Rocco DeLuca – Drugs ‘N Hymns

January 01, 1970



Although Cali rocker DeLuca initially came to prominence
during the last decade fronting his band The Burden, it was his subsequent
decision to strip things back as a solo artist and focus on his instinctive
gifts as a resonator guitar player that may ultimately turn out to be his
savviest career move. To that end, Drugs
‘N Hymns
is a near-masterwork of haunted epistles and luminous meditations
that, powered by his high, keening voice and with his National Steel as
ballast, achieves liftoff after liftoff. This ain’t no writerly hyperbole; show
me a subtler, slinkier, more torrid or more focused Americana-tilting effort –
and yes, I’m aware of the inherent contradictions proposed in the foregoing
clause – and I’ll slap a pair of fins in your hand and not ask for any change.



“Amen,” for example, is part field holler, part blooze
trudge and part gospel anthem, a scarifying call to reckoning, while the
kinetic, shuddery, intense “Snake Oil Salesman” leaves a distinctive whiff of
brimstone in its wake. Like Dobro-wielding avant-rockers Chris Whitley and
Rainer Ptacek – both deceased, but hardly forgotten (the latter has a tribute
album out this month) – before him, DeLuca conjures intimacy out of alienation,
dipping into a sonic bag of tricks that includes samples, tape loops, unusual
mic placement, etc. to cast an ambiance that’s as cinematic as it is
cocoon-like. No doubt he learned a lot from Daniel Lanois, who produced 2009’s Mercy, for this is a headphone
fetishist’s delight.


And like those two other fretboard maestros, DeLuca isn’t
afraid to confront a dark night of the soul; it’s what fuels his art. Come to
Jesus, boy.



“Snake Oil Salesman,” “My My” FRED MILLS

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