Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: Barsuk Records, Makers, Rocky Votolato, Suicide Medicine, True Devotion, Waxwing
PREVIEW: VISIT Rocky Votolato’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 11/20 Watts
For over a decade, Rocky Votolato has turned out folk-rock records drenched with an unmistakably Southern-influenced sound, while being paired with an emotion-conscious Seattle sensibility. Considering his heritage, Texas-born and Seattle-raised, the hybrid sound makes sense and has been producing some admirable results following his departure from his previous band, Waxwing. Nonetheless, with Votolato’s eigth studio release, True Devotion, this trademark sound has become tired, and his reliance on a seemingly “tried-and-true formula” may fail to keep listeners’ attentions.
After a period of widely publicized bouts with depression and anxiety, Votolato decided to shut himself away in his apartment for over a year, refusing contact with the outside world, instead choosing to take on the study of existential philosophy, theology, physics and equally weighty academic pursuits. The result was somehow True Devotion, which lacks any sort of musical maturation on Votolato’s part, despite his studious seclusion.
That’s not to say that the record is bad, by any means. It features the same earnest, fragile vocals and delicate guitar strumming as his critically acclaimed 2006 release, Makers. “Red River” features Votolato at his most impressive with a sound similar to Suicide Medicine’s “Every Red Cent”. It’s a bit edgier than the rest of the tracks on the record, and is a more than welcome change.
The fact that he decided to play it safe, though, surely comes out in tracks such as the album opener, “Lucky Clover Coin”, which you’ll be sure that you’ve heard before in numerous iterations over the years. The verse-chorus-verse-chorus progression, with his slight chord and mood changes, has its limits. This album may be it.
In the end, the record is neither good nor bad. It’s safe and familiar, but an ultimately, and unfortunately, disappointing offering after a year of apparent development and enlightenment. It relies on a tried and true formula, and that is perhaps where it most falls short. Try something new, Rocky, please. You owe it to your fans.
– John Luposello