Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Dave Vargo - Burning Through

Dave Vargo - Burning Through 

Dave Vargo has stepped out of the studio and sideman shadows to compile his first album of all original songwriting named Burning Through. This collection has some rock fire, but it’s largely a singer/songwriter’s work with a lot of seemingly personal material and some of Vargo’s storytelling talents on display. Rather than following an expected A-B-C level of directness, Vargo often spins some of the songs in unpredictable directions with imaginative arrangements and tempos that are enough outside the box to strike an individual note. He works with the same small group of musicians on each of the songs and this decision gives the tracks a coherency of sound and approach that brings the album together in an equally unique way. More often than not, collections of this ilk are laden with a variety of guest stars, but Vargo is clearly aiming for a band experience and achieves it in a memorable way. 

“Come Take Me Home” introduces us to his memorably personal style as a lyricist. The songs on Burning Through sound like they are taken from his everyday life, but the real art in Vargo’s writing comes from his ability to take those personal details and recast them in an universal light. There isn’t a single song on Burning Through that isn’t completely relatable. “Good Enough” is equally personal, albeit with a slightly different tone, and the musical arrangement foregoes the rock theatrics of the opener in favor of a much more balanced approach. “Choose” continues the serious themes of the first two songs with a track about someone reaching a turning point in their lives, but he doesn’t pose this scenario with an overly melodramatic musical arrangement. Instead, everything is handled subtly, tastefully, and it’s apparent the notes that Vargo and his cohorts don’t play are just as important as what they do play. It hits on a strong Midwestern rock vibe without ever sounding hokey. 

“Wishing on a Star” could be said to be one of Burning Through’s most personal songs. It’s hard to distinguish, with the best writers, the difference between a purely imaginative act and something that has a flesh and blood connection, but this song is certainly suggestive of the young Vargo and his dreams of future music stardom. “Finding My Way to You” has Vargo joined by backing singer Kim Boyko and their voices blend satisfyingly on one of the album’s most emotive tracks. “Waiting” has a largely acoustic slant but the vehemence of Vargo’s vocal and the hints of chaotic electric guitar buried in the mix give this a little bit of a darker hue than many of the album’s lo-fi efforts. “Don’t Think Twice” has a melody and tempo that’s hard to forget and ranks among the album’s best moments. Vargo and the band alike shine here thanks to the effortless way they make this work. “Pieces of my Heart” is a little bit more in line with the earlier tracks in terms of style, but it has some interesting percussion and finishes the album on an appropriately thematic note. Burning Through is an impressive and indelible release that should establish Dave Vargo as a formidable songwriting talent.  

9 out of 10 stars

Bradley Johnson

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