Maybe the past is the best place to start. Rocky Votolato used to be in the too short-lived Lying On Loot. When they broke up he played guitar and sung in eternally unsung indie rockers Waxwing. Rocky’s younger brother, Cody, used to play guitar there too but The Blood Brothers stole him away.
Maybe not. Forget all that. Skip to the present. ‘Makers’ is Votolato’s fourth solo album, a point he has reached with no money behind him, little critical mention and few album sales. Now, you don’t get so far, off so little, without doing it for all the right reasons and being entirely comfortable with your sound.
The sound here is the easy part. ‘Makers’ is mostly-acoustic folk rock with a genuine soul and aching heartbeat that’s refreshingly emo-free and expands so much further than man-with-guitar melancholy. These are stories, tracks utterly untouched by the noise of your new favourite band but imbued with the spirit of cigarettes, whiskey, Mark Lanegan and The Beatles.
The hard bit is understanding why Votolato has remained so ‘underground’ (read ‘unheard’) because there’s plenty here to get wrapped up in. ‘White Daisy Passing’ is a quiet, weary, travelling tale built on beautiful harmonies that sets the tone for the entire album and ‘Wait Out The Days’ is somehow dark and uplifting at the same time.
Elsewhere, swathes of simple harmonica and piano, rippling electric guitar and light percussion make their own tender marks but all these songs are gentle peeks into Votolato’s personality. On highlights ‘Goldfield’, ‘Portland Is Leaving’ and ‘Tinfoil Hats’ you can almost hear the road dust stuck in his throat. It’s not quaint or rootsy, it’s chilling and moving and fucking great.
So to the future. It might be that Votolato is a little too grown-up to be down with the kids and too honest, too raw to appeal to fans of Dashboard Confessional and the like but he is certainly not expecting to get rich and famous off these 12 songs. If you’re listening that’s great, but he’s singing to get the demons and tales out of his head for two more years or whenever he decides to bless those in the know with another dose of bittersweet reality.
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