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Rocky Votolato Stands Tall Among Friends

NEW YORK: Down-home rocker recruits full band to take on the Bowery Ballroom.

Pedal steel and country-flavored currents circulated the air last night (June 28) at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom, the rural vibe giving respite from the hectic city outside. Singer/songwriter Rocky Votolato played commander to an evening of warm, whiskey-soaked musical comfort, where the crowd’s size mattered little next to the mutual adoration passed between stage and floor.

The beaming, alt country of Limbeck transformed the largely hipster-free gathering into a sea of bobbing heads first. Charismatic Langhorne Slim and his War Eagles burst next, and despite slight technical difficulties, plowed through an impressive set of folk-on-speed to overwhelming response.

A tough act to follow, but as Votolato unassumingly shuffled on and launched into “Before You Were Born,” he proved capable. Drawing heavily from 2006’s acclaimed Makers and his newest, The Brag & Cuss, he adeptly switched between guitar and harmonica for songs like “Tinfoil Hats,” “Postcard from Kentucky,” and “The Wrong Side of Reno.” Keeping with Cuss’ fuller sound, Votolato was backed by members of the recently defunct Drag the River. His weathered voice rang as emotive and affecting as ever — especially on old favorites like “Suicide Medicine” — and as the lovely “Silver Trees” faded into the night, even a little rain couldn’t dampen departing smiles. COREY APAR / PHOTOS BY DAVE GUSTAV

We asked: As per Rocky Votolato’s latest album, The Brag & Cuss, given the chance, who would you want to cuss out and why?