Review Summary: More of the same from Rocky. It's a good thing, for now.
A common question I get asked when recommending a certain artist or band is “Which album should I start with"”. In the case of Rocky Votolato, my answer has always been the same: “Any of them.” This isn't to say the work of the artist in question is so homogeneous that it really doesn't make a difference, neither is it a cheap and lazy cop-out on behalf of the reviewer (okay, maybe it is a little of that), it just goes to show how accessible Votolato's work is. With his latest album, True Devotion
, nothing has changed.
If you haven't come across the Texas-born singer-songwriter before, don't prepare yourself to be blown away by True Devotion
. But do look forward to an easy, enjoyable, honest listen from an artist who isn't afraid to wear his heart plainly on his sleeve. Votolato sings with a voice which is all his own, yet still very recognizable; homely. There's no sign of attempted imitation, only complete immersion in his own songs. Smooth and gentle, Votolato sings with conviction and clear pride. It's obvious that the songs he writes, the words he sings, really mean something to him. One of the most important aspects of vocals in music is being able to believe what is being sung, and this is certainly a quality evident in Rocky's music. When emotion strikes the singer he'll let it be heard, and fortunately this isn't hidden by excessive instrumentation. The songs are mostly guitar-centric, but there are often tasteful additions of drums, pianos, violins, harmonicas, violins which flesh out the sound sweetly. One of Votolato's most admirable qualities is his ability to write a simple, but still catchy, enjoyable and emotive acoustic track, free from any unnecessary gimmick suffocation, and that is exactly what the ten tracks of True Devotion
offer. Makes a nice retreat from the hordes of Animal Collective rip-off bands anyway.
If I was to use one word to nail down Rocky Votolato it would be consistency. The man has never failed to put out a half-decent record, and his passion for music has never showed any signs of waning. Unfortunately, the only progression that the artist seems to be making lately is an increasing polishing and honing of his sound. He's not taking any steps backward, but he doesn't seem to be making any forward either. This isn't such a bad thing, but you just wonder if Votolato is so proud of his music that he doesn't want to make any changes, take any risks. True Devotion
occasionally suffers from this homogeneity, stagnating more than once before the record is out. Critics have often commented that his records all sound the same, and, while it may not have been such an issue in the past, there is an increasing risk of those critics being proved not only right, but forebodingly clever. God forbid. Hopefully that never has to happen and if we see another album from Votolato, there'll be something fresh to dig our teeth into, even if it doesn't taste too good. For now, it's more of the same from Rocky. Looking for somewhere to start" I certainly hope so.