After earning his everlasting gob-knobs in 2006 when rock mags were comparing 29-year-old singer/songwriter Rocky Votolato to Gram Parsons and Jeff Buckley, the elevation of difficulty to successfully follow up his landmark disc Makers had risen beyond 'irritating hang nail' status for the former voice of Waxwing. To ensure that his press was legit, Votolato packed up his guitar and used it as a saber to pierce the booming heart of these United States of America. It was during this tour, which most punsters would defy as "rocky," that his fifth album The Brag & Cuss began to write itself, amongst crumbled up hotel stationary and cheap bar coasters, used to scribble late night kisses to his wife and two young cowboys. The road can tear a man down, especially a married one with a family and dinner waiting back in Seattle. When Kerouac wrote "with the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road," the great American novelist and poet was creatively nourished by the immensely wild antics of Neal Cassady. For Rocky Votalato, much of the inspiration for the organic recordings captured on The Brag & Cuss came from a homesickness of bubonic proportions.
After climbing back up to the pointed tip of the space needle, the soft spoken yet potent singer corralled a herd of off-duty players including James McAllister (Sufjan Stevens) and Casey Foubert (Pedro The Lion) who also co-produced this home cooked casserole, loaded past FDA recommendations with globs of fat, mounds of raw sugar, lost shakers of salt, and all of the unhealthy yet delicious condiments that we Americans crave to death. With the addition of the aforementioned jug time bears, Votolato plays host to a cross country hootenanny that's punch drunk on moonshine in the front yard stomping and slapping a knee one minute, then drunkenly struggling to procure keys from under a urinal cake in the Men's room the next.
Without living under the cloak of suicidal despair like Elliot Smith and successfully avoiding the prissy pretentiousness of Conor Oberst, Rocky Votolato masterfully captures the rich snapshots of our prominent country on "Postcard From Kentucky" and "The Wrong Side Of Reno," right up to the smell of drive-thru dinners and weight of gas station bricks. Unlike Hank Williams or Johnny Cash, Votolato injects his serum with the distracting precision of a va-va-va-voom nurse with a hominah-hominah-hominah needle. This plush illustration depicts a desired country landscape where harmonicas replace automatic weapons in elementary school lunch boxes and automobiles are traded in for bare feet. The Brag & Cuss is both a free bottle of booze and a day-long hangover, just like the one you love.