Rocky Votolato

The Brag & Cuss (Barsuk)

Since going solo several years back, ex-Waxwing frontman Rocky Votolato has migrated from stereotypical lo-fi folk to alt-country. The Brag & Cuss finds Votolato venturing further in that direction. Employing organist Rick Steff (Lucero, Chan Marshall), Votolato has added more dusty harmonica and banjo ballads to his sound.

The guy is a decent songwriter, but his voice sells the music. Like Rhett Miller, Votolato possesses a warm, supple croon with a hint of whiskey rasp.

Copping all the standard country moves, the former Texan cites the bottle repeatedly, from "Whiskey Straight" to "Your Darkest Eyes," which lure him "into drinking to kill the pain." "The Wrong Side of Reno" even mentions a train whistle. While Votolato scores with lines like "The world we live in is golden/Gilded with every lie we live through," he can't avoid clichés.

Votolato has created a pleasantly appealing album without traction, sliding in and out of your awareness while registering barely a ripple.