him a name to know. However, Fruit of the Spirit might as well be a one-man band trudging down a dusty road, outfitted with instruments dangling from every limb and a faded kick drum strapped to his back. He’s not always on track, but his own brand of creativity finds an audience every now and then.

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