Dave Vargo – Burning Through
If you like roots rock songwriters or intelligent AOR fare from the late eighties, early nineties, Dave Vargo will likely be a good score for you. His debut Burning Through is a spectacularly well conceived collection for this New Jersey native and longtime in-demand session guitarist. While he proves to be every bit as much of a talented songwriter as he is a performing musician, Vargo likewise exhibits a profoundly sharp instinct for picking the right collaborators. The five star musicians accompanying him on Burning Through help him harness a variety of sounds and approaches to record quite a formidable first album. Burning Through certainly has a strong commercial edge, as mentioned earlier, but Vargo never aims for the mainstream shorn of artistic credibility. Instead, Burning Through stands as an impassioned statement from a performer who is ready to be heard after a long time.
One of the album’s best rock and roll songs hits you straight out of the gate. “Come Take Me Home” kicks off as an acoustic track, but listeners soon get an inkling of Vargo’s intentions as it steadily gains power along the way before finally exploding with fiery guitars. He backs off the rock and roll a little for the album’s second song, “Good Enough”, and opts instead for a steadier sound complete with some nice organ fills dropping in at key points. Every song on Burning Through opens with his acoustic guitar work and they all expand from that point in varying degrees. “Choose”, however, has strong drumming joining the guitar from the outset and there’s some clean electric guitar soon augmenting things. The chorus is carefully to not get excessively strident and, after the band’s first pass, the electric guitar steps out a little more with biting fills. Backing vocalist Kim Boyko supports Vargo with excellent results on the chorus and bridge. The album hits one of its rousing high notes with “Finding My Way to You” and this effect comes two fold – first is Vargo’s exuberant singing that is streaked with blue, but yet indefatigable and passionate. The second is the combined attack of acoustic and electric guitar who set a pace spiked with some well timed peaks.
“Too Young to Be Broken” is, arguably, the album’s most bare bones number and it’s well suited for this distinction. The lyrics are some of the best on Burning Through and depicts its subject matter with a dramatic touch that never risks being overwrought. The moderately uptempo step of the song “Right Now” is carried further aloft by Vargo’s most melodic lead guitar playing on this release. He’s got the vocal firepower to take full advantage of the moment, as well, and vividly conveys the song’s message. “Twisted and Bent” joins the earlier “Too Young to Be Broken” as among the album’s sparsest musical narratives and Vargo delivers an aching, heartfelt vocal that more than substitutes for any lack of musical pyrotechnics. The infectious swing of “Don’t Think Twice” never sounds too affected and strikes a different musical note than many of the earlier tracks. His performances and songwriting reach an universally high quality on Burning Through and this release should elevate his profile as one of the best indie songwriters working today.
9 out of 10 stars