Rocky Votolato: “True Devotion” Review
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
Rocky Votolato is quite easily one of the best singers you’re probably not listening to. His music defies my attempts to passively listen, and I routinely find myself putting aside my book or pen to give my full attention to the honest simplicity and humble introspection that has come to characterize his folk rock career. The calm, even texture of his soft-spoken melodies serve as the backdrop to penetrating lyrics, in whose stories it is impossible not to find your own memories of love and loss, as if every song was a Rorschach blot.
Yesterday saw the release of his latest album, “True Devotion,” which in many ways picks up where “Suicide Medicines” left off: at once personally contemplative and socially aware. A slight departure from previous work is seen in the second half of the album, which balances the first with lyrics embracing hope and the pursuit of truth – the closing track “Where we Started” serving as a surprising nod to the elements of karma, both lyrically and musically.
The understated warmth of his musicianship belies the shadows and memories that haunt Votolato’s narrative landscapes, all of which seem to hold brokenness and growth in lyrical tension. As with all his albums, there is a sadness etched into his voice, and a melancholy that clings to each note like the dew before sunrise.
The album is suitably diverse and a good representation of Votolato’s material, making this an album that will attract new listeners as well as please old ones. His stripped-down musicianship lends itself well to the house shows that have become increasingly popular in the “indie” scene, and his timeless appeal is sure to draw a wide audience, whether they be fans of Bob Dylan or Death Cab for Cutie. “True Devotion” is yet another solid release from an artist worthy of a larger audience.
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
Chris is a writer and speaker from the Charlottesville area. He regularly serves as a research writer for Docent Research Group in addition to doing some guest speaking.
Human beings, as we’ve just noted, bear God’s image. We “take after” God, so to speak—much as we might say that a child “takes after” his earthly father. It means that we share with God some aspect of his character, his nature, even his gifts. In the immediate context of Genesis, this means two things. Because man bears the image of a Creator, we share in his capacity for creativity. And because we bear the image of God’s divine community (Father, Son, and Spirit), we share in his capacity for relationship.
Or perhaps “capacity” is too clinical a term for such elemental gifts. For these qualities are indeed divine gifts, just as human language likewise has its origin in God himself. In his recent work on the clarity of Scripture, Mark Thompson notes that “God is himself the source of human language. He is the first speaker and invests language with a deep significance for generation and nourishing personal relationships.”
If language is a divine gift, writing becomes a liturgical practice. It is through language that the human needs for creativity and relationship are brought together. Surely writing is not the only means of human communication, but there is a uniqueness to the craft that cannot be so easily snuffed out by a so-called “post-literate” world. When we write, we write to engage the world—or at least our small corner of it. We write in order to hone our God-given skills of creativity and make a meaningful contribution to humanity’s collective imagination. We write because it’s in our blood, in our hands, in our soul.
Christianity says that God’s Word shaped God’s original creation, but God’s Word likewise takes prominence in God’s new creation. “In the beginning was the Word,” John tells us—cribbing lines from the opening pages of Genesis. The Word of God, once confined to the page now takes on human flesh in the person of Jesus. Christianity calls this the incarnation, meaning that in Jesus God literally became a human being to walk among us, to share life with us, and to give his life that we might live.
Writing is part of the way we engage and share the gospel narrative. Writing is therefore an incarnational practice, a means by which the story of God is translated into the various languages of human culture.
Living the gospel narrative means not only “take and read” but also “write and give.” Every voice is different. Every voice matters.