Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
We could be talking about dogs or we could be talking about cats, but all that we're looking for is a little perspective here, in this essay about the virtues of the music of Rocky Votolato. We'll just go with dogs, even if we characteristically aren't those kinds of people. So, you know how dogs will lie on their backs, throw a crooked little s-curve into them, cock their heads to one side, put their furry paws into the air and then look up at you like the begging babies that they are, hoping to get that tum-tum scratched? And, if you can bring this image to mind, then you can surely bring the next image to mind as well and that's of these pups and their satisfied paralysis even after the rough scratching and rubbing, the thumping on the muscled bellies and the praising of, "Good boy, good boy," has ended. The dog, at this point, is in some sort of blissed out coma and there's nowhere else they'd rather be. We think of these dogs, at this time, because Votolato - the Texas-born, but long-time Seattle resident - is not only a man and a songwriter who could appreciate that proverbial state of mind, but he seems to have ways of getting others to that point, like a pair of magically charged hands with radar for the tense knots in the neck and heart. He sings about catching raindrops on tongues and as a married man and a father of two children, he probably finds himself counting his lucky stars every time he hears one of his kids laughing their heads off about something fairly inconsequential, or when they look up at him and he senses that those are his own eyes and they know nothing but pure love up to this point. He probably says a little prayer at night, or something to the equivalent, that they stay that way for as long as they possibly can - those eyes. While Votolato's music tends to involve plenty of moments of sadness, these are implied as exceptions to a general theme of being content with the imbalance and recognizing that beauty is vast and it can be wonderfully consuming. He sings on "What Waited For Me," "Cause life and death are just false shadows/They flicker in my mortal memory/To my one true light I was lost and blind/And now I finally see what waited for me," and it comes with such welcome-ness. It's as if a long and winding road has finally dumped someone out and into a pool of light, warm on their arms. It's this getting to a place where there are fewer things to think about and anguish over, a place where simple pleasures are easier to grab and hold onto and if they're worth holding onto, they won't fade. They will go on like the memory of and the phantom feelings of those fingers scratching our bellies, like those of the dogs. The song "Sparklers" adds another glimpse into that, as Votolato sings, "Everything is right, everything's wrong/Letting go is the best way to hold on/So watch the light dance in the dark until it's gone/Sparklers only burn for so long." Some do burn longer though and it's Votolato's mission to find those kinds of sparklers for the light is hypnotic and sacred.
Rocky Votolato Official Site