Rocky Votolato – The Brag And Cuss
Record Label: Barsuk Records
Release Date: June 19, 2007
You know what I hate about music? It takes too damn long to create. Every time my favorite musician wows me with something brilliant, I must sit and twiddle my thumbs with careful anticipation of upcoming glories for what seems like forever. I’m sure people get peeved off at me when I go a few days without posting a review. There’s no excuse for me, seeing as how I just regurgitate words like, um, regurgitate at you to only seem smarter. I have tried to be more patient, but as an American, it’s just not something I’m good at. Thankfully, Rocky Votolato has taken pity on all us patriots and speedily released The Brag And Cuss.
Coming out just over a year after the wonderful Makers, The Brag And Cuss does not feel rushed in the slightest. In fact, the album is just as laid back as ever. Featuring even more of the things that appeased unlikely city kids (Hi, how are ya?), The Brag And Cuss comes across fuller and more focused. And if you have ever thought an album needs more harmonicas, stop reading right now and pick this up, you’ll love it.
Votolato’s signature voice is still raspy and delightful. He tries so, so hard to hit the high notes on “Lilly White” and “The Wrong Side Of Reno,” yet still strains unsuccessfully. Although, it’s the most beautiful failure in the world. The storytelling and imagery on The Brag And Cuss is even more compelling. “Postcard from Kentucky” is a tearjerker about failed friendships and the feeling of being lost in a much-too-large world. “Whiskey Straight” is further proof Votolato is at the top of his game. Over a simple acoustic guitar and sorrow-soaked vocal melodies, he laments, “You were an anchor with high cheekbones / I was a soldier with broken fingers / You ended up wasted on cheap champagne / Celebrating everything that’s missing.”
The album delicately shifts from folk to indie pop to blues . “The Old Holland” gets soulful with a rickety guitar solo and organs, while “Time Is A Debt” is a melodic change of pace. A light snare and smooth electric guitar make this chorus the most memorable. Ol’ Rocky can still write a catchy hook when he wants to. Thing is, I’m not sure I want him to.
Closer, “Silver Trees,” leaves me with a wonderful feeling of uncertainty. Votolato's voice is almost unintelligible at parts, leaving the acoustic guitar and harmonica to take the lead. Votolato also finishes the record with a lone harmonica. This might sound strange for an album so dependent on vocals and words, but it’s a very pleasing end to The Brag And Cuss. Votolato allows the music to speak for itself, and boy is it lovely.
Recommended If You Like: Ryan Adams, The Casket Lottery, snow-covered mountains, Elliott Smith, the episode of Friends when Phoebe gets herself sick to sound “seductive”
great review, great album. also worthwhile to note is the great cast of musicians rocky worked with on this album:: as seen on the barsuk site- "James McAllister (Sufjan Stevens) on drums, Bill Herzog (Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter) on bass, Casey Foubert (Pedro the Lion) on electric guitar, banjo, mandolin and all percussion, and Rick Steff (Cat Power, Hank Williams, Jr.) on Hammond b3, piano, and accordion. Casey Foubert also co-produced the record with Votolato. "
I was really let down by this initially. It didn't grab me like his other releases and I haven't given it the time of day to go back and be re-convinced. I will eventually, but an initial disappointment.