Seattle artist Rocky Votolato has been a busy man of late. His debut record for Barsuk, Makers, has already seen an episode of cult teen series The O.C. use the opening track, "White Daisy Passing", on its soundtrack. Such lofty heights for the Texan-born singer were hard to imagine back in his Second Nature Records days.
Makers is a record that shows a growth on Votolato's part, while still keeping true to his established sound, which runs alongside both the alt-country movement that's sweeping our radio stations, and his own brand of punk-rock influenced singer/songwriter music. While many of the aforementioned labels conjure up images of washed-up alcoholics plugging barely-concealed confessionals alongside their guitars, Votolato won't allow himself to be forced into such obvious groupings.
One of the most notable things that separates Makers from its predecessors is the extended use of guitar. Given that Rocky's brothers include Cody Votolato, guitarist with The Blood Brothers, and Sonny Votolato, guitarist with Slender Means, Rocky's guitar ability is no exception in this family of musicians.
Typically, Votolato sticks to simply his vocals and acoustic guitar, occasionally making use of a harmonica accompaniment. On "Makers", however, we hear breezy lead guitar lines, pedal steel, Rhodes piano and maybe even a hint of banjo somewhere in the mix. On "Uppers Aren't Necessary" Votolato harmonizes with himself throughout the track, adding an extra dimension to his normally solitary vocal tracks.
"Tennessee Train Tracks" is a standout song on the record, using steel guitar and slide playing to really give a country vibe, which teamed with Votolato's whiskey-drenched "come dry me out / Ã¢â‚¬Ëœcos I've been drinking all night / before I pass out I need you" gives a very visual feel to the song.
Lyrically, Makers shows a return to Votolato's Southern roots. "Goldfield," is a song about railroad tracks and old mining towns. Similarly, the lengthy "Where We Left Off" shows more country-esque leanings, comprising a five minute dirge-like trek that bogs down the record somewhat with a depressing tone.
At the end of the record, Votolato reveals that the title Ã¢â‚¬ËœMakers' refers to his drink of choice, but it's likely that there's more to the album name than this. This theme is concurrent throughout the record; initially, it may not be as enjoyable to fans of previous record Suicide Medicine, but the album is definitely one that sustains multiple listens, and often rewards them.
While Makers won't launch Votolato into the mega spotlight that The O.C. has afforded similar artists (Death Cab, anyone?), it's a good effort from an artist worth keeping an eye on.
7.0 / 10
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