Primary URL: http://davevargomusic.com/
A New Jersey native who has played with and alongside some of the pre-eminent musical talents of our time, Dave Vargo’s full length album debut Burning Through is truly a personal effort. His skills as a guitarist helped make him one of the most in-demand live and studio musicians around, but the eleven songs on Burning Through offer vivid evidence of Vargo’s songwriting talents. He also shares production duties on the album with drummer and percussionist Tim Pannella and surrounds himself with steady cadre of talented musicians who help him bring these songs to life. The songs are often atmospheric, but never garishly, and well balanced between electric and acoustic textures. Vargo’s first solo album is obviously the product of years playing with some of the best musicians in the world, but nothing here feels too studied or lacks the sort of verve one might expect from someone’s debut.
Burning Through opens with “Come Take Me Home”. The song is built around acoustic guitar ornamented with tasteful electric guitar touches and builds incrementally. Everything here is nicely balanced and the disparate sonic elements flawlessly dovetail into one another. Vargo’s voice is warm and patience, emotive without ever lapsing into histrionics and it enlivens the obvious sincerity of the sometimes painfully earnest lyrical content. “Good Enough” amps up the rock and roll side of Vargo’s musical character without venturing too far afield of the template laid down on the opener. His voice isn’t classically beautiful by any measure, but it has enormous appeal and listeners will trust it immediately. The smoky, weathered quality of his tone helps put over these lyrics about hard-won wisdom without any theatricality – it’s just unvarnished honesty coming through and his band members ably conspire to turn this into one of Burning Through’s most propulsive tracks.
Outside of some ghostly electric guitar fills swelling from the mix, “Wishing on a Star” is a beautifully lyrical acoustic guitar piece about an individual’s dreams. Vargo and backing vocalist Kim Boyko bring their voices together in a very entertaining fashion on the song “Finding My Way To You” and, despite the primarily acoustic nature of this performance, it has some of the same propulsive energy we heard in the earlier “Good Enough” and perfectly measured organ fills from bassist and keyboardist Erik Romero. Vargo’s songwriting frequently tackles weighty themes, but “Too Young To Be Broken” is one of the most heartbreaking moments on the album and the amount of sheer empathy pouring out of Vargo’s performance will undoubtedly affect many listeners. It is, once again, a primarily acoustic outing that Vargo adorns with some understated percussion and occasional haunting electric guitar fills. Tim Pannella’s drumming sets an interesting quasi-march tempo for “Waiting” that complements the vocal melody and the acoustic guitar work, as always on this release, shimmers with tremendous evocative quality.
Burning Through concludes with “Pieces of My Heart”, another illustration of the value Pannella’s drumming brings to the material on this debut. His rolling tempo is a perfect fit for Vargo’s guitar work and Vargo brings equal parts assertiveness and sensitivity to the vocal. There’s a lot of clearly singer/songwriter oriented material on this album, but there’s an irrepressible rock and roll spirit peeking out from many of the arrangements that gives it a welcome added bite. Dave Vargo’s turn in the spotlight is a rewarding listen for any serious music fan.
9 out of 10 stars