Dave Vargo – Burning Through

PRIMARY URL: http://davevargomusic.com/

The first solo album from in-demand session and touring guitarist Dave Vargo entitled Burning Through is constructed largely around the acoustic guitar. Many of the album’s eleven songs, however, spark with an intelligent rock and roll spirit reminiscent of certain influences, but ultimately coming from a very individual place using recognizable forms as a vehicle for his self-expression. He doesn’t have the sort of voice one might expect from a song collection with such melody and commercial potential, but he will quickly win over many listeners with its unvarnished qualities and the occasional go-for-broke attitude it assumes when things get particularly intense. This graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston and New Jersey native is working with a great backing vocalist, Kim Boyko, and a consistent band on each of the album’s cuts and this specific group of musicians sparkles with a chemistry that sounds like it’s been developed over some time.

Few songs illustrate it better than the opener. The experience or creative spark needed for a four piece to fluidly carry off the dynamics of “Come Take Me Home” is in full in evidence. Vargo, drummer/co-producer Tim Pannella, and bassist Erik Romero move from a hushed folky vibe into full blown blistering rock mode with finesse and a naturalness that’s impossible to fake. “Good Enough” continues in a similar way, but it opts for a much more straight-ahead approach to bringing rock elements into the song. It also drops in some colorful organ courtesy of bassist Erik Romero doubling on keys. “Wishing on a Star” is very similar, musically, to the later track “Too Young to be Broken”, but the vocal melodies and content differ a great deal. This is a song, literally, looking at the stars and Vargo is clearly recalling, in some fashion, how his childhood dreams have come true in a lot of respects. His emotive edge is so unfettered, so free from artifice, that it’s difficult to feel responsive to such a performance. “Finding My Way to You” has a much more vigorous tempo with low-key variations strewn throughout the arrangement and Vargo’s lead guitar work steps out here like never before on the album while his singing with Boyko provides listener’s with Burning Through’s most affecting emotional moment.

The aforementioned “Too Young to Be Broken” is next and it’s much more of a character piece than any of the previous songs. Vargo’s opportunity to show off his storytelling skills gets more than a merely adequate musical vehicle – the melancholy guitar playing sets a tone that Pannella’s muted percussion further shapes. “Waiting” is a largely solo piece, but it takes on an interesting near shuffle pace when the drumming briefly enters for a time. This is a song that never stops moving, embodying its title in some ways, but Vargo lets his vocal hang back and once again does everything to serve the song as a whole. He does indulge himself with a solo take on one of the album’s late tracks “Twisted and Bent”. It isn’t disappointing at all and listeners will be hard pressed to not admire his bravery for such a vulnerable performance. Burning Through connects harder on some songs than others, but Burning Through is a consistently entertaining release throughout.

8 out of 10 stars

SPOTIFY: https://play.spotify.com/album/42MQwFMTiQd5cYozxSGXDs?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

William Elgin