Review Summary: Armed with his dobro and slide, Rocco Deluca attempts to mesh folk, blues, and Indie into a single entity for his band's debut album. For the most part, he succeeds, although the execution isn't always as graceful as one would like it to be.
Unconventional instruments can really either help or hurt an artist. A good example of the latter that comes to mind is Switchfoot’s use of synthesizers and drum machines in their song “This Is Your Life”. While some may disagree, the cacophony created by that awful marriage of techno and alternative is nearly unlistenable until they hit the chorus.
However, at times a talented musician comes along and puts an unfamiliar instrument to good use. Enter Rocco Deluca and the Burden, a band that uses the nearly unknown-to-rock dobro (to those who don’t know, it’s essentially a steel guitar played in acoustic guitar position) as the driving force for most of their songs. At the forefront of the indie set is Rocco Deluca, who puts his glass slide to good use on both the acoustic guitar and dobro and provides lazy, well-refined vocals in the vein of Robert Plant (except not annoying).
The dobro isn’t the only weird instrument The Burden makes use of. However, all other unfamiliar additions are much more subtle and the listener probably won’t even hear them upon first listen. “Soul” begins with a long synthesizer intro, and a diminutive piano and organ make appearances throughout the album. However, the dobro and the guitar provide the instrumental beef throughout.
A project like Rocco Deluca and The Burden’s debut album has the potential to be very risky. Fortunately, Deluca manages to balance the folk, blues, Indie, and pop aspects of his songwriting quite effectively. A good example of what this band is striving for is “Swing Low”, which begins with a disjointed, bluesy riff for the verse and erupts into a slick, almost catchy chorus. The contrast works very well and appears again in “Soul” without seeming like the songs are ripping each other off. Another album highlight is the acoustic ballad “Favor”, the album closer, featuring Rocco’s best vocal performance and by far the most worthy lyrics on the entire CD.
Across your arm
A blue ink pen
Reminds you to think of others first
So write down things
That you can't say
And do me a favor once in a while
However, I Trust You To Kill Me has a number of flaws that remind the listener that this is, after all, a debut album from an Indie band. Like too many albums these days, I Trust You To Kill Me has a very strong first half, a horrendous middle, and a strong end. It’s a trend that so many great albums (A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay, A Farewell to Kings by Rush, to name a few) have fallen prey to, and it gets rather annoying after awhile. “How Fast” is one of the laziest attempts to make a bluesy hard rock song I have ever heard on an album, and the slightly raunchy “Gravitate” isn’t much better. In addition, Rocco’s lyrics tend to repeat themselves a few times too many in a song. When the lyrical content of the chorus consists of the same line repeated 3 times in a row, you know that somewhere along the line the creativity process hit a roadblock.
Also, Rocco Deluca takes his instrumental variety a tad too far at times. It seems that either he or his producer thought it would be a brilliant idea to include a sitar in “Speak To Me”, without considering whether it would be appropriate or beneficial to the song itself. These little missteps hurt songs that would otherwise have done well as simple acoustic ballads.
But all things considered, I Trust You To Kill Me is a refreshing, if a little unsatisfying, debut from a band that has the potential for a bright future. The collaboration of genres works well as a soulful Indie sound. And while the extra instruments can be a little tactless at times, they provide the variety that not many albums can provide these days. Let’s just hope that The Burden doesn’t water these strengths down under the pretension of reaching a wider audience. A worthy purchase for any open-minded listener looking for something just a little bit different.