SONG PREMIERE: Pope Paul and the Illegals Fuse California Twang and Southern Rock ’n’ Soul on “Signs & Wonders”

Pope Paul and the Illegals’ debut offering When The Stars Come Hurtling Down (out February 22nd on Dial Back Sound) is a smorgasbord of acumen connecting on twang and rockabilly with a heavy dose of dopamine inducing punk rock sensibility and a comedic chide. The Santa Ana, California-based trio enlisted the guidance and camaraderie of like-minded ensigns Bronson Tew and Matt Patton (Drive-By Truckers, Dexateens) and their throwback, live to tape studio Dial Back Sound as control center from all the way East, and maybe a little further South in Water Valley, Mississippi. A happenstance meeting with legend and fellow outsider Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers) acted as a beacon of sorts, conducing the amalgamation of California twang trio meets Southern rock’n’soul scholars Tew and Patton. Ol’ Jimbo even threw in on the collaged album art that is a gem in and of itself.

After several tours across our great nation and a few all night Dial Back recording sessions, the fellas have amassed an 11 song collection of reverbed rockabilly rave-ups coupled with a hankerin’ for some Bakersfield-style Country and an insatiable appetite for garage-y surf and punk rock. Hell, there’s even a horned-up, eclectically jazzy number that sticks in the frontal lobe a’la “Awkward Dance”. Follow-up track “Jealousy” brings the heat with a barrage of chunky chords that build up into a perpetual cyclone of chorus in both guitar and vocal form while the time is kept with a zombie-like backbeat that makes my arms throb just imagining it being tracked live. One can even argue a touch of a dancehall reggae vibe in “Beautiful Music”, which brings up the rear for the insatiable rhythm section’s opening track “Big Bitch Boogie”…watch your toes on the dancefloor, Gentlemen!

Those familiar with the band may have heard some of these songs as singles along the way, but this record marks their initial full-length debut with a fresh mix on each track and a strong desire to take over the twangasphere. Pope Paul Bouyear’s comedic genius is purveyed throughout but holds the most weight with personal favorite “Drug Song”, not just for the hilarity of lyrical content but the barebones shuffle is a bonafide foot-stomper yet again showcasing the fortitude of bass man John Kveen and trap-slapper Fat Sal Sandoval.

Which seamlessly transitions me into Glide‘s premiere of “Signs & Wonders”, a pedal steel-drenched mellow tune contemplating the wonders of love and universe, real life happenings versus a sign from above or wondrous happenstance. The groovy tune brings to mind acts like JD McPherson, Patrick Sweany and a more country-fied version of Reigning Sound. 


When The Stars Come Hurtling Down is available at Dial Back Sound or wherever else it is that you consume and/or preserve music on February 22 and it’s big fun! 

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