By: Jessica Grose
People will make a lot of immediate pop culture associations when you’re named Rocky — Rocky the movie series, Rocky of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Rocky Votolato is more moose-and-squirrel than Sylvester Stallone jogging doggedly up those vaunted steps; he’s a lover, not a fighter, and he posseses the kind of voice that never-been-kissed teenage girls imagine their crushes might have in a perfect universe: soulful, slightly raspy, but ultimately tuneful and sincere.
Coming from the same troubadour tradition as Elliott Smith and Smog’s Bill Callahan, Votolato presents himself as a heart-on-his-sleeve type of guy, all alone in the world with little armor but his guitar. His lyrics stand out in the simple arrangements on Makers, his fourth full-length album. Unlike less experienced singer-songwriters, Votolato is able to take a metaphor and weave it through an entire song rather than browbeating his audience with symbolism. On “The Nights Disguise,” Votolato uses dark imagery to illustrate the narrator’s downfall with phrases like, “Clouds are holding up the dawn / Stilts or crutches, I can’t tell which one.”
Despite being the stuff of teenage dreams and, Votalato’s music has a certain level of wisdom in its lovesick musings. It’s no wonder Rocky sounds mature: He’s a settled family man with two kids, but his wife encourages him to tour and keep going with his career.
Votolato will celebrate the release of Makers in his hometown of Seattle with a Jan. 28 show at Crocodile Cafï¿½. Makers hits streets Jan. 24.