Rocky Votolato might not need an introduction. The singer-songwriter has been a part of Seattle’s alternative music scene since the late 90s, toured with the likes of Owen, Small Brown Bike, The Get Up Kids and many more, and released a handful of excellent solo records. But Votolato has been away a while. His new album, ‘Wild Roots’, is his first in seven years. And it pains me to think that might mean the man behind it goes unnoticed on his return. So, here’s an introduction anyway.

Votolato, inspired by Jawbreaker and Fugazi, picked up a guitar and started writing songs while in high school. In 1996 he formed the band Waxwing along with his brother Cody (who would also go on to form The Blood Brothers) and released three full-lengths of smart, sincere post-hardcore before finding himself writing more and more songs in a whole new style.

Votolato started releasing solo albums that sounded less like rock music and more like folk music. There was acoustic guitars, there was other, varied instrumentation, there was storytelling lyrics, and there was that voice, that intense, honest, well-worn voice, front and centre.

2003’s ‘Suicide Medicine’ was the first time I heard Votolato. The title track takes me back in time like little else. But his following record, ‘Makers’, might be his highwater mark- a sparse but striking effort that still feels like it could have been recorded at any point in the last 100 years. 

2015’s ‘Hospital Handshakes’ brought some more overt rock elements and fuller arrangements back in Votolato’s sound. And then, as it says right up there, he went away for a while.

Now though, he is back. A new Rocky Votolato album, finally, will be released this September. In his own words, “‘Wild Roots’ is an expansive 15-song concept album that I wrote for and about my family. We had 15 horses on the ranch I grew up on, and a memory of that horse pasture is what sparked the idea for the entire record. I was on tour in Europe when I saw a horse pasture that looked really similar to the one I grew up on and the vision for the album flashed into my mind. I wrote a song for each of my family members that focuses on a special moment or memory from our lives together.  This album takes you on an epic journey from that horse ranch in Texas to the setting of my life here in Washington State through the lens of my closest relationships.” You can hear the first taste of the record by pressing play below. 

It’s great. Of course it is. Don’t let Rocky Votolato go unnoticed.

For fans of Walter Schreifels, Chuck Ragan, and Pedro the Lion.

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