“Light from my grandfather’s gun cabinet washing across my white skin / This is the body is was born in / This is the body I will live in / This is the kind of body it’s okay to stand your ground in / This is the body I will die from / And there’s blood on my hands.” sings Shane Palko in my favorite string of verses from his new single with Mannie T’Chawi “Blood,” which was released this December and is currently available everywhere indie folk music is sold and streamed. Although I definitely wouldn’t call it a purely verse-based composition, Palko isn’t shy about showing off his skills as a poet in this single, which is something that a lot of his peers in the alternative folk scene have been rather reticent to try in the past couple of years.
Vulnerability isn’t sourced from the lyrics in “Blood” alone; in all actuality, the words we encounter in this song are just one of the components of communication that make it feel like an intimate ballad. While I had not heard his work before this moment in history, he offers familiarity in his disposition and the direct correlation between his cadence of verses and the rhythm of the bass that makes everything sound calmingly old-school, which is hard to do when you’re utilizing such modern concepts in every other part of the music.
Palko has some amazing discipline concerning his vocal execution in this performance, and even though he isn’t halfheartedly producing harmonies from behind the microphone here, he’s careful to avoid the pitfalls that come with breaking off too lusty a lead given the sizable instrumentation in “Blood.” He isn’t working with an entire orchestra, but the sonic swell alone would usually be enough to intimidate his rivals away from such a challenging piece of music.
There’s a lot more of a bottom-end presence in this mix than I would have expected to hear out of a song as centered on its singer as this one is, but I suppose I can understand the postmodern premise Palko was going after when he decided to take this route in the studio. If you put enough of a tonal accent into anything, drums become less and less of a requirement, and for a vocalist who doesn’t want to compete with the crash of a groove as epic as his pipes are, the formula employed for this single is the right one for the job.
If this is just a taste of what Shane Palko and Mannie T’Chawi are going to be recording throughout their time together in the studio, I would not be surprised if mainstream attention came their way a lot sooner than some of their fellow collaborators in the folk genre will find it. Palko is making the right choice in releasing this new single over something more elaborate, and based on the hype “Blood” can stir up in and outside of the underground scene that initially gave it life, I would like to get a new album out of him in the next year.