With a name like Rocky Votolato, it has to be good, right? Well, it is. Votolato's fifth release, The Brag & Cuss, reflects a childhood in Texas and an adulthood in Seattle made from a very grown-up perspective.
Rife with mandolin, banjo, electric guitar, Hammond b3, piano and accordion, The Brag is a fuller work than Votolato's last release, the critically acclaimed Makers, which was more of a solo effort. This time around, Votolato enlisted the help of a number of accomplished musicians: James McAllister (Sufjan Stevens), Bill Herzog (Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter), Casey Foubert (Pedro the Lion) and Rick Steff (Cat Powers, Hank Williams Jr.). It's clear that the songs on The Brag come from a personal place, yet resonate with a listener and suggest we may all share that place in some way. Votolato's lyrics touch the places music is supposed to touch, giving words to feelings and emotions, painting pictures so poignant and vivid, there's no need for MTV or YouTube. In "Your Darkest Eyes," he laments, "The smoke it moves just like sweet velvet / And lures me in to drinkin' to kill the pain. / Trying to stay out of a fight / But the liquor it won't let me. The only thing it's killing now is me. / Your darkest eyes and pale skin are always on me. / Black fingernail polish is chippin' off again. / On my mind just like a death threat / Or maybe a death wish."
The Brag is, at its most basic, a country album, but it's more than that. It's the sound of driving down a two-lane U.S. highway on a late September afternoon, the windows rolled down, hay fields and mountains rushing by in a blur, either heading to, or running from, heartache.
Sept. 13, 5:30 p.m., FREE, The Record Exchange, 1105 W. Idaho St., 208-344-8010; Sept. 13, with The Honorary Title, Blue Checkered Record Player, A Rotterdam November, 7 p.m.,$10 advance, $12 door, The Venue, 521 Broad St., BoiseVenue.com.