Parking was crap as usual, but as I circled around Fingerprints one more time I finally found a good spot in front of Long Beach’s most popular, and undeniably cool, record store. As I walked into the shop and glanced around it was obvious who was there browsing at records and who was there killing time until the start of Rocco DeLuca’s eminent in-store performance.
Rocco has been in the local music scene for quite some time, although most would know his work with his band The Burden. This is where I first heard his music and although it was not to my taste at the time I relish the fact that my tastes change all the time. Taking a step back from the whole “band” thing after a successful tour in support of his debut full length “I Trust You To Kill Me”, DeLuca picked up his Dobro and pursued a solo career.
The recently released album, Drugs ‘N Hymns, is the result of his solitary travels, musical explorations, and ultimately a search for salvation. I went into the show with no expectations, but what I was left with was a new found sense of “simplicity” in relation to our connection with music, whether playing it or experiencing it. Much like the album, Rocco DeLuca’s live performance leaves you with a haunting sense of desire for life. His passion is felt with every eerie toe tap and carefully placed lyric.
DeLuca’s newly released solo album Drugs ‘N Hymns so expertly captures his live performance in all it’s raw passion that it actually scares me a little… Not scared in a bad way but in that goosebumps, hair standing straight up, haunted kinda way. Drugs ‘N Hynms starts with a story of being “Lucky” and introduces you to Rocco’s distinct solo sound of the heavy resonating Dobro guitar accompanied by a toe tapped beat and signature soulful vocals. The album tends to be more instrumentally driven then vocally focused. Rocco did a great job of creating “vocal whitespace” in most of the tracks on the album which, combined with the heavy foot-tapped beats, lend to the overall eerie feeling conveyed. The words “raw” don’t even begin to describe the album, but you really can hear every breath between notes and every screech of the strings between chords.
“Sibylle” is one of those really ethereal tracks that is mostly instrumental, but gives the impression of an old record spinning in reverse stuck repeating itself until it has become warped and cracked. This leads to my favorite track “Amen”, which is a clear stand-out on the album. The slow foot-tapped beat starts the song and even the creaking of the front porch’s wooden rafters can be heard. Combined with the scratchy slide-driven guitar and vocals that are almost too hot for the mic, Amen delivers a complete experience as well as the best track on the album. With an album so stripped down the musical expertise of Rocco DeLuca is plain to see, but in my opinion the stories that he tells are the real gem. This is pretty evident on songs like “Windows” and “Snake Oil Salesman” as well as the title track “Drugs ‘N Hymns” where an entire choir was used.
Overall this is a unique and powerful offering from Rocco DeLuca that really showcases his creativity as well as songwriting ability. The fullness he achieves with just a guitar and a steady tapping foot is amazing and is the backbone of most of the tracks. Make sure to pick up Drug ‘N Hymns if you are looking for an album you can listen to again and again.