Rocky Votolato: NPR's Song Of The Day

May 21, 2010

“After a casual listen, it might be easy to lump Rocky Votolato in with the downtrodden likes of Conor Oberst and Elliott Smith. But his songwriting is a bit more triumphant than theirs: Votolato would rather pull himself out of a gutter than wallow in it, focusing instead on the victory before the misery.

In ‘Red River,’ the muddy bass and lean drums aren’t flashy, but they make a sturdy soapbox for Votolato and his guitar. Smoky vocals place a sedate mask on his words, making them easy to swallow. The story builds up to the implied suicide of a brother who’s tortured by his war-torn past, while the chorus pumps its fists, chanting, ‘I’ve been searching for the waves that carried us home / To the ocean we all came from, where we’ll all be returned.’ It’s an acceptance of death as an eventuality, self-inflicted or otherwise.

Though Votolato doesn’t come off as particularly religious, he’s clearly reaching for something greater than himself here. It might be spiritual or it might be physical, but whatever it is, he seems at peace in the knowledge that it’s where we’re all headed.”

-Anthony Fantano, NPR Music

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