Review Summary: Rocky Votolato takes a more mature and impressive turn on an album that is his most folk sounding album to date.
“Please slow it down…” are the first few words heard in Rocky Votolato’s opening track White Daisy Passing (appeared on the hit Fox show O.C.), and might I say he does just that on this album. Seattle singer/songwriter Rocky Votolato is one of the newest and most refreshing folk artists in the business and as brother of Cody Votolato (member of the Blood Brothers); he shows that he is a true musician. “Makers”, debuting on his new label Barsuk Records has brought his most folk sounding album yet, showing off his amazing voice and finger plucking guitar work. Folk music can be characterized by soothing vocals over the plucking of a guitar, and Votolato’s 2006 album does just that. His prior album Suicide Medicine was a wound up ball of fuming folk-rock angst and approximately three years later, he’s slowed it down to a more melodious folk-rock feel. His sincere, soulful, and faintly raspy vocals are the sounds a folk singer only wishes he had. He has an extremely mature sound on this record, and I suppose it makes complete sense, being a husband with two children and all. The album only runs roughly 38 minutes, but he gets his point across well enough through his lyrics, which teeter on autobiography and fiction.
“She Was Only in It for the Rain” is one of the multiple songs that grasp onto that alternative-country sound, minus the twang in his voice. The song deals with the troubles of writing a song merely because a girl wanted him too, but Rocky approaches the song in a condescending manner. As Votolato sings over his guitar, a well-placed violin is melodically plucking in the background, perfectly capturing the essence of this track, as if it came straight from the inbred porch in the film “Deliverance”. Throughout this album, the sound actually varies quite frequently and in “Uppers Aren’t Necessary”, Votolato looms into the Simon & Garfunkel era, quickly plucking his guitar while maintaining the consistency of his vocals as he does throughout the majority of the album. The imagery in this track is a colorful reference to the town in which he grew up in back in Texas. As you can maybe guess, “Tennessee Train Tracks” revisits his country roots as well as sound, which is revitalizing because he’s gone back to a mix between his first two loves: country and 60’s folk music.
“Tinfoil Hats” is one of the few tracks that give him that Ryan Adams quality, singing in his raspy, country vocals. Votolato shares and shows off his wonderful ability to play the harmonica. The short solos are perfectly associated to the track, as he sings of keeping aliens from reading your mind and how life keeps changing. In his most somber song, “Where We Left Off”, Rocky takes his voice down to a baritone, echoing, and almost eerie hum. As he sings:
“we’ve been living under,
we’ve been taught to remember”
his voice carries higher and higher, eventually reaching the climax of his vocal ability. The short uprising in his voice leads to a drawn-out harmonica solo, soon followed by that somber tone. A bass drum quietly thumps, and the occasional lending of a screeching guitar gives the song a peculiar, yet marvelous sound basking in darkness.
Rocky’s voice has more than enough strength to make girls go crazy, but his music holds more than simply amazing vocals; his talent for playing his harmonica and guitar are a recipe for greatness. “Makers” is an excellent release for Votolato; he is finding where he wants to be with his music and he’s definitely taking the right step towards it. Although the album may fluctuate due to a lack of proper track order, it is still an album with promise. He settles down in this record and it definitely shows as he keeps himself from bursting with breaking vocals. This country/folk artist has made a name for himself and his future with Barsuk seems to be a capable one.