Okay, so Rocky Votolato hardly seems like the kind of guy you'd count on to be the life of the party. His languid vocals and low-key ruminations rarely rise above a whisper, and when they do, it's only to express some sense of dread or discontent. Up until now, that is. Though The Brag and Cuss is hardly the feisty set its title implies, it is more engaging, at least by Votolato's weary standards. The bruised ballads "Lilly White," "The Wrong Side of Reno," "The Blue Rose," and "The Old Holland" unfold as sprawling, forlorn narratives, but the vivid imagery and heartfelt melodies secure an emotional connection. Still, for listeners looking for a bit of a lift, Votolato ups the ante with the spunk and swagger of "Postcard from Kentucky," and the jaunty, booze-fueled banter of "Your Darkest Eyes." The adept blend of back-porch ambiance and folk-fueled sentiment provides a charm all its own, a quiet, unassuming resolve finessed by acoustic guitars, banjo, mandolin, accordion, and shuffled percussion. With the recent re-release of his formative EP, A Brief History, Votolato seemed to be finding his way out of the shadows, but it's The Brag and Cuss that gives him something new to boast about.
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