Rocky Votolato – Makers

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Album Review by Zoe Fox

Singer/songwriter Rocky Votolato’s MAKERS is a soft unplugged 60’s pop-esk album with the occasional mix of country and folk styles (not that occasional), in a similar vein to Damian Rice. For the Seattle based 28 year-old father of two this is a return to his roots, as the whole feel of the album seems to be drawn from his Texan background, so much so that if you saw a faded blue jean wearing cowboy complete with hat it would not be out of place.

There is a certain southern haunt to the sweet voice and plucked nylon strings of an acoustic guitar, coupled with pretty harmonies and very basic percussion and accompaniment reminiscent of summer afternoons and sippin’ whiskey. It’s a quiet and calming but undemanding venture.

The trouble with this approach is that it has ended up with a sort of Simon and Garfunkel tinge to it – the layered harmonies, doubled vocal tracks, harmonica appearances and clip-clopping of the constant guitar in tracks such as WHITE DAISY PASSING and THE UPPERS AREN’T NECESSARY positively reeking of it.

Unfortunately the album has a habit of washing over you in a pleasant way but never truly penetrating in both music and words, and although it’s nice nothing about it seems new or particularly original in style or content. As the album progresses the theme becomes a bit bland as it deviates little from this pale heartbroken lonesome cowboy feel. The only track that really feels like it picks up the pace sufficiently to call it a variation is TENNESSEE TRAIN TRACKS and perhaps THE UPPERS AREN’T NECESSARY, but even this is a stretch of the imagination.

All this may seem a bit harsh really. It is true, he is an accomplished singer/songwriter, which is rare it seems these days, and his delivery is soft, sweet and almost childlike at times which works well with all the tracks. It is also true that the songs stand up on their own without all the usual froo-frooing of backup, fillers and production. If anything they are better off for being stripped bare.

However it is somewhat undeniable that somewhere, something is missing. A stark haunting that never quite cuts through, a dreamy-ness that’s not quite hypnotizing and a niceness that’s never really becomes uplifting. It’s a pleasant work unfortunately leaving you unsatisfied but unlikely to be crying out for more.

2 stars