Dave Vargo – Burning Through
Dave Vargo has plied his trade as a first rate guitarist for a number of years for performers as diverse as Rupert Holmes, Vonda Shepherd, and Whitney Houston before finally releasing his first solo effort entitled Burning Through. This collection reveals Vargo as a songwriter and vocalist of enormous skill and gratifying depth capable, nonetheless, of creating achingly sincere material that’s completely accessible to a wide audience. These are songs full of melody and emotional substance. Vargo has recruited a fantastic backing band that accompanies him on each of the album’s eleven tracks and they deliver a performance that’s often subtle and, yet, packs a tangible musical wallop. The collection leans heavily in the favor of semi-folkie, mid tempo acoustic musings, but there’s a surprising amount of rock and roll spirit invigorating a significant sampling of these tracks and Vargo proves quite adept at tackling these styles as both a guitarist and vocalist.
“Come Take Me Home” is a stunning rocker that doesn’t initially reveal its intentions. Instead, “Come Take Me Home” starts off life as a patient, if not deliberate, mid tempo bit of acoustic songwriting that accumulates greater and greater sonic force as it develops. Vargo does a fantastic job orchestrating the dynamics of this track and his fellow musicians are with him every step of the way. There’s some small surprises in store for listeners on the album’s second track “Good Enough” thanks to the introduction of some discreet organ lines supporting the acoustic and electric guitars. Vargo, with rare exceptions, uses the guitar in a compositional way and it’s doubly impressive to hear someone with the instrumental chops to dominate a recording rein that talent in, instead, and focus it in a different way. There’s no question Vargo could use his instrumental expertise to overtake these songs, but it’s clear that it’s the songs where his primary focus and interest lies. “Wishing on a Star” begins with appealing lyrical guitar combing chords with lilting gracefulness. The plaintive quality of Vargo’s voice has a rough-hewn yearning on this song and really gains added emphasis when the song’s tasteful drumming comes in. There’s a much more forceful vibe present in the opening of “Finding My Way to You” that expands into a vital, upbeat rock number where Vargo’s lead guitar takes one of its few turns in the spotlight. He never plays any extended solos that might upset the song’s great balance, but he accents the song’s brief shifts of tempo with warm, cascading flurries of notes highlighting these moments.
There’s some light dynamics utilized in “Waiting” that sets it cut above the standard acoustic fare. The rolling drum patterns are understated and extraordinarily effective for providing a little extra urgency to the song. Vargo’s guitar work returns to familiar territory here with its light touch providing a lot of atmosphere without ever announcing itself too loudly. A lot of the material on Burning Through looks to establish a certain emotional mood and always does so in musically substantive ways. The album ends with the great one two punch of “Don’t Think Twice” and “Pieces of my Heart”. The first track has a surprising amount of swing separating it from the other songs on Burning Through and an exceedingly stylish vocal from Vargo. The album’s final track “Pieces of My Heart” has a churning roll to its arrangement that Vargo capitalizes on for some pleasantly explosive peaks. It’s a great, even-tempered closer for Burning Through. This is an album that, despite its indie status, deserves to fall on everyone’s radar and might constitute a pretty solid bid for mainstream recognition as well.
9 out of 10 stars.