Shanta Paloma’s debut full length CD offers a lot of accessible modern radio rock graced by her gutsy, raspy vocal delivery. Paloma’s songs are well crafted pop rockers whose influences range from Pat Benatar to Ani DiFranco to just about any interesting female songwriter with an intriguing vocal. Self-titled, her album never runs out of steam but continuously delivers high energy material. Paloma spices her songs well with intricate acoustic guitar passages, arcing lead guitar accompaniment, and alluring grooves that are as influenced by gypsy jazz as they are classic rock.
“Unspoken” opens the album with a rocking attitude. Paloma croons assertively over waves of driving acoustic and electric guitars and palpable bass and drums. The rhythmic pattern underneath her become more complex as she becomes more subtle and tender in her vocal expressions. True talent abounds as Paloma makes these shifts in her song. She has complete control over the dramatic tension she sings about, moving from raspy and tough to vulnerable and sweet.
Paloma incorporates a touch of 1920s gypsy jazz in “Wake Up.” Her acoustic guitar melody hearkens back to an earlier time in music. Its progression is rooted in an Eastern European melody structure while she sings in a lilting vocal melody. Paloma puts as much drama and emotion in this song as a Broadway musical number. She is certainly not an ordinary rocker chick if she can construct something this gripping and tasteful.
“Thriving” rides in on a breezy, cool, and clean electric guitar melodic phrase. Over that smooth rock delivery, Paloma matches the silky finesse with her graceful, unfurling vocal melody line. Her voice is almost purring with anticipation as she lays out her case for success. Her vocal power here often forms a strong duality with her lead guitarist. Both her voice and that melodic guitar phrase cry out the feelings of this number beautifully.
“Keeper With A Player’s Mind” comes at you like it’s been coiled up too long and couldn’t wait to spring out at the listener. Paloma rocks it with aggression and confidence, like a bad mama who clears a path before her with a tense, menacing attitude. Boy, can this young lady work a vocal line. Paloma carries herself well through and among tense guitar phrasing and two-fisted, bare knuckle drumming and low end attacks. This tune smolders with everything rock and roll should be, attitude, over the top expression, and a message that pounds its fist on your table before telling you off.
Paloma is humming with sensuality in “Under Your Kiss,” a number suggesting a woman who feels restless, now matter what she tries to do about it, until she is rejoined by her irresistible lover. This singer can certainly serve up a plateful of dramatic tension and feeling with her raspy timbre and aggressive vocal phrasing. She can also construct a fantastic musical structure around her voice. She’s got peppy percussion riding alongside palpable bass and drums in alluring rhythmic twists.
“Bad Monkey” finds Paloma prancing her way into a jungle rhythm groove. She sounds levitated over the rhythms as she coos and sustains her vocal enthusiasm for her “jungle love.” Breathy vocals, enticing rhythms, and slithering guitar lines form the primitive pull of this song. Paloma’s come hither approach works more because of what she doesn’t say as what she does as she works her way through this suggestive dance of words and sounds.
“Tombstones” sounds mildly influenced by Spanish guitar ballads. Paloma gets a lot of action packed drama going on in her aggressive acoustic guitar strums. She sings over the speedy acoustic, electric guitars and rhythm section in a vocal approach that glides with perpetual motion, like there’s wind behind her sails only she can feel and use to drive her onward. Her vocal patter includes many peaks and valleys to keep the number interesting and invigorating.
“Parallel Lives” swaggers in with a feisty guitar line. From there, Paloma emotes in a whispery, cooing vocal approach that unfurls at an intriguing pace. Again, she seems to just glide over everything with a vocal line that pours forth like honey. She works in a male duet partner who also croons softly and gently, and Paloma works well off his masculine timbre.
Paloma switches gears in “Sweet Cheeks,” employing a sweet, girlish timbre and a 1920s swing feel in her acoustic guitar strum. This one is full of sugar and spice and everything nice. It’s one of those ditties that will bring a smile to your face as it brightens your day with its inner and outer joy. Likewise, “Like A Little Girl” is gentle with a very likable rhythm, albeit somewhat less jaunty than the previous track. Still, Paloma emotes beautifully over her acoustic guitar melody. She makes the most of her natural timbre when she coos, sustains, and or shifts dynamics. There is definitely a talent here for writing catchy, intriguing songs and a voice that can do all sorts of things with those lyrics and musical structures.
Closing track “The Truth” is a ballad number that seems to climb higher and higher in emotional expression as Paloma goes on. Though ornamented with acoustic guitar, accordion, strings, and synths, it never gets syrupy because Paloma’s song craft keeps all of those instruments in their own special places. Paloma makes you feel this one, delivering it with a sincerity that matches the emotional honest of her words. She also closes out her album on a tender note, suggesting she has unfinished business she can use on her next album.
Paloma is certainly not an ordinary local singer-songwriter. She plays some of the best acoustic guitar around and she puts together songs with an interesting variety of instruments and influences. Incorporating gypsy jazz and also 1920s swing into her rock album are fantastic touches, ideas that don’t spring out of an ordinary mind. Paloma has a talent, ideas, and a look that could take her far. She only needs to market herself a wee bit better, and she’ll be a golden girl on the New England music scene.