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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mighty Road Band, The Paladins Best Heard Stretching It On Stage

It’s not ironic that the cover of the latest Paladins album features a car engine eclipsing a road map.

Neither is it ironic that the name of the respective album and the band’s fan club is “The Million Mile Club.”

Nor is it ironic that the album was recorded live.

None of this is surprising because the Paladins, based in Southern California, log more miles on their Ford Econoline in one month than most touring bands do all year.

The band is, indeed, a fixture of the road. That’s why 17 years of transforming clubs and theaters into sweaty saunas have rewarded the rootsy trio with a healthy following.

The Paladins’ albums have gotten plenty of critical acclaim, but little commercial attention. “Million Mile Club,” which is being thrust by major-label 4AD (Dead Can Dance, Lush and Breeders) hasn’t exactly motored up the charts.

So - pardon the cliche - the road warriors have had to rock the house everywhere they go to get people to pay attention.

“We thrive on the sweat and the energy that our crowds create,” says guitarist-vocalist Dave Gonzalez in the band’s press materials. In doing so, “we’ve resisted gimmicks and pigeonholes. We just play music that we believe in.”

Really, on stage is where the band should be heard. Sure, its studio albums are banner, but the live arena enables the band to stretch out a little, expand songs and flaunt its prowess.

That’s why “Million Mile Club” is such a strong effort. The album, packed with 12 scruffy blues-tinged rockers, portrays the band for what it is, a mighty road band.

Incidentally, one of the album’s 12 songs - “Every Time I See Her” - was captured onto tape at the Fort Spokane Brewery in 1995. This is where the Paladins will hold court on Thursday.

Like many of the bands that sprang up in the early 1980s - X, the Blasters and the Beat Farmers - the Paladins built its sonic mantle with shards of blues, country, rockabilly and punk rock.

The Paladins early records, 1988’s “Years Since Yesterday” and 1989’s “Let’s Buzz” were both released on Alligator Records, a blues indie.

“Million Mile Club” primarily draws from the band’s three previous albums, although it contains three new songs, including the tune recorded at Fort Spokane.

Tickets are $8, $7 for Inland Blues Society members. Showtime at 9.

Smokin’ harp

Norton Buffalo isn’t a studio sideman, although his credits on dozens of albums by dozens of artists might make him out to be one.

Yet, in the last three decades, he has made a profound contribution to music.

Buffalo, who plays the Waterin’ Hole in Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday and the Bayou Brewery on Thursday with his band the Knockouts, has appeared on more than 70 albums, blowing his harp for a distinguished list of musicians. It would take two full pages just to list them all. A few of them include Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers, the Doobie Brothers and Bonnie Raitt. And, of course, he’s a member of the Steve Miller Band.

Though Buffalo is also largely considered a bluesman, he’s not.

He hasn’t confined himself to churning out notes for just blues. And that’s why he’s such a great player. Buffalo can adeptly reinvent himself and forge new ground, no matter the genre.

It’s almost impossible to isolate one or two of his albums from the rest as being exemplary. They’re all good in different ways.

But if you’re looking for a more definitive starting point, seek out Buffalo’s albums with blues guitarist Roy Rogers - “R&B” and “Traveling Tracks.”

Because Rogers, too, isn’t a strict blues player, the songs enable Buffalo to showcase his depth with the harmonica, whether it’s puffing out blues chops or whistling atmospheric melodies.

Norton Buffalo and the Knockouts will play the Waterin’ Hole at 8 p.m. (tickets $10 advance, $12 at the door) and at 8:30 p.m. in the Bayou’s Fat Tuesday Lounge. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door.

Wylie rides again

On March 14, Eastern Washington’s old-school country heroes, Wylie and the Wild West Show, will get to play in the actual country - Colfax.

The band performs at the Whitman County Fairgrounds in the Community Building.

Those who have been awaiting the arrival of a third Wylie and the Wild West Show album only have a few more months to endure. In July, Rounder Records - Wylie’s new label - will issue “Way Out West.”

Funny enough, the album, recorded and produced by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, has been available in Australia since fall.

Like the traditional-minded BR-549, Wylie and the Wild West Show stray from contemporary country music conventions, expanding on the music’s original and often forgotten virtues. They’re not the same old thing you hear repeatedly on the radio. Maybe that’s why people around the country are starting to take notice.

Showtime’s at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10, $5 for children 12 and under (459-3684.)

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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