Reviews:: First Listen Rocky Votolato The Bragg & Cuss

Barsuk artist Rocky Votolato consistently flies under the radar. Despite the fact Makers was (yet another) a terrific album and one he made great strides as an artist, he still gets little to no attention from the bloggers. His new record, The Bragg & Cuss, is out on Barsuk on June 19th and there’s been almost no mention of it anywhere.

Even after one listen, you are hit by the obvious change of style for Rocky. The songs on this record are much more country tinged, and step away from the uptempo/folky tracks that filled Makers. Instead, most of the eleven songs move slowly, reminiscent of the ghostly Where We Left Off. Personally, I think his voice and style is better suited for this pace, so you'll hear no complaints from me.

The album opens with a delicate slide guitar and a harmonica of Lilly White, and emotion drips from the gentle sounds. Rocky’s words paint a painful picture of remorse and sadness. Drunken nostalgia of the good and bad times that seem as clear as the day they happened, even if the your memories are actually clouded so you can erase any fault that belonged to her. It’s that false honesty we’ve all held onto. It used to be so good, even when it wasn’t and you are left with only a drunken sigh and a subtle nod to the bartender for another two fingers of Jack. As the banjo starts Postcards from Kentucky, you are completely wrapped in the vision of his drunken reflection.

Rocky's always been a good story teller and this record is no different. He’s able to transport the listener with simple strums and words. On the Wrong Side of Reno, you can’t help but picture a man riding the rails, pulling the collar of his pea coat tight to fight the winter wind as the train whips through the silent night. The simplicity of his characters helps you relate to the story. Everything could (and maybe has) happened to you, so the songs seem familar before you are even through the first listen.

What really stands out for me is how easily he jumps outside his comfort zone. Rocky’s records have relied on harmonica and acoustics pairings; hushed story-telling (like the beautiful Whiskey Straight on this record), but he tries a lot of new things on this record. A honky-tonking piano on Your Darkest Eyes, the rollicking riff on Time is a Debt or (and most surpisingly) the way he channels Sufjan on the beautiful Silver Trees. The double tracked harmonies are breathtaking, and the gentle finger picked riff adds just the right amount of accompaniment.

On this record, Rocky’s only got better at what he is so good at, but he also took the risks needed to help him form his own identity and stand out from the hundreds of acts trying to do the same thing. I'm sure

MP3:: Silver Trees

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