A cathartic strum that is as freeing a sound as you’ll hear on a new album this year stokes the first flames of a burning-hot melody in “This Moment On,” the first song that we hear on Dave Vargo’s new album Spaces in Between. It’s simple strumming and it’s easily one of the most evocative and stirring. Right from the start, Vargo is utilizing colorful guitar elements in his latest release to forge an instrumental backdrop as rich as his lyrics are – as “This Moment On” fades into the chunky “Without a Fight,” it becomes obvious that we’re listening to the polar opposite of a plain, white bread folk record.

“This Time Around” was released a little earlier on than Spaces in Between was, and it definitely finds a solid home among the other tracks on this album. Sandwiched between the rocky “Without a Fight” and “Rewrites,” “This Time Around” bridges Vargo from the simplistic to the dexterous, showing off a bit of guitar grit while hinting at what kind of swing we can expect to hear in the next couple of songs.

Things slow down for a second with the black and white “Nowhere Else,” but the lull in the storm doesn’t last for long – the red, white and blue firebomb that is “Battle Burns” injects the middle portion of Spaces in Between with an anthemic heartland rock that really puts the record over the top for me personally. When coupled with the gut-wrenching “Someday,” this triplet of tracks could have made a beast of an EP in their own right, but in this capacity they’re the brightest stars in a night sky filled with sparkling gems.

SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/djvargo/sets/spaces-in-between

“In Between” and “Tracks” are a little more conventional than the songs that precede them in this tracklist are, but that doesn’t prevent their harmonies from cutting through the atmosphere and stealing away a piece of our hearts just the same. “Miles Upon Your Heart,” which besides its shamelessly borrowing from Paul Westerberg is one of the stronger numbers on the album, sets us up for a finale in “Not Alone” that could be the most prolific moment of Dave Vargo’s ever-emerging career, and though neither song lasts longer than five minutes, their sharp resonance stays with us for what feels like hours after a single listen.

Spaces in Between is a complicated record from a very uncomplicated singer/songwriter in Dave Vargo, whom I would credit as one of the most intuitive composers of his scene after hearing this latest release bearing his name on the cover. There are no skippable songs in this tracklist, no examples of poor musicianship nor any moments that I would’ve altered had I been in the producer’s chair. This is as complete an offering as Vargo has given up to date. It sounds like the work of a truly gifted poet with a lot of important stories to be shared.

Sebastian Cole