Out of all the bluegrass bands playing their trade on stages around the country, you’d be hard-pressed to find one with more unbridled enthusiasm and breathless momentum than Trampled By Turtles.
The Duluth, MN-based quintet is bringing its infectious and rollicking sounds to the Middle East in Cambridge Thursday night in support of its latest record,Palomino(Thirty Tigers/RED), released April 13 and available only at Newbury Comics locations in Massachusetts.
Indeed, the band’s lightning-fast approach has bled into their songwriting, which has become so prolific that it’s difficult to keep up with all of their releases – Palomino is the group’s sixth offering since 2004.
The album immediately hits the ground running with lead single “Wait So Long,” which starts off with a plaintive fiddle line over quick-fingered banjo with guitarist and singer Dave Simonett adding in vocals before the whole group joins in for the chorus. As the song speeds toward its climax, the five musicians seem to be playing so fast that the entire structure of the song is in jeopardy before everything pulls back together for the infectious chorus again.
“It’s A War” keeps the listener on his toes, bumping along quickly with bassist Tim Saxhaug pushing the song forward and fiddle that seems to be on the verge of takeoff at all times.
The album finally takes a break to catch its breath with the bitter breakup ballad “Bloodshot Eyes,” which benefits from some mournful harmonica. The song is self-deprecating and offers a more melodic side of the band, showing off what the members can do when the speed limit drops below 100. It’s a departure from the first four cuts on the album, and that contrast mixed with its inherent beauty makes it one of the standout songs onPalomino
“Help You” delves into more country-tinged music, stomping along to Erik Berry’s rhythm mandolin and Dave Carroll’s lead banjo work with some hopeful harmonies as Simonett sings about trying the best he can. The harmonies add another layer of color to the songs, an extra dimension that helps flesh things out and gives each song a fuller sound. The whole album seems to follow the theme of a love gone bad, a deep sadness that nonetheless cannot be contained or held down, but sprints forward at a rapid clip from each instrument and with each thoughtful lyric.
The distorted “Gasoline”is stark and ominous, reminiscent of the bleak Northern Minnesota country that defines Trampled By Turtles. This feeling is echoed in the short instrumental “Sounds Like A Movie,” with dissonance from fiddle player Ryan Young holding the song together.
The simplicity of songs like “New Orleans”and “Again”belie the feelings behind them, with the former a comparatively upbeat ode to young love and the latter a mournful lament centered on the question “will I see you again?” &-a question that ultimately goes unanswered as the album comes to a close.
Palomino, the group’s major label debut (having released each previous record by themselves), does well to showcase the quality in songwriting while capturing the raw energy of Trampled By Turtles’ live show. If anything could be better than blasting “Wait So Long” through huge speakers in your living room, it would be witnessing this group lined up on the edge of the stage delivering their blend of blistering bluegrass to an ecstatic audience like the ones this group has been building since 2004.
Trampled By Turtles will take the stage at the Middle East in Cambridge Thursday, May 27. Palomino is out now online and at Newbury Comics locations in Massachusetts.