Though their raucous live shows regularly attract girls with Bettie Page haircuts and guys with ducktails and custom car-emblazoned jackets, the Paladins are anything but a simple retro or parody band. Formed in San Diego in the late '70s by high school friends Dave Gonzalez (lead vocals, guitar) and Thomas Yearsley (bass, vocals), they've released outstanding records like their 1986 debut, The Paladins, Let's Buzz, Years Since Yesterday and Slippin' In for a variety of labels. Members of Los Lobos, the Blasters, X and Kim Wilson have been fans from day one, which isn't surprising, given that the Paladins' sound embraces not only roots/rockabilly but also blues, country and even jazz.
Gonzalez, Yearsley (who left and came back) and drummer Brian Fahey round out the current lineup, which has just released the fine El Matador (Lux). It's a less frenetic, more controlled effort that nevertheless retains their signature feel, and the Spanish-tinged title track, the peppy "Lookin' for a Girl Like You" and the rave-up "Goin' Nowhere Fast" are all winners. Surprisingly, the instrumentals -- "Soulfarm," "Hot Link" and the romantic "Blue Cascade" -- are just as strong. There's an organ on many of the tracks, and while on paper that would seem an anomaly in the Pals' signature sound, it seems utterly natural on disc. All in all, they're a band with a lot of heart, history and hepcats, arguably the most underrated roots/rockabilly act today.