Trampled By Turtles
Thirty Tigers/RED

Let no one accuse Minnesota’s Trampled By Turtles of going gently into any good night. Palomino, the band’s fifth album, explodes with intense feeling, an in-your-face urgency about its message, and dazzling, emotionally charged playing by the acoustic quintet. Dare someone to make it through the first three songs—“Wait So Long,” “Victory” and “It’s a War”—without needing to stop and catch a breath. Verily, Trampled by Turtles does play like there will be no tomorrow, and so seize the moment to make their feelings known in the most insistent and riveting way possible. Principal songwriter and lead vocalist Dave Simonett writes with a literary, poetic flair that almost defies interpretation, so open-ended are his missives, and the reediness in his tenor voice doesn’t so much give away his heart’s deepest longings as it heightens the desperate pursuit of answers he seeks as time runs out. The band’s charge is so heated and aggressive that when “Separate” breaks stride with a lilting gait as Simonett intones, “Never plain nor simple/it’s breakin’ my heart/but I’m workin’ hard to separate war from beauty,” it’s a revelatory pause allowing us to consider, in the cool light of retrospection, how complex and challenging he regards this thing called love. It’s a Rosetta Stone moment when the furious, driving banjo-fiddle-mandolin-guitar-bass propulsion of the first three songs, in which lyrics seem more like abstract vessels loaded with recondite personal freight, suddenly makes sense in the psychic apparatus of Trampled by Turtles’ music—like the id to Simonett’s ego.

Enough of this intellectual folderol, however relevant it may be to what transpires on Palomino. What is really going on here? Well, some amazing and well-crafted music, dense and challenging in its roiling arrangements in which the instruments seem quick not merely to solo but to challenge each other with ever more fervid responses to what came immediately before, one always upping the ante, and the tension, before giving way to another. Genres blur in the soundscape—“Separate” draws on folk, bluegrass and country, and the same could be said for any number of other tunes that seamlessly incorporate multiple stylistic affectations in order to produce a sonic backdrop that is simply, and beautifully, richly rural, evoking wide open spaces, fields of waving wheat, and Old Man River rolling on (“New Orleans” being one of the most memorable examples of the latter).  The benediction here is “Again,” the last song and a moment of respite, reflection and poignant yearning at the close. Singing with the plainspoken earnestness of Nashville Skyline-era Dylan, Simonett, with a stark, restrained ensemble ruminating softly behind him, looks back on the maelstrom of Palomino and offers a qualified palliative as a sign-off: “Living like a window/stuck wide open/take it all in/but don’t let it burn you out/I know you have your doubts/but just forget them now/Will I see you/Will I see you/Will I see you…again?” There’s a pause, a beat, before he sings “again?” and the question lingers, unanswered, as if Simonett himself is uncertain as to whether he means to “see” someone in a physical or a spiritual sense, or is affirming, yes, once I saw you, really saw you, and in the same instance wondering, will that person ever return? At which point we are right back where we started, and the wheel keeps on turning. —David McGee

Palomino by Trampled by Turtles is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024