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Rocky Votolato
The Brag And Cuss
Barsuk Records
www.rockyvotolato.com


"Christmas parties and all night fights/ I remember you sweet-talking to me beneath the strung up lights/ Those days are gone now/ I know I had everything to do with that…" The opening lines on Rocky Votolato's latest record set the tone for the entire record in a decidedly succinct way. The songs on The Brag And Cuss are somber-hued and self-deprecating in the manner of all great American music, relying on stories of loves lost and longing for the missing passions of life. Votolato tells the stories of his protagonists with an insight so profound and deep that it is hard to imagine he is singing of anyone other than his own self. "Postcards From Kentucky", with its lilting banjo lines and solid rhythms, paints the portrait of a broken man, thick with drink and longing for the next thing that life may throw his way, good or bad. The pace steps up a bit and the mood gets a bit lighter on the immensely beautiful "Before You Were Born". This song showcases Votolato's wonderful sense of melodic majesty, featuring some of the finest lyrical allusion and melodic grandeur to grace my stereo in years. The music on The Brag And Cuss has a definite Americana flavor, filled with harmonicas, acoustic guitars, stomping drums, and the occasional banjo or steel guitar. The production is an exercise in perfection; each sonic spectrum separated just enough to be vivid without detracting from the overall sound-as-a-whole feeling that creates such an intimate and personal vibe throughout the songs. As the album continues to unfold the listener is given the sense of a great history of lives being discovered through these songs, each one with a deep sense of personality and a strong message of buried hope and love and beauty. Votolato succeeds in revealing to the world that he has taken huge steps in his musical growth since his last very, very good record, 2006's Makers. While that record was filled with a burgeoning sense of indie rock mixed with a darker Americana, the promise that was hinted at has come to fruition on The Brag And Cuss, revealing the great depth and purpose found in the simple literacy of this relatively unknown leader in the underground folk-rock scene.

-L. Keane


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