Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Album Review: Rocky Votolato-True Devotion
I have these old pants that I just can't part with. My wife, try as she might, just can't seem to get me to throw them away. There's a big hole on one knee, and another forming on the other. Why, you might ask, would I insist on keeping such a pair of pants? Well, they just happen to be the most perfect pair of pants I've ever owned. They fit amazingly well, and they're incredibly comfortable. So, even though they're not much to look at these days, tossing them would be like losing an old friend.
To me, Rocky Votolato is in the same sort of situation. His voice is ragged and incredibly limited. His songs never blow you away. Even with his spectacular 2006 album, Makers, Rocky was holding down the fort rather than expanding his empire. The fact that it was a mild success was more of a fluke than a calculated moment.
With his new album, True Devotion, Rocky is up to his same old tricks; that is to say, he's not tricking anyone. This is his third consecutive album of straight-forward folk/rock/almost country.
The album starts on a good note, with a beautiful string orchestra (and what sounds like a pump organ), playing a 20-second instrumental sequence. This leads into a solid, yet unspectacular, leading track, Lucky Clover Coin. Unfortunately, "solid, yet unspectacular" seems to be the theme of this album. The name of the game is acoustic-centered, mid-tempo songs with the occasional electric guitar noodle, and/or subtle percussion. He does mix things up a bit on Red River, in which the acoustic guitar intro is accompanied by a simple electronic beat, which works surprisingly well.
Just as things start to seem to be getting close to being overly dramatic, he throws in the gently fingerpicked Sparklers. This song is a perfect companion to Makers' Uppers Aren't Necessary, minus the Simon & Garfunkel-esque harmonies. Next track, Instrument, begins with his trademark harmonica (which, surprisingly, makes it's only appearance here). Sun Devil, with it's warm melody and worn out feel, is my favorite song of the album, hands down. "You broke my heart...with a glance from the bathroom mirror", he sings in a voice that is somehow different than it is elsewhere on the album. Once again, this song isn't one to blow you away, but it's naked sincerity is something to admire.
Things bow out with Where We Started, which, predictably, ends with a beautiful string orchestra (and what sounds like a pump organ), playing a 20-second instrumental sequence. Unfortunately, this song ends Rocky's streak of great album closers at two (after Makers' title track and Silver Trees, from The Brag And Cuss).
After listening to the album the first time, I sent a text to my friend: "I just listened to the new Rocky V. Meh". After listening to it for the second time, I found that it has a good chance to grow on me, like The Brag And Cuss did. Like my perfect pair of pants, I don't think I'll ever be able to throw Rocky V away.