REVIEW: ‘When the Stars Come Hurtling Down’ by Pope Paul and The Illegals: the Soundtrack for a Good Time


Pope Paul and The Illegals is a trio from Santa Ana, California, that prides itself on playing all kinds of Americana styles. With sounds ranging from rockabilly to honky-tonk to jazz, When the Stars Come Hurtling Down (Dial Back Sound) is proof that this band has mastered multiple Americana styles.

A song about some vice is nothing new. However, some are more memorable than others. “Drug Song” is one of those. This rockabilly song is driven by the rhythm section: Sal Sandoval on drums and John Kveen on bass. The bass line in particular is so fast that it’s hard to keep up with Pope Paul plays rapid-fire guitar with that clean rockabilly sound. While all of this is going on, Pope Paul sings about doing drugs while other people go on dates or post things on social media. It’s hard not to get drawn in by this catchy tune.

The band takes a turn toward psychobilly with “Demon Ate My Dog.” The guitar has a dirtier sound than other songs and, like a lot of psychobilly songs, is about a demon. Of course most songs about demons don’t involve a demon that wants to eat a dog. While other songs on the album will get couples swinging on a dance floor, this one is sure to get bodies slamming in a pit.

This band shows a pretty good range of styles. They even slow down the tempo for “Up in the Clouds,” a swingin’ honky tonk song (complete with pedal steel and fiddle) that is reminiscent of Wayne Hancock. It’s easy to imagine couples twirling on a dance floor as this song plays.

A lot of the album fits pretty squarely in the rockabilly category. However, “Awkward Dance” has a bit of a polka feel with the bass and the horns. The lyrics are surprisingly sweet. Pope Paul sings about wanting to dance with a certain someone despite not having the best moves. It’s interesting that a guy who sings about demons can also sing about wanting to dance awkwardly with someone.

This album makes a great soundtrack for having a good time, no matter what activity you choose. The songs are upbeat and will get you moving. The cover was done by Jimbo Mathus, too. When the Stars Come Hurtling Down will be available everywhere on February 22.  Order your copy here:


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