A look at the latest acts that are breaking at radio and retail and entering the Billboard charts. This week: Paloalto and Scotty Emerick.

A look at the latest acts that are breaking at radio and retail and entering the Billboard charts.

ALTO HITS NEW HIGH: Singer/songwriter James Grundler has been a regular on the L.A. music scene for more than 10 years. His band the Din Pedals were local music darlings, and when the group signed to Epic in the mid-1990s, the label had high hopes.

After all, Grundler has always been a bit of an Anglophile, and the self-titled first effort from the Din Pedals arrived in 1998 with comparisons to New Order and Radiohead. Coming one year after Radiohead had released the critical smash "OK Computer" (Capitol), the future for the Din Pedals was looking rather bright.

But the album fizzled, the group disbanded and Grundler assembled a new band of cohorts for Paloalto. Producer Rick Rubin (Jayhawks, Tom Petty) took a liking to Grundler's new outfit, and signed the band to his Sony imprint American Recordings.

PaloaltoThe group's self-titled first offering in 2000 was a well received, pleasing collection of radio-friendly pop. For "Heroes and Villains," released early this month, the group softened its edges a bit. Whereas Paloalto used to deliver scrappy power-pop songs, new offerings such as "Fade Out/In" and "Breathe In" show the band moving into more of an emotional, lush direction. The band still provides rock riffs, but there's a gentle, Coldplay-like quality to them.

College radio and critics have immediately taken to "Heroes and Villains," and Grundler is finally finding a national audience. The album arrived two weeks ago at No. 14 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart, and performed well enough in its sophomore week that it only drifted to No. 35.

Additionally, the album's first single, "Breathe In," was cited as a "chart-bound" cut in Billboard's sister publication Airplay Monitor. The song is starting to register on adult top 40 stations, and airplay is steadily increasing on stations in the Western U.S.

Paloalto will be touring the U.S. with Brit-pop act Supergrass until the middle of August.


Scotty EmerickTHANKS, TOBY: Scotty Emerick has gone about as far as a sideman can go. Aside from his main gig as a guitarist for Toby Keith, Emerick has written or co-written songs for George Strait and Sawyer Brown. Now he's stepping out on his own, with a little help, of course, from his pal Keith.

DreamWorks will release Emerick's debut, "The Coast is Clear," later this year, but first single "I Can't Take You Anywhere" is already impacting at radio. After being serviced to stations just a few weeks ago, the single hints that the Florida native may be able to put his career as a sideman behind him.

"I Can't Take You Anywhere" bowed last week at No. 52 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. Additionally, sister publication Airplay Monitor noted that the song is "top-30 bound," thanks to heavy airplay at country stations throughout the country.

Not only will Emerick's Nashville sheen appeal to fans of Keith, but the country superstar makes an appearance on the cut. If Keith's cameo helps bring Emerick success, it's only fair, seeing as how Emerick helped Keith pen such songs as "How Do You Like Me Now?" and "Pull My Chain," both from his 2002 hit DreamWorks album "Unleashed."

Emerick's debut has not been given an official release date, but DreamWorks is planning for a late summer or early fall release. The set is being co-produced by Keith and James Stroud (Keith, Clint Black, Hank Williams Jr.).