Rocco DeLuca and the Burden
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2009, Volume 16, #11
Written by John Metzger
Fri November 6, 2009, 06:30 AM CST
Daniel Lanois takes a lot of heat for his heavy-handed production techniques. Even so, itís difficult to dispute his track record. From U2ís The Joshua Tree and Bob Dylanís Time Out of Mind to Emmylou Harrisí Wrecking Ball and Willie Nelsonís Teatro, he has left an indelible mark upon the music industry by helping to turn an array of recording sessions into a seemingly never-ending stream of classic albums. Given his credentials, Lanois adds heft to any project with which he is associated, and his presence on Mercy, the sophomore set from Rocco DeLuca and the Burden, is meant to parlay Kiefer Sutherlandís celebrity endorsement of the band into something with greater durability. The gambit works, too, perhaps better than anyone might have anticipated.
Surprisingly, Mercy doesnít feel as if it has been enveloped by Lanoisí customarily atmospheric arrangements. This, however, isnít because Lanois avoided applying his usual tricks to DeLucaís compositions. After all, cinematic moments, such as the introduction to Bright Lights (Losing Control), are situated next to winding blues grooves (Any Man) and incursions into gospel-soul terrain (When You Learn to Sing). These, of course, are the cornerstones of many of the projects on which he works. At the same time, this also isnít because DeLuca sat alongside Lanois in the producerís seat. Too much of Lanoisí presence is felt in the nooks and crannies of the music to believe that he didnít play a key role in guiding Mercy to fruition.
Instead, Lanois and DeLuca approached Mercy from the same perspective, apparently discovering that they share nearly identical artistic visions. Working like a single-minded entity, they blurred the lines between producer and performer, seamlessly integrating everything into a cohesive whole. As it turns out, Lanoisí approach is a perfect match for DeLucaís moody material.
For the most part, DeLucaís songs, musically and lyrically, revolve around the realms conquered by Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, and Led Zeppelin. At this stage of his career, the only real difference that DeLuca makes to this formula is to add the steely, groaning presence of his dobro to the mix. Nevertheless, he has refined his style, and although he hasnít yet found his own distinctive identity, itís clear that he is getting close.
On his debut I Trust You to Kill Me, DeLuca demonstrated that he indeed has a flair for creating dramatic tension. Often, however, his compositions fell short of reaching their potential. With Mercy, DeLuca raises the stakes considerably. Although he still comes across as too desperate in his bid to be taken seriously ó DeLucaís need to be considered an artiste serves as his primary motivation ó the endeavor ultimately proves itself to be too compelling to ignore.
On its surface, Mercy is soft, understated, and devastatingly beautiful. At its core, however, there lies a raging firestorm of emotional turbulence. Mercy gains its power from the way in which DeLuca juxtaposes these ideas. I Trust You to Kill Me ó the title track that was absent from Mercyís predecessor ó features sharp, quick stabs of guitar that poke pinprick holes into the fabric of the songís heart of darkness. Elsewhere, Save Yourself detonates in the middle of the album, and its explosive charge consumes DeLuca, releasing his pain. As Mercy draws toward its conclusion, he follows the harrowing Junky Valentine with the key track that ties everything together. Bathed in the redemptive light of When You Learn to Sing, DeLuca discovers the impetus for his creative awakening. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
Mercy is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2009 The Music Box